Well, let’s look at the latest United Airline effort along those lines as described here (and in a USA Today article from 02/02/2009). They have taken the problem slightly differently and included the customers at the center stage by providing them with direct benefits in the form of faster check-in and assurance that their bag is tagged correctly. A clear advantage of this solution is that the tags are not changed every time and are reused and also that customers have a clear interest in having the tags correctly installed so they maximize their chances of getting their bags back in the end.
I think it is a good example of looking at an existing problem and technology with a new angle in order to find a innovative way of solving problems. RFID like other newer technologies give us the opportunity to do just that.
As 2008 winds down, many people are attempting to predict what will happen in 2009. One common element is that the year will be difficult from an economical perspective. Whether the crisis will last 6, 9 or 12 months is open for debate, but there is a crisis and it will hit hard. Let me in turn share with you my views from a business and technology perspective.
Let's first start with five business related predictions:
- 1. As business slows down, cost cutting will continue to be at the top of CEO's agendas. This will result in less travel, little celebration and the cutting of all non essential costs. Unfortunately a number of companies will have lay-offs to trim their workforce to the available business, but that will be the last resort as many companies believe the crisis to be deep but short, and do not want to remove essential capabilities
- 2. The business world will be divided in two. On the one side, cash rich companies that will take advantage of the crisis to acquire additional assets cheaply, and on the other, cash poor companies that are the prime targets for these acquisitions. So, we should see a number of acquisitions taking place over the next couple months, making the cash rich companies stronger. Cash poor companies without a strong value proposition are the ones that will suffer most during the crisis as they do not interest anybody.
- 3. Variability is still very much in the system. The fluctuation of the US$/Euro value, to take an example, is there to stay. The oil price will also move up quickly once the economy recovers. So, companies will be forced to include this variability in their medium to long term plans. This will need to an increased understanding of the sensitivity of companies to external factors.
- 4. Outsourcing is there to stay. However, outsourcing will no longer automatically mean China. Near-sourcing will increasingly take a more prominent role while companies search for new logistics routes, in particular between Asia and Europe. Selected jobs may be coming back, but they will not create a substantial amount of work as the labor cost differential is still too high. Through spreading out manufacturing facilities, companies will however have to deal with more complex supply chains
- 5. Social and environmental focus is there to stay. As companies figure out how this can help them reduce costs and mitigate risks, the focus will increase drastically. Some companies will try to get away with buying carbon credits, but most will look at how they can decrease the environmental impact of their operations, while working with suppliers to improve working conditions in low cost countries.
How will technology help address the above:
- 1. To improve their operations, reduce costs and mitigate risks, companies will require more information on what happens within their own operations and throughout their supply chain. To achieve this, increased visibility and business intelligence is required. This will result in the launching of enterprise data warehouse, business intelligence and supply chain visibility projects despite the reduction of IT budgets. Company dashboards will become common in boardrooms.
- 2. As business travel reduces, companies will have to increase their level of remote collaboration. Collaboration tools, going from instant messaging to telepresence will become more common around enterprises. Companies should increasingly look at Web 2.0 tools for inspiration on how to work remotely together. Telepresence tools managed on integrated networks (such as HP's HALO room), will allow companies to work collaboratively with their suppliers and customers, maintaining a close working relationship at a lower cost. Integrated web based environments such as Windows Live can serve as a collaboration backbone if Microsoft can demonstrate an appropriate level of security is in place for cross enterprise collaboration.
- 3. As ERP systems become mature and only provide a snapshot view of the company, the integration of those with business intelligence and a variety of planning, simulation and analysis tools will have to be achieved to provide companies the information they require. Master Data Management will have to be put in place to ensure consistency of the information across the company and its eco-system.
- 4. With a number of safety threats behind us, the need for improved product track & trace is becoming increasingly apparent. Technologies such as RFID and smart labeling have achieved a maturity level that makes them prime candidates to become the basic tools for such traceability. Information backbones will be developed to collect the data and provide companies with information quickly and efficiently, resulting in fewer, faster and smaller recalls in the future.
