More RFID pilots but full adoption years away

Executives from several large companies in September outlined their plans to move ahead with RFID technology as a replacement for bar codes. But there are formidable obstacles to the technology’s widespread adoption, they said.

At the inaugural Electronic Product Code (EPC) Executive Symposium held in Chicago, users said it will take five to 10 years for radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to be fully deployed at the individual item level.

Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson is piloting the technology at some of its warehouses, according to Pat Rizotto, vice president of global consumer initiatives at the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company.

“We’d find huge savings if all we did was better understand what comes in through the front doors, where it is in the distribution centre and what was shipped out the back door,” Rizotto said during a panel discussion at the conference.

The next step is to determine whether retail partners would be interested in working directly with Johnson & Johnson to implement RFID tagging, he said. The company is also looking at using the tags to track some of the more expensive products in its medical devices and diagnostics business.

But he didn’t give a timetable for implementing the technology, saying that a formal business case has to be made for it first. “EPC will enhance what we have,” he said.