UK snubs RFID

New research carried out by e.centre, the UK supply chain efficiency association, shows that 85 per cent of UK companies have no plans to introduce radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in their organisations.

The survey questioned supply chain managers from medium to large enterprises. Despite 88 per cent of those questioned agreeing that RFID was a beneficial technology, only eight per cent are using or piloting RFID in their organisations. Forty seven per cent of supply chain managers said that the current costs of RFID technology outweigh the potential benefits.

Steve Coussins, e.centre’s chief executive, said: ‘The results of this survey show an alarming, widespread indifference to a technology that will bring significant benefits to business supply chains. RFID is here to stay. It will enable all trading partners in a supply chain, in any industry sector to track and trace products in real-time and manage stock more efficiently.’

The study is said to show further evidence of retailers driving forward the adoption of RFID technology, whilst other industries fail to grasp major opportunities for supply chain efficiency.

‘As with the uptake of bar coding 25 years ago, the retail sector is leading the way with implementing RFID technology’, commented Martin Swerdlow, chief executive, Integrated Product Intelligence (IPI). ‘A growing number of major retailers have announced plans to begin implementing RFID solutions in ‘end-to-end’ supply chains. Manufacturers and trading partners need to get active, so that RFID is a benefit to them too, not just an imposition.’

A non-profit organisation, e.centre is reportedly paving the way for successful RFID adoption in the supply chain with the launch of a single, global, open standard for the technology. EPCglobal goes live in the UK in spring 2004, and will allow the integration of RFID with bar coding and other business-to-business communications. Almost two thirds of survey respondents agreed that such a standard would greatly encourage the uptake of RFID.

‘The UK has been at the fore of RFID testing and development and yet the poll suggests that we are losing momentum’, continued Coussins, ‘we must not lose out when it comes to the final stage of implementation.

‘It is of vital importance that UK companies begin to devise strategies for piloting and implementing the technology in line with the EPCglobal Network standard. To this end, e.centre will continue working with Industry to provide support and education and co-ordinate trials in this field.

‘This will demonstrate that the EPCglobal Network is a cross-sector standard, which will potentially deliver benefits that exceed existing technologies.’