During the planning process, companies should decide which products to test, while also determining test locations. Other issues to be considered include which process areas (receiving, inventory management, shipping, etc.) will be involved; what kinds of data to collect; and how to store the data and integrate it with other IT systems. Yet some decisions about RFID will take time to reach, according to Morrissey. After about 15 months of RFID involvement, APC has "just started some of [the] discussions and thoughts," he said. "RFID generates a lot of data. All that information needs to be updated. [You also] have to decide what to do with it," Morrissey said.APC configured and built four test station configurations: a shipping and receiving portal at the dock door, a pallet wrapper station, a conveyor station and a tag placement/tag performance station. But pilot testers should be prepared for some bumps along the way, Morrissey warned. During its own pilot, APC determined that "the more dense the pallet, the more unlikely it is that youll be able to read the tag." The company is doing further analysis on how to place and orient the RFID tags, as well as which kinds of tags tend to work best. Radio frequency interference, on the other hand, hasnt turned out to be problematic. "We did pick up a signal from a business next door that had a wireless network," he said. "There was some concern that it would interfere, but so far it has not." Morrissey also advised potential piloters to educate all employees likely to be impacted about why and how the test is being done. "RFID is disruptive technology," he said. Still, Morrissey is optimistic over ultimately achieving ROI. This hasnt happened during year one, he said, given "the cost of the tags and the volume of business" associated with RFID. "But we certainly do have an RFID opportunity," Morrissey told the Webcast audience. "Initial assessment provides ROI in year 4, or 2009. Some [ROI] may be very specific to a particular customer mandate, and some may be more general." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.
The products chosen for APCs pilot were "primarily those that fall into a mandated category," he said. APC opted for a "live" test rather than a "lab" test, in that real warehouses are "dirty, cold in the middle of winter, and noisy."