Gillettes Fusion Launch Makes a Good Business Case for RFID
For its biggest product launch ever, Gillette used electronic product codes to track retail compliance.After nearly a decades worth of breathless predictions, futuristic fairy tales and the distant promise of super-streamlined global supply chains, the world has finally grown weary of the relentlessly hyped technology known as RFID. Perhaps the fatigue was inevitable. RFID holds great potential, but the road to adoption is a long and costly one. And yet stories of a life full of detailed supply-chain data and free of printed bar codes continue to assault technology executives from every direction. The reality of RFID, of course, is far less sexy. Only after being bullied by powerful retailers have manufacturers reluctantly agreed to slap-and-ship pallets, crates and boxes of product with RFID tags. RFID readers get crushed by forklifts and clumsy warehouse employees. And many of the tags are rendered unreadable by product packaging or poor placement. Meanwhile, little or none of the data being generating gets put to good use. RFID is most definitely a work in progress.
Thats why Boston-based Global Gillette (formerly the Gillette Co.), the market leader in razors, took a more measured approach to RFID during the launch of its new Fusion brand in February. The company was well aware that consumer goods manufacturers, like the retailers they supply, are still in the learning phase of electronic product codes, the product information stored on RFID chips. Gillette, fresh off its $57 billion acquisition by Procter & Gamble Co., decided to test RFID to track the pallets, cases and displays sent to just two of its retail partners. And only 400 stores and four distribution centers were involved in the pilot.