Automation to Cut Supply Chain's Weakest Link
HARDWARE ON THE HORIZON
Changes brewing in publishing's retail operations may soon impact the supply side. Retailers, led by Wal-Mart, are pushing for their suppliers to attach very small radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to their products. RFID tags are wireless transmitters that send product information such as SKU or ISBN numbers to antennas, replacing manual inventory counting or the scanning of bar codes.
If publishers are required to invest in RFID technology for distribution, then they will try to derive additional value by using the technology to manage inventory from their suppliers too, says Glenn VanLandingham, director of product consulting at Manhattan Associates, an Atlanta-based supply chain consulting company. "RFID will have a profound affect on warehouse management," says VanLandingham.
Because RFID tags do not have to be in the line of sight of the antennas to share information, cases of books or supplies can be instantly acknowledged as received without having to break open the packaging, VanLandingham adds. "If the retailers want [RFID], then it will only be a matter of time before it penetrates the entire supply chain."
- John Gartner
John Gartner is a technology writer based in suburban Philadelphia.