RFID may seem an unlikely topic for comedy. But speakers at a recent meeting of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' New England Roundtable had 'em rolling in the aisles when the subject of getting a return on RFID investments came up.
Attendees chuckled knowingly when Sean Campbell, a partner in IBM's Global Business Systems consulting unit, quoted one of his customers as saying, "It's relatively easy to find ROI if you don't have to pay for the chips!" Donald "Dee" Biggs, director of customer logistics at Welch Foods Inc., got an ever bigger laugh when he said that when Wal-Mart's RFID mandate came down, "every scenario we developed had a negative ROI. We finally figured that maybe if we stole the chips ..."
Biggs had the audience smiling and nodding as he described how his company ran tests on Welch's juices, jams, and jellies. "We built a door frame with a variety of readers. The theory was that if we had enough readers in strategic locations—and we had about 15 of them—we would be able to read everything," he said. It didn't work; Welch's was getting read rates of only about 70 percent at the pallet level and even lower rates for case packs. And what technical explanation did the highly paid RFID experts offer? "We were told they couldn't do much because we had 'a physics problem'!" Biggs said to peals of laughter.