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First Thoughts
  By Dan Gilmore
  September 30, 2003  
RFID Mania? EPC Symposium Review  
  I attended the EPC forum/trade show in Chicago two weeks ago. Given the level of interest, this entire issue of SupplyChainDigest is devoted to news and feedback coming from this event, which the sponsors and Kevin Ashton from MIT labeled as a “Moment in History.” Well, maybe.

First, some basics. I’ve heard some estimates of as many as 2000 attendees. That looked high to me, but it was certainly well attended. There were many supply chain executives, and a high percentage of IT-related personnel – a possible sign that companies are preparing to do something and are sending forth the technical folks to figure out how to get it to work.

I admit to being something of a cynic – as are others that have been in the supply chain business for awhile – not because we are anti-RFID, but because so many of the potential benefits being touted are available TODAY from current technologies, like bar code, the Internet and point of sale data, with substantially less new investment.

But I think there are two really important observations. First, it may not have been a “moment” in history, but it did hit me at the show that we seemed to have crossed a major threshold. Many of the world’s largest companies have now at least mentally committed to the concept that they will be able to track every product, everywhere, proactively, in real-time. This is not something I think we really were contemplating even a short while ago, and it has significant supply chain (and other) implications.

The second observation can be summarized as “too many people just won’t scan bar codes.” Yes, RFID can do many things bar codes can’t, though it wasn’t that long ago that bar codes were driving big savings everywhere by eliminating manual key data entry and paperwork as goods moved. But it appears in some operations, like retail back office, even bar code is just too hard. We just can’t scan stuff into receiving or onto the floor, despite the Symbol wireless devices lying around everywhere.

I have summarized additional Symposium news and thoughts below, in addition to the other weekly news and views section nearby. Give us your thoughts – are we at a “moment in history”?

Click here for more detailed Symposium News and Comment.



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