- 5. New, hyped technologies will continue to appear. Cloud Computing will continue being at the center of many conversations, although it only covers e-mail and a small number of collaboration applications at this moment in time. But in the mean time leading companies are implementing Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) environments to increase their responsiveness and agility. In doing so, they are preparing themselves to be able to take advantage of cloud based services the day those become available
Predicting the future is always difficult. So, this is my trial and I hope you enjoyed it. On a very different note, may I wish you all the best for 2009, both on a professional and private basis. It has been a pleasure for me to contribute to this blog and hope to continue doing this in 2009.
Earlier this week I was at RFID World in Las Vegas. Even though it is not the main RFID trade-show in the US it was interesting for a number of reasons.
Tag vendors appear to have recovered from the price reductions of the last few years and seem to focus high quality/yields and high volume (very high volume) opportunities.
RFID readers form factors are exploding clearly and I was able to see north of 30 types of readers/antennas combinations made specifically for a particular situation/use case. This includes SDIO/CF, small PocketPC based devices, creative use case based antennas and cool looking form factors from Samsung (yes they do have UHF readers) and several others I can’t even describe.
This is all goodness for the industry which now has to provide answers to a larger number of requests and opportunities in what was before considered fringes or niche areas, not big enough to justify hardware investments.
This new wave of hardware push is going to enable software vendors and system integrators’ to provide solutions in more areas and continue the acceleration of the adoption of RFID.
Do you have in mind a reader form factor that does not exist yet?
The topic of RFID has been approached a few times in this blog. RFID, being a technology, is supporting a number of usage scenarios and its maturity depends on the area we are looking at. Access control and retail and certainly not at the same place.Still the middleware space has changed significantly over the last year, with the Oracle/BEA deal, steady progress from Microsoft and SAP, and the Checkpoint/OAT deal more recently. I found this article to be quite interesting about this and trying to look at the future of middleware…http://www.rfidupdate.com/news/07082008.html#editorsNoteWhile the functions provided by the middleware themselves are certainly going to stay in some form, it will be interesting to see if some of the larger players are able to use this as a differentiator versus a “need to have” type set of features.
Why isn't a 60 years old technology more mainstream?
Welcome to our new team blog. We are members of the global Manufacturing & Distribution Industry team and spend a vast amount of time working with both customers and HP’s own design and supply chain teams worldwide. In that process, we discovered that, beyond the differences between industry segments, there are many experiences that can be adapted from one industry segment to another. That is the reason why we started this website. We want to share with you our findings from a business and technology perspective, covering industries as different as Automotive and CPG, Aerospace and Oil & Gas, Retail and Electronics, Utilities and Logistics.
I often hear companies telling me “we are different, so what is applicable to segment X is not applicable to us”. With respect, I would like to disagree. Indeed, if a company wants to be the best in its own segment, it needs to look outside its segment for ideas. Otherwise it can only be as good as its competitors. Obviously, you may not be able to copy an experience, a best practice, as is. It may have to be adapted to the specifics of your enterprise. But isn’t that where innovation actually comes in?
The use of RFID to track production across the Supply Chain is getting popular in the Electronics and Aerospace industry, but what about using a similar approach in Oil & Gas. Tracking barrels of oil across a pipeline obviously does not make sense, but in discussion with companies, we discovered the need to track drilling equipment. Indeed, when drilling a new well, loads of equipment is required. Particularly when off-shore, all equipment cannot be held on or around the platform. Managing the supply chain is becoming increasingly important to keep drilling going. And at 100K$ per hour, one better make sure there is no shortage of material. The application is quite different, but many of the best practices can be re-used.
Hope this gives you a glimpse of what we want to talk about. But blogging is not just about publishing a point of view, it is also about engaging in a dialogue. Let us know what you think, what subjects you would like us to address and don’t hesitate to disagree with us. That’s what makes it interesting.