Shashank Rao’s co-authored paper, “RFID Tag Performance: Linking the Laboratory to the Field,” was recently accepted for publication by Productions and Operations Management, an elite journal in the field of supply chain management.
“Acceptance rates hover in the 6 to 8 percent range, which means that more than 90 percent of the manuscripts that are submitted do not end up making it,” said Rao, the Jim W. Thompson Associate Professor in Supply Chain Management at the Harbert College of Business. “This is a big deal in someone’s career. I’m very pleased that we got in there.”
Not only is Productions and Operations Management a Business Week Top 20 journal, but it is also a Financial Times Top 45 journal and is used by the Financial Times for ranking MBA programs. It is one of only two journals in the Financial Times Top 45 list dedicated to operations management/supply chain management research.
“Acceptance rates hover in the 6 to 8 percent range, which means that more than 90 percent of the manuscripts that are submitted do not end up making it,” Rao said.
Rao and co-authors, Scott Ellis, assistant professor of logistics at Georgia Southern University, Tom Goldsby, professor in logistics at Ohio State University, and Dheraj Raju, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing and a former visiting assistant professor of business analytics and statistics at Harbert College, documented means to make RFID tag-read performance in the field nearly perfect.
“What we want is a set of tags that will work 100 percent of the time irrespective of the store or a store’s layout,” said Rao. “The point is … when you are coming up with a tag, you want to have a tag that works across the board for everybody. That’s the key.”
RFID technology allows retailers the ability to track product movement within a store and the supply chain, making it a viable inventory tool. But when tags are not read, disorganization and waste can follow.
“There are several reasons why tag-read performance does not meet expectations,” said Rao, whose team of researchers interviewed 14 supply chain managers across three major retailers to learn more about their tag read experiences. “Every store is different. Every retail store is going to have a different footprint, size, fixtures, and inventory assortment.”
But after testing more than 45,000 RFID tag data points, a breakthrough was made. Researchers used a process Rao described as “an innovative and powerful” data mining technique involving cluster analysis and association rule mining that revealed the ideal tags. “It (the technique) has been used previously in marketing for market base analysis, but is unique in operations and supply chain literature,” Rao said.