Choosing an RFID integration partner can be difficult, especially if you’re new to RFID technology and don’t know what to expect from your partnership.
Not all RFID suppliers serve the role of an integration partner. Most suppliers will be able to offer bits and pieces of the full solution, so you may need to work with multiple suppliers and dedicate a resource to managing those relationships and the project.
In any case where it’s possible, we recommend seeking out a supplier who can provide the full solution and manage the project for you. We like to call this kind of relationship an integration partnership. Here, we aim to outline what your integration partner would ideally be doing for you, and how that benefits you and the overall functionality of your RFID system.
1. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Design a System to Best Fit Your Needs
RFID is greatly affected by its environment and application, so, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. This is where your integration partner should step in.
They’ll want a very specific description of the intended application, the processes involved and the environment of the intended use. Ideally, your integration partner would visit your facility to locate and measure any potential sources of interference. By doing so they can more accurately replicate the use environment during testing and build your solution around factors that may interfere with the effectiveness of your RFID implementation plan.
2. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Objectively Help You Calculate ROI
Cost is always an important factor, but is only one part of the formula. More important than cost is the return you expect to see on your investment… or in a worst case scenario, lack there-of.
3. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Manage the Project
Your integration partner is likely experienced in implementing RFID systems, which gives them an advantage when it comes to managing the project. They’ll know who needs to get involved and when, be able to create reasonable timelines based on similar applications and source any necessary tools.
Working with an RFID partner who will take on the task of managing the process will also ensure that your team only becomes involved when necessary, minimizing disruption to your current processes.
4. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Test, Test and Test Again
Testing is incredibly important to ensuring full functionality of your RFID solution. As we mentioned before, there is no one size fits all RFID solution so your RFID integration partner should design a system specifically for your application and environment.
Your integration partner isn’t just creating all these iterations for fun, they do this because there are often multiple possible RFID solutions for your application, however not all of them will perform equally well in your environment. These possible solutions will usually be tested and fine-tuned in a simulated environment, until a pilot is created that is ready for testing in the application environment.
5. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Phase the Project
Your Integration partner should split up the process into phases. We just covered testing, which is just one critical phase in the RFID build process.
This is especially valuable when RFID is just one component of a larger project or product launch, for two reasons. One, it can speed up the time frame since the project is being handled primarily by your partner, freeing up your people to work on the other project components. Two, you can better plan for launch since you’ll have a timeline provided to you by an RFID professional. It’s always a good idea to tack on some extra time for flexibility sake.
6. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Scope Out the Project
Scoping involves outlining reasonable expectations for your RFID system. A number of factors play into what will and won’t be reasonable when it comes to your RFID solution. Interference, budget, label size and more will all play a role in determining what type of RFID solution is best suited to your practice, and the type will determine many of the features your solution can have.
As your integration partner determines the scope of the process, they should discuss any relevant findings with you. This way, you and your partner can come to an agreement on a solution that’s both reasonable and meets your needs.
7. Your RFID Integration Partner Should Be Upfront With Costs and Resources
Implementing RFID is a complex process, which is probably why you’ve decided to work with a partner. Working with a partner doesn’t mean they’ll take care of everything however, and your RFID integration partner should be open with you from the beginning on what contributions they’ll need from you.
First of all, and as you likely already suspected, they’ll need to be compensated monetarily, for the materials and work necessary to design and build a solution suited to your needs. Your RFID integration partner should be open from the start about how large of an investment they expect the project to be, and most importantly that the overall cost is subject to change.
As we discussed previously, the project will go through several phases and iterations before the final implementation. Overcoming certain roadblocks may result in a shift in the overall cost. Phasing can help accommodate this as it allows your partner to re-assess and update the estimated costs as the project moves forward. The most important point here is that you should remain flexible on cost and look for a supplier who will communicate any necessary fluctuations.
Additionally, your facility and team may become involved in the process. Not only is your facility likely going to be involved in scoping and testing, but your IT/IS team is likely going to play a key role in ensuring the RFID system will be compatible with your current operating systems and software.
When properly managed and implemented, RFID adds a lot of value to processes and procedures, allowing information to be leveraged in ways it was never able to before. Through speeding up inventory processes, increasing accuracy and detail of sample container labels, and streamlining tracking, RFID can offer a lot of value when done right. Working with a partner who is familiar with RFID and the implementation process offers additional value by taking weight off your shoulders, and ensures the resources and expertise necessary to provide a solution tailored to meet your needs.
If you’re interested in implementing RFID, finding the right integration partner is crucial to ensuring the success of your project. Consider the criteria discussed above in your search for a partner to develop a relationship that’s beneficial to the changing demands of your organization.