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Guest Post: Zero Human Intervention in Operations (0HIO)

February 25, 2013

bill hardgraveDr. Bill Hardgrave is Dean of the School of Business at Auburn University and is also founder of the RFID Research Center at the U. of Arkansas.

It’s time for retailers to move to 0HIO— zero (0) Human Intervention in Operations. The concept is simple: Eliminate the human touch points in operations. Essentially, why have people do something that can be done automatically?  I have seen several retailers make the same mistake in early-stage RFID—they treat RFID as a “super bar code.” They swap out bar-code equipment for RFID devices, and keep existing processes in place. In doing so, they minimize the opportunity for gain and maximize the opportunity for mistakes.

For complete inventory management, retailers must know when product is received at the store and when it moves from the back room to the sales floor. Retailers that used mobile RFID readers in place of bar-code scanners to track products experienced execution failures. That’s because store associates became busy and forgot to read products that arrived at the store. And when they couldn’t easily locate a mobile reader, they didn’t read products that were moved from the back room to the sales floor. As a result, stores had incorrect inventory counts, and they did not know where items were located. Instead, the RFID system should have been built on the premise of human touch reduction. Installing RFID portals at the receiving door and transition door from back room to sales floor would have removed the need for human intervention and ensured products were recognized and recorded.

One retailer, for example, had two full-time store associates use bar-code scanners to track the items going into and out of dressing rooms. After adopting RFID, the retailer replaced the bar-code scanners with RFID mobile devices and was disappointed to find there were no benefits. That’s because the process hadn’t changed. When the retailer installed RFID readers in the dressing rooms, the information gathered was better, and dressing-room associates were free to help customers. When evaluating existing processes, ask the question: How can I remove the requirement for human intervention at this step? (Please see RFID Journal (Feb. 19, 2013) for more details).
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