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We’ve all been told about the benefits of RFID – accurate data, collected and delivered at electronic speed, for real-time decision-making. But does it really make a difference in our day-to-day work lives?

Let’s take a look at two imaginary individuals leading parallel lives. RFID Ray and Non-RFID Ned are operations managers at companies that manufacture, let’s say, turbo-charged self-navigating riding mowers.

  • They both get up at 6:30 a.m. and get ready for work. Ray can’t find his keys, but an RFID app on his cell phone quickly locates them. He leaves home in time to miss the worst of the morning traffic.
  • Ned, too, has misplaced his keys. He loses 10 minutes looking for them, then he loses another 15 minutes in heavy traffic.
  • Ray arrives in the office a few minutes early. He enjoys a cup of coffee and catches up with a colleague, then he opens the RFID-controlled materials inventory on his computer. He sees that the supply of a critical part (we’ll call it a widget) is dangerously low; bad weather has delayed a supplier’s delivery. Ray places a call to another supplier, whose RFID inventory system says he has a 5-day supply in stock. Ray says, “I’ll take them all.”
  • When Ned finally arrives at the office 25 minutes late, there’s no time for coffee and team-building chitchat. Like Ray, Ned checks his materials inventory report. It’s a paper document showing a manual count of parts. It took two precious work days to do the inventory nearly a month ago. The report shows that he has plenty of widgets to continue operations for another week. Suddenly the line supervisor rushes in to Ned’s office. “Boss, we’re nearly out of widgets, and the bad weather had delayed the shipment we expected. We’ll have to shut the line down tomorrow if we don’t get more.” Ned gets on the phone to the other nearby supplier, who gives Ned the bad news that Ray bought the last widgets an hour ago.
  • Back at Ray’s office, the accountant asks Ray if he has the hard copy of a customer’s purchasing contract. It’s not on Ray’s desk. He checks the RFID document-tracking system, and it shows the contract is on the CFO’s desk. The accountant heads to the CFO’s office and locates the missing document.
  • Ned, meanwhile, cannot find the purchasing document the accountant needs. He has no idea where it has gone or who took it off his desk. He stops trying to find a widget supplier and starts looking for the document. After 20 minutes, he locates it in the CFO’s office, then he gets back to widget-hunting.
  • When Ray comes back from lunch, he gets a call from a parts manufacturer. The manufacturer’s RFID tracking system shows that a crate of defective jackson rods was sent to Ray. Ray checks his own RFID system and sees that some of the defective parts have just entered the assembly line. He contacts the line supervisor to tell him where the defective parts are on the line; the supervisor removes them. Ray then sends a message to his warehouse: Query the RFID system for the location of the crate of defective parts, and prepare it for return to the manufacturer. Total time required – 5 minutes.
  • Ned has no time for lunch. He’s still searching for widgets. Late in the day, his QC manager tells him that some of the finished riding mowers failed QC due to defective jackson rods. Ned shuts down the line while the crew pulls the defective parts. The warehouse manager walks up and down the shelving aisles looking for the crate of defective parts. “I know it was here somewhere,” he says. Ned complains bitterly to the jackson rod manufacturer. Total time required – 4 hours.
  • Ray leaves work right on time, his RFID badge recording his exit from the building. He works out at the gym, has a quick bite, and goes to his daughter’s school play. She’s the star of his life.
  • Ned gives up the search for widgets and reluctantly lets his boss know the line won’t be operating tomorrow. Ned’s crew is still pulling the defective jackson rods off the line. The crew is being paid overtime, so they don’t mind too much, except the ones whose children are in the school play. Ned, exhausted, tries to sign out on the security log book. His pen runs out of ink. When he gets to his car, he can’t find his keys.
  • Just about the same time, Ray is applauding his daughter with a standing ovation.

The story is hypothetical, but the RFID technology is quite real: There is an RFID application for almost every aspect of your work life, and many for your personal life. Whether it’s the time needed to make a well-informed` decision, time to locate something essential, or time to focus on family and self, the most valuable thing RFID gives you is time.

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