Companies snub RFID trials

Australian companies snub in-house RFID pilots, preferring to watch overseas trials as a more cost-effective and practical way of getting a grip on the new technology.

Patties Foods, which makes Four'n Twenty meat pies, ran a small-scale RFID pilot last year, but the baker's purchasing and logistics manager, Joe Rettino, said watching the outcome of international RFID pilots is in some ways a sounder strategy than running a trial-and-error project.

"As far as I can see a lot of companies in Australia have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude. I think in some ways it is a sound strategy because you can sit back and learn from others' mistakes, which is a far better scenario. But it can also be detrimental to an organization by not being ready.

"If the time is right and components are cost-effective then sitting back might mean some customers are behind the ball. But by comparing your organization to another you may end up comparing apples to oranges," Rettino said.

Spokesperson for RFID integrator Alien Technologies, Bruce Grant, said Australian companies are stalling trials, preferring to wait and see how deployments at US retail giant Wal-Mart and UK chain Tesco fare - but warned this approach carries its own risk.

"The people doing their own learning [trials, pilot systems] will be ahead of the people who do not, as those that sit back and watch are confined by the information released," adding that trials and pilots are "relatively inexpensive".

"Because Australia is a technically mature and agile country, we want to do our own learning, but we are in a good position to observe what is going on in bigger markets," Grant said.

Ming Tang, partner in Accenture's supply chain practice, said a recent survey with the Australian Retail Association found Australian companies have a "high awareness" of RFID basics but are concerned about investing before standards are fully ratified.

"Aussies are being very canny, they are watching the impact of RFID and the savings by doing so," Tang said.

"They are not disinterested, but worry about investing before there are standards -everyone is thinking of savings, but where will they come from? "RFID makes sense if it links to overall business strategy, but it is just another enabler - not the enabler," Tang said.

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