RFIDs coming as users make suppliers use them: exec

High up-front cost can deter potential users, but return on investment can be great

RFIDs are going to be big in the future, but barcodes won't disappear any time soon.

That's the view of Victor Barzcyk, vice president for new business development at Sato, which makes barcode printers and related equipment.

Barzcyk was in New Zealand for EPC/RFID: The Way of the Future, a conference on RFIDs held in Auckland earlier this month. He says the use of RFIDs — which stores, receives and transmits data via antennas on tags that respond to radio frequency queries — will increase in the future, as big retailers follow the lead of Wal-Mart in the US and require their suppliers to provide RFID-enabled packaging.

"Metro, a large European retailer, has mandated RFIDs for its suppliers from November."

Sato is working with Metro's suppliers so that they'll be able to meet the requirements, he says.

He acknowledges that a barrier to RFID deployment is that there's an up-front cost, but the return on investment can be great, with WalMart saving substantial amounts with its RFID project.

However, when large retailers demand RFID-readable shipments, suppliers don't have much choice. That, combined with emerging global RFID standard under the EPCglobal banner, means RFID use is only going to grow, Barzcyk says.

(EPCglobal is a network of RFID users and is working towards a standardised approach to RFID use worldwide.)

A stumbling block for some organisations in implementing RFIDs is that the goods they handle don't respond well to readings, a factor Sato helped alleviate.

"For Metro's suppliers, we designed a tag that stands up, away from the box, which makes it much more readable."

Another speaker at the conference, Peter Hood, IT and business general manager for Australian recycler Visy Industries, says barcodes will be around for a long time yet and will only be replaced by RFIDs when there's a clear benefit in doing so.

"Barcodes don't work with waste bales, so RFIDs are a winner there."

Other RFID-using speakers at the conference included Gerry Wind, supply chain developer for Amcor Fibre Packaging Australasia, who spoke on Amcor's use of RFIDs, and Bruce Grant, EPC/RFID project manager at Gillette.

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