We hear about new RFID implementations constantly. With new RFID projects arising some wonder: why would all RFID projects still need to carry out a pilot? Haven’t the lessons from pilots been learnt already? Is the time for pilot projects over?
Piloting is an integral part of RFID projects. RFID pilots have
been around for as long as RFID projects have existed that's why we
wonder - have RFID pilots become redundant?
RFID pilot projects
Nowadays RFID pilots are common - with new pilot projects being
announced on a frequent basis. The technology is already in use in
different industries such as the laundry business, the automotive
industry and of course: retail.
Before implementing new technologies such as RFID technology,
retailers start off with a pilot project, usually covering one
store for a small scale pilot implementation. In the pilot the
retailers want to test the technology, find out whether set goals
are achieved and evaluate the concrete outcomes that can be
achieved by implementing the new technology.
But why is RFID piloting still carried out? Isn't it safe to say
that possible scenarios have already been covered and that
retailers adopting the new technology are convinced that the
technology works and facts such as high inventory accuracy are
delivered? Basically one would think that possible pilot scenarios
have already been covered in some shape or form.
Janne Mäkeläinen, Product Manager at Nordic ID, explains the
phenomenon "RFID pilots have not become redundant. What has become
redundant is the idea that RFID pilots only serve the purpose of
proving that the technology works."
How does RFID fit in?
It used to be that retailers needed proof that the technology
was able to deliver. These days the technical facts have already
been proven and customers rarely need evidence that the technology
measures up. When retailers are told that thousands of items can be
read in seconds - even through cardboard boxes without opening the
boxes - they no longer need separate verification. Also the general
point that RFID significantly increases inventory accuracy, reduces
out-of-stock situations and increases sales is no longer
questioned. These facts have already been acknowledged.
Nowadays in pilots, the process testing rises to the occasion
and takes centre stage. Pilots are an integral part of seeing how
the new technology fits in with the processes of the companies that
adopt the new technology.
Tiina Aumasalo, Sales Manager at Nordic ID comments "All
projects and all retailers are different. The importance for
retailers has shifted from testing whether RFID as a technology
works, to seeing how RFID technology works in the retailers'
processes. Retail stores differ from each other, in the backroom
and on the shop floor. Also elements that cause disturbances are
unique. In the pilot the implementation is closely evaluated in
regards to the specific, individual requirements".
In the pilot stage companies have the chance to test how RFID
technology fits into their own processes and prerequisites. There
is difference between rolling out a solution in one or two stores
versus launching a new technology in 200 stores. Carrying out a
pilot allows reviewing results on a smaller scale and possibly
utilizing lessons learnt in roll-out improvements.
The more involved parties are included in a RFID rollout, the
more variables are to be planned in. Thus it is crucial to plan
pilot projects well.
Topics in RFID pilot projects:
- challenges and desired outcomes
- goal setting
- definition of what will be improved
- exploring device options
- training of personnel
- evaluating different options e.g. tagging procedures
Tomi Lundström, Technical Support Engineer at Nordic ID, adds
"Pilots certainly affect the time spent with the implementation
schedule, but they also lower the risk of challenges and issues
occurring in the project. After a well-planned pilot it is easier
to expand and roll out the solution into a full RFID
Skipping pilot projects
In most cases pilots are helpful, but there are a few scenarios
where piloting RFID technology seems unnecessary. For example if a
corporation has already executed a pilot project. In that case a
company has carried out an RFID pilot in one location and
implemented the solution there according to specifications. If at a
later stage the decision is cast to implement RFID technology in
another location, a new pilot project might not be necessary. A new
pilot with similar specifications is unnecessary if results
concerning scope and details have already been obtained.
The other scenario relates to small scale implementations. Just
as much as mid and large sized businesses adopt RFID - also small
retailers can benefit from implementing RFID in its operations. But
when it comes to piloting RFID the approach can be different for
small retailers. In the case that there is not a significant
difference between the size of the implementation and pilot size,
piloting can prove unnecessary. If costs and effort equal the
actual implementation, it makes sense that the retailer
concentrates on the implementation only, instead of pilot and
Shift in focus
RFID pilot projects will not become redundant but it is good to
see that the focus of pilot projects has certainly shifted.
Retailers have learnt their lesson from previous pilot projects.
For once; in regards to what has been learnt about the technology
itself and also concerning the importance of pilot project
RFID pilots do of course affect the time needed for the project
implementation but on a positive note well executed pilots help to
minimize risks regarding challenges and issues with the overall
[Left] Tiina Aumasalo, Area Sales
Manager at Nordic ID
[Middle] Tomi Lundström, Technical Support Engineer at Nordic
[Right] Janne Mäkeläinen, Product Manager at Nordic ID
An important part of RFID Pilots, is the training of the
personnel. If you wish to read more about the importance of
training in RFID projects read our article:
RFID projects do affect the company personnel