Back to the Future and the Greening of RFID

Last month, I had a thought-provoking conversation with Steve Ackerman, president of FKI Logistex, and several members of his executive team. The talk centered on how his company does things and what’s on tap for the future. After 45 minutes or so, I told Steve I was a bit amazed that he’d been able to say so much and not use the word “green” even once.

With an understanding chuckle, he quickly noted there are many shades of green in his company’s material handling products. And, that led us into a discussion of whether “green” would go the way of RFID.

It seems that RFID has dropped below the horizon for those of us in the news business. I could give you a plethora of reasons why; however, I’m limited to only a single page, here. As it turns out, RFID is alive and well, thank you. And, as Samuel Clemons said, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Certainly not an exaggeration, in this month’s issue (Returns on RFID, Reusables Tests Encouraging), you’ll find an expanded report on the major RFID undertaking by the Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition (RPCC). The field-test stage of this project is well underway. The project has been two years in the making and is purported to be the largest, global field test of RFID at this level of complexity. It involves thousands of containers and RFID tags, three diverse produce items, university-level research, untold dollars in donated products, services and equipment by participating companies and countless hours of individuals’ time.

Jeanie Johnson, RPCC’s director, says, while any kind of tracking is a major component of reusable container programs, RFID and an association taking on the role of facilitator, offers more. “We can bring together suppliers and competitors to resolve the issues of tracking and tracing in a forum that is non-threatening and non-competitive,” she says.

This testing program is a fine example of how an association can bear the brunt of a program’s costs for the benefit of many—even for those beyond its membership. “There will be nothing proprietary generated by the tests,” says Fred Heptinstall, RPCC president, and president and general manager of RPC management and services at IFCO Systems. “It will produce data for the whole industry to look at and then base individual company decisions upon.”

He adds that the promises of RFID, asset tracking and product tracing are important pieces of this puzzle, as is inventory management, regardless of what product a company produces.

Who wouldn’t want better inventory management to become a reality? Results from the kind of cooperation shown in efforts such as this often hasten the evolution of a good practice—reusable containers in this case—into the creation of a best practice.

Oh, did I forget to mention the green aspect of reusable containers? Here it is: Why keep paying good money for something that you’ve already purchased?

Also in this issue we’re introducing our Technology Toolkit section. This space will give industry experts an opportunity to discuss hardware, software or ideas (known as vaporware) that might be technologically out of the mainstream of material handling, yet have potential for today’s challenges. Check it out: 10 Steps To Reducing Inventory.

Clyde E. Witt
Editor-in-Chief • [email protected]

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