RFID set for European breakthrough

Key findings of a study by LogicaCMG reveal that Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is high on the agenda for European retailers, food manufacturers and logistic service providers.

The key findings of an international study undertaken by LogicaCMG reveal that Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is high on the agenda for European retailers, food manufacturers and logistic service providers. A majority of the companies interviewed in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Germany, France and Belgium, gave RFID top priority in terms of planned IT investment.

RFID is seen as the successor to barcoding. By using RFID it is possible to electronically identify and track objects, such as supermarket goods, without time delays or the need for human intervention. As a result, supply chain logistics are more streamlined and efficient, leading to lower costs and higher revenues.

The study shows that half of the 50 companies interviewed in Europe have or are planning to deploy RFID pilot projects throughout 2004, with the vast majority planning to start implementing the technology within the next three years. A number of major retailers, such as Tesco (UK) and Metro (Germany) will initiate large-scale rollout of RFID.

Whilst these projects will be finalised by 2007, the research indicates that companies will not begin to tag consumer products until 2008 when prices of tags will have lowered.

The focus for the moment is on Returnable Transport Items (RTIs), such as crates and pallets. The tagging of these RTIs will be standard as of 2005. The research highlights when and how RFID will be used on a large scale for RTIs within European retail supply chains. Due to the large variety of RTIs in retail supply chains, the management, recording and administration is both complex and labour intensive. The study says that RFID will eliminate these concerns.

The use of RFID with RTIs will only take place if the financial benefits are greater than the cost of implementation. The cost/benefit analysis part of the research showed that based on a tag price of 50 eurocents the handling cost per pallet could decrease by 8.5%.

A majority of companies that have trailed RFID prefer the EPC (Electronic Product Code) network as standard for information exchange and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) as frequency. In the short term there are a number of issues that should be solved before RFID can be broadly adopted. First, the EPC network has not been finalised yet. Second, limitations in European legislation mean that the use of UHF technology is currently restricted. Finally, the software to integrate RFID in the existing IT infrastructure is not mature yet.

LogicaCMG anticipates that by the end of 2004, the main issues will be resolved. As volume deployments will increase in the next few years, the cost of RFID tags will be lower.