Friday, March 19, 2010

Quick! Give me a Price on What????????

Over the last couple of weeks I have been tracking down leads from some of the companies I do development for. Looking at the customer’s request and seeing if the Vendors product correctly fits the requirements is just part of my presales consultant work. I stress to these vendors I work with too never sell into an environment they do not really fit, or oversell their capabilities.

What I have noticed, and this is directed to you customers; 90% of the request regardless of the vendor they inquire to all ask for pricing up front.
They go something like this:
“ I need a price on tracking 300 assets, most are mobile and the move between two facilities.”

Ok great but without details as to the assets we are talking about, the facilities, the infrastructure in them, Environment, processes, tracking requirements, and much much more you are dead in the water.
Bottom Line:

RFID is not a commodity product. I want to stress this, all though most electronics in the world today have been commoditized RFID still requires knowledge, experience, and finesse to deploy and make work properly. You cannot buy RFID tags off the shelf, get a reader and make it work. There are hundreds of tags on the market today and most are very good, but each has its own unique operational parameters once you get past the passive EPC Gen1 / Gen 2 formats they must be deployed correctly and tuned properly.

Please Customers do some homework, lay out your process maps, and send a requirements sheet with your quote request. Maps, drawings, and floor plans will help also. Good projects take good planning and as I have said before; shopping Tag and Hardware price is not the correct way to deploy an RFID project. If you’re not sure where to start hire us (Blackburn Global), we can do the value stream mapping, lean logistics, Project plan, and pick the correct solution or recommend someone who can.

RFID should never be an expense! Deployed with common sense and due diligence it will always be an investment returning dollars to the bottom line year after year.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The “RFID Education Quotient”

After just spending two hours on a webinar discussing RFID deployments from one of the largest RFID specific publication in the industry the same questions always come up and we view another rendition of how vendor ABC has a similar product and how great it worked for customer XYZ!

What we observe is most of these webinars are based on passive technology and its penetration in the market due to EPC standards and the lower cost of passive tag technology. I am not saying this is a bad thing, it just seems that passive and other associated technology are being pressed to fit spheres they really do not perform well in because of the perceived low cost aura.

Over the years we have observed Passive Technology and others like WiFi, UWB, Blue Tooth, and ZigBee, having been deployed in many projects that they fit very well. Our issue is many times they are placed in environments that they do not perform well or do not meet the customers’ goals and process requirements.
Why does this happen? Because the customer is under the impression that it will be much cheaper to use the existing WiFi infrastructure or the “presented” technology itself is just much cheaper on the surface. Granted any time you can take a technology that has been deployed and designed for one purpose it is advantageous to see if it will carry over and cover other requirements. The problem is one tool may be used for other purposes’ and function (yes I have driven nails with a Crescent wrench) but it never does the job as well and never meets the performance requirements needed of a properly designed tool for the task!

That is where I feel the “RFID Education Quotient” is going to be a requirement in the coming wave of “Smart” RFID deployments. I wish I could report that every RFID (Active & Passive), WiFi, ZigBee, UWB, Sonic, and the other styles of hardware vendors in the world today would be up front and back away from deployments they really know they do not fit. Unfortunately that is not the case, and the amount of companies in the space today creates a huge overlap of competing products. What this leads to is customer confusion and in many cases multiple projects done over and over again trying to solve an initial problem. Patterns like this have kept RFID from being the boom product many felt it was going to be and has made it more of an evolutionary product.

What we do at Blackburn Global and others like us, is educate the end user. We let them know all the options based on; in our case thirty plus years of RFID experience, hundreds of RFID deployment experience / involvement under our belts, and working knowledge of hundreds of industry leading products. We remain agnostic to the Hardware and Software side (Software and integration is a key component that many miss as well) selecting the correct products to meet the end customers requirements and environments. We give the Customer the “RFID Education Quotient” to make the correct solution choices and offer them the project management skills to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Bottom Line:
RFID Solutions are an investment that gives returns year after year. Properly deployed RFID would never be an expense; it will always give a return on your investment. Customers should invest upfront and early in the process to the education of staff or hire unbiased consultants, and then invest some money on testing a couple of selections in a real world with on-site pilots or proof of concept deployments. This investment will give that “Educated”, fact based data driven assessment that will return many times over in the end results.