RFID revolution still a pipedream

IT managers in Australia's manufacturing heartland have heard the hype, seen the dream and got the free T-shirt, but the great RFID revolution still looks like a pipedream according to one of Australia's largest wholesalers of therapeutic goods, Blackmores Ltd.

Having scooped the complementary medicine supply chain pool following the Pan Pharmaceuticals debacle last year, Blackmores has seen business nearly treble as it was forced to fill the retail void left when shop shelves were stripped of almost every retail naturopathic concoction available.

According to Blackmores' chief technology officer, Lee Richards, the Pan crisis proved a testing time for the publicly listed wholesaler's AS/400-based PeopleSoft (nee JD Edwards) OneWorld ERP and financials system.

Richards told Computerworld that Blackmores' OneWorld system took the crisis in its stride, indeed even worked better under load. However, he said he still has substantial doubts about claims from vendors and major retailers like Coles Myer or Woolworths canvassing short-term joy from widely touted concepts such as integrated RFID or collaborative supply chain forecasting.

"They're still struggling to get EDI going, to get it up and running. It's a technology... that needs to look at the origins of business process. I struggle to see that Coles and Woolies will get there in the next few years.

"The technology still has a long way to go," Richards said.

Rather, Richards said he is concentrating on more down-to-earth upgrades like sales force automation to drive efficiencies in addition to persistently market testing current offerings like his AS/400 (now iSeries) for total cost of ownership value.

The company installed JDE across financials, asset management, supply chain, manufacturing process, ordering, quality management and procurement. "We have a decision to make with the AS/400. It offers some great TCO benefits... but we'll still look at it [against competitors]," he said.

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