The Supply Chain of Sitcoms-Enhanced with Radio Frequency Identification

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A few evenings ago I took a break from my latest research project to channel surf, and happened upon reruns of Cheers, Laverne and Shirley, and Green Acres. And, since my latest research project is centered around the impact that radio frequency identification (RFID) technology can have upon the customer experience, it was totally logical that I began to imagine what these sitcoms might look like today if they were RFID enhanced.

So, sit back, close your eyes, and imagine along with me well, you can't close your eyes and read this at the same time, so just sit back and imagine


The Cheers bar is now a chain of Cheers bars spread all over the country. Everybody knows your name before you walk in (because there are sensors in the parking lots that read your handy Cheers key fob that you never leave home without ) and they also know what your favorite drink is and which is your favorite table or bar stool—no matter which location you happen to stop into! You are thinking that's pretty cool by now, I am certain but, wait—there is more! When your favorite brew is going to be on special, you receive an e-mail or text message (your choice) letting you know. And, you don't have to worry about getting all settled on your bar stool of choice only to find out that they are out of your favorite brew or concoction, because the friendly staff at Cheers has already ensured that their suppliers provide the ability to track each keg or bottle as it makes it's way to a Cheers location. (But, we'll get to that sitcom in a minute.) No waste of any marketing dollars on a promotion that doesn't have supply to back it up! And, that free cold brew that you are sipping (because they just seem to know when you have reached the "buy seven, get one free" threshold) tastes great! This RFID technology now allows Woody, Sam, and Carla to focus on valuable customer interaction not on asking the same old questions and hunting around for the last bottle of brew or a keg that should have been in the supply cooler in the back!

Another Episode ...

Now, on to the Laverne and Shirley episode (or our next link in the chain) Laverne and Shirley have led an employee buyout of the brewery and are now part of the senior management team. They have become the number two beer brewer and distributor in the country (with international expansion plans over the next couple of years). Their rise to number 2 from number 2,000 has been due primarily to a strategy of listening to their customers' (the Sams and Dianes of the world) requests to provide proof of delivery and other key logistical visibility capabilities. Yep, you guessed it they used RFID technology to do so! The rise to number two is also attributed to their jointly hosted beer tasting and brewing festivals with their customers. Joint promotion and marketing dollars put to great use—again all underpinned by RFID technology! And lastly, Shirley has been playing a lead role in their supplier management activities and has managed to get raw material cost down significantly, thus allowing for more money to be available for marketing and research and development (R&D) efforts. She has required all of her suppliers to support enhanced proof of delivery capabilities and better visibility of the shipments of key brewing ingredients such as hops and barley. Need I even mention that this too was accomplished mainly with RFID technology!?

And, on to our last and final link in the chain you guessed it—Oliver and Lisa finally got the farm in Hooterville up and going! They are now the fourth largest barley grower in the country. They purchased a fleet of trucks to handle distribution with Mr. Ziffle running the fleet, which is aptly named: Arnold's Trucking. Each Arnold's truck is fully equipped with a global positioning system (GPS), and each pallet, crate, or container of barley is RFID tagged as well. Life is quite good on the farm these days!

... And Your Enterprise

If you think that what RFID did for these three sitcoms is cool, this was just the tip of the iceberg just think of what it can do in your enterprise to enhance the customer experience. So, if I can pull myself away from the television (TV) and finish my report on this topic, it will be available in just a few months to help you do so! As for Lennie, Squiggy, and Norm I guess that there are some things that even RFID can't help!!


This article is from Parallax View, ChainLink Research's on-line magazine, read by over 150,000 supply chain and IT professionals each month. Thought-provoking and actionable articles from ChainLink's analysts, top industry executives, researchers, and fellow practitioners. To view the entire magazine, click here.

About the Author

Laura Faught Vice President, ChainLink Research Laura Faught brings to ChainLink a distinguished track record of over 20 years of transformational leadership supported by leading edge information technology management. Her credentials include serving as the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense/Logistics Systems Management from 2001 to 2003. In this role she was responsible for policy and oversight of all Department of Defense Logistics IT systems, which taken together make up the department's $80+ billion supply chain. Ms. Faught has experience in all facets of global supply chain optimization including business reengineering, workforce alignment, COTS implementation, and enterprise change management. She has also managed supply chain solutions workforces in Global 200 organizations.

Prior to ChainLink, Ms. Faught served as Vice President Solution Delivery/Customer Community at LRN Inc. Ms. Faught played a key role in developing and executing LRN's approach to its customer lifecycle management process. In addition, Ms. Faught has held executive positions at Qwest Cyber Solutions, SAP, and American Software.

Ms. Faught holds a BS in Business/Operations Management and an MS in Management Information Systems (no thesis) from Auburn University.

ChainLink Research is a bold new supply chain research organization dedicated to helping executives improve business performance and competitiveness.

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