IU's Kelley School receives grant from the P&G Fund to integrate RFID into its curricula
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Kelley School of Business will introduce changes to its graduate and undergraduate curricula this fall to address a need for its graduates to better understand Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and its role in today's competitive business environment.
RFID, the radio frequency reading of physical "smart tags" imbedded with silicon chips, is increasingly being used by companies where Kelley School graduates regularly make an impact. Retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart are requiring their suppliers to use the technology, as do an increasing