Will RFID completely change retailing and distribution?

October 20, 2004
7:30 to 10:00 AM
Fox/Gittis Foyer
Liacouras Center
Temple University Main Campus

The rapid rate of adoption of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags is challenging the retail and distribution processes of many firms. RFID tags are tiny radio transmitters with read/write memory capability that could replace traditional barcode technology to automatically identify and track shipments and merchandise. A product could in theory be tracked and managed through the complete supply and retail chain from production to eventual disposal. Major retailers and the US government have mandated the use of this technology. What are the major business and technical implications of this technology? As businesses rush to adopt a technology with a shaky standard will there be a negative fall-out from inevitable failures? What can we learn from the lead adopters of RFID? This panel will pull together expert practitioners who can realistically address and assess the impact of RFID on the retailing and distribution industry.

Radio frequency identification tagging has the ability to revolutionize retailing. Real-time inventory management, automatic shelf replenishment and better in-stock levels are all possible. Spurred by Wal-Mart, the widespread adoption of RFID isn’t a matter of if but when. Our panelists had various views and experiences with the technology. CVS vice president Jack DeAlmo is looking at RFID to track expensive prescription drugs and comply with Federal Drug Administration regulations. Mark Donovan, a senior vice president with the Philadelphia Eagles, instituted RFID at the team’s stadium to speed concession lines and foster consumer loyalty programs. Among the topics covered: Are bar codes going to become a relic of the past? Alan Melling, senior director at Symbol Technologies said that he expects the two technologies to coexist for a while. His company provides both. Will RFID hurt privacy? All of the panelists were concerned with privacy issues, but noted that there are precautions. The key is being upfront about how data is used and give consumers a clear benefit. Douglas Karp, Senior Director, General Manager, Checkpoint Systems, said one area where RFID has shown a benefit is library checkout systems. Is there a return on investment? Craig Jett, Global Supply Chain and RFID Solution Executive, Distribution Sector, IBM, noted that returns will be company specific based on how RFID tagging is used. The costs of tags is one large hurdle.


  • Jack DeAlmo, Vice President, CVS
  • Mark Donovan, Senior Vice President, Philadelphia Eagles
  • Craig R. Jett, Global Supply Chain and RFID Solution Executive, Distribution Sector, IBM
  • Douglas M. Karp, Senior Director, General Manager, Checkpoint Systems, Inc.
  • Alan Melling, Senior Director, Symbol Technologies


  • Larry Dignan, News Editor, Baseline