It’s not uncommon for people to purchase technology before they understand the problem they want to solve. Automatic identification technology (AIT) by its very definition screams process, but that’s not where many start. It’s easier to look at the type of label or tag, software or hardware you need before you look at the big picture. There are so many aspects to defining an AIT solution, such as the lifecycle and movement of your asset. Are you looking to manage parts or equipment within your organization, or are you shipping finished product into the supply chain, or both? And, what are you going to do with the data? There are many factors you need to consider before jumping head first into choosing a technology.

The AIT industry has grown significantly, from using linear barcodes to consuming RFID tags with software and analytics. AIT is both extensible and scalable offering a multitude of options. That’s sounds good at first, but don’t miss the practical human element. You may have a sophisticated solution but it won’t be leveraged within a supply chain if the tag falls off, or the data can’t be scanned or tracked. So often it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s that the situation hasn’t been accurately accessed (environment, access to equipment, training, etc.) and the process hasn’t been defined from start to finish.

September Blog Image AITIt’s not uncommon for people to purchase technology before they understand the problem they want to solve. Automatic identification technology (AIT) by its very definition screams process, but that’s not where many start. It’s easier to look at the type of label or tag, software or hardware you need before you look at the big picture. There are so many aspects to defining an AIT solution, such as the lifecycle and movement of your asset.  Are you looking to manage parts or equipment within your organization, or are you shipping finished product into the supply chain, or both?  And, what are you going to do with the data?  There are many factors you need to consider before jumping head first into choosing a technology.

What happens after implementation?
As an example, A2B performed an asset identification project using a 2D Data Matrix barcode as the global identifier.  With our guidance, the client selected the right software, mobile computers and asset tagging materials. Our first task was to import their asset records from their financial system into our tracking application. Once imported, we performed the marking and data capture activity across tens of thousands of assets with our seasoned marking technicians.  The results produced a comprehensive baseline of all assets and their existence and completeness in excess of 95% of total inventory. That’s great except the customer didn’t address the sustainment plan as part of the process, regardless of our recommendation.  Once the responsibility of the tracking system was handed back to the client, they were not prepared to keep the inventory updated. The result was the value of the implementation was not fully realized.

Look both ways before you start.
Taking the time to define your complete process with an end to end analysis can significantly impact your solution’s success. It’s human nature to look at what’s in front of us. When defining an AIT solution, look on either end of what you think the process is, and go a step further.  Perhaps instead of an RFID tag that’s applied, you may want to embed a tag into your asset during the asset’s manufacturing process.  You may want to tag people with RFID technology and not just inventory.

Also, consider the data.  Identify what data will give you the visibility you need to measure and optimize performance of your operation.  How are you going to store, access, and analyze the data to fully recognize the benefits of your solution?

Look at all aspects of your investment.
Map out your process and data requirements, and then decide what platform will best fit your short and long-term requirements.  Choose technology and a process that will enable you to expand overtime while minimizing obsolescence. Most importantly, make sure your solution fits your culture.  The solution has to make sense and be easily adopted by everyone that touches it.  Both technology and process have to be fully embraced by the people in your organization–to be a success.