1. How did you first become aware of RFID Technology and when?
In the mid-80s I worked at a company producing equipment for the intensive livestock farming. I was commercially responsible for the automatic feeding systems used in the research of animal behaviour. These systems of individual animal identification were an early form of Low Frequency RFID. Being an engineer myself, I was also involved in the development of the first automatic milking parlour – a turning point in the dairy sector – new versions still use individual animal identification today.
Setting global standards for RFID
In the 90s, Europe was discussing secure, reverse traceability of individual animals for human consumption. Electronic identification, RFID technology, was considered as a solution to legislate. However, there were several different variations on the theme and no international accepted standard. The ISO organisation started to discuss and decide on the standards as we know today. I was an active member of a working group setting them and RFIDdirect remains committed to meeting global quality standards.
2. What is it about your RFID solutions business that has kept you interested and excited for over 25+ years?
In 1995, I left my employment role to start as an entrepreneur in RFID technology. As a business, we developed Low Frequency and High Frequency RFID mobile data collection terminals. These terminals were successfully sold into the intensive livestock farming sector, but also in council’s curb-stone waste collections in the early 2000s. Mobile and industrial data capture became a fact of life, and is, without doubt the starting point for Industry 4.0.
(Note: there is a blog article on LinkedIN with more information about changes in RFID technology: https://bit.ly/3fVOt3j ).
Sustainable, lean, competitive
What strategy was then, and has remained important to me in supporting businesses is ‘operational LEAN development’. Manufacturers began to see how RFID could improve data capture in operational processes – leading to stronger and more efficient process management. Saving operational costs by reducing waste has always been the Mantra for LEAN.
Today, enabled by Industry 4.0 connectivity, in-process collected, relevant data from mobile and automatic data capture terminals and streamlined via computable networks and internet, generates reverse traceability of individual products produced. Not only related to transport visibility in the logistic supply chain (commonly used in the retail industry) but also for product life cycle management and circular economy.
Managing an SME has given me the opportunity to continue studying and growing in my business acumen and leadership skills. At RFIDdirect, we share good practice following Solution Thinking vs Product Thinking, or as I prefer to say ‘Thinking Cybernetics – the Science of effective organisation’. My aim is to design solutions and applications that work for individual situations and systems; encouraging and giving confidence to customers who want to invest in the culture of change and adopt new technology to improve their data capture processes and quality of information to build resilience in the future.
3. Where do you see the future of RFID in a greater connected world with many other options and choices for customers to capture data.
Developing RFID solutions is always a journey on which we start by understanding the business case for implementing RFID as a technology.
Automatic Identification and Data Capture can reduce the manual impact and cost on a process, improve the efficiency of the operation itself, visualise the products and real time operations within a process, generating the true Key Performance Indicators of that process. Often the solution is a hybrid system in which barcode and RFID work in partnership.
More intelligent Data and information = power and business success
Enabling automatic identification at product level, tooling level, machine level and even at operator level, is making the process SMART and capable to computations, store data, communicate and interactive with with the environment (Miche et al, 2009, Mühlhäuser et al, 2008). When products can be identified via RFID, they provide information re their properties, actual status and history. ‘Smart’ products are able to supply information for product lifecycle management and predictive maintenance planning. This will transform manufacturing into integrated networks in which companies specialise and unite in their core competences. Essential also, is the availability of real-time access to relevant product and production information for all participating companies. Virtualisation of process and supply-chain will ensure smooth inter-company information. This is, in fact, the Industry 4.0 environment.
And now the future . .
Looking to future production developments – including AI and Blockchain – it’s all about efficiencies. Paramount too, today’s manufacturing plant and supply chain demand product authenticity and availability, so need to be modular, smart, and fully connected, scalable. My company RFIDdirect plays an active, though modest, role in this development.
4. In an industry dominated by big organisations, how do you direct the customer to experience the value (and benefit) of working with a specialist RFID provider like RFIDdirect?
Our motto is ‘keeping track adding value’ and our ethos is never to sell based on price only. The RFIDdirect way is a holistic way – part of a solution-driven, never product-driven. We always seek out the best solution individually – we know there is hardly ever an off-the-shelf best-fit. We start by asking, ‘What is your business case? What are your current data requirements – future data requirements – where, how, when, what for? Always too,’ How can RFID add value and provide ROI to your data capture requirements or process improvements/KPIs? We work with larger enterprises but we also aim to support SMEs to adopt RFID technology from initial first steps to support right through to the final integration. The process can be completed incrementally or as a whole game-change.
Solution Thinking vs Product Thinking,
RFID automatic data collection is helping customers build a valid business case, adding value and ROI to their process-efficiencies and supply chains. @RFIDdirect Offers arguments in a realistic and achievable way and through building bricks of adoption.
• process improvement
• reducing operational costs
• increased efficiency
• improving customer service
• Visualisation of products / assets in the production flow
• Improving KPI visibility
• increasing profit
• complying to legal obligations on traceability
Understanding, learning, sharing
Ultimately, RFIDdirect is all about developing a culture of trust with suppliers, partners and customers – based on direct, realistic answers. As one satisfied customer said, ‘We like the way you focus and cut out the fluff, it’s exactly what we will need!” Perhaps, more of a formal explanation of how the team operates is described by Mark Roberti, founder of RFIDJournal, “With RFID and Internet of Things you can do something better with your business than you can do it today!” Couldn’t put it better myself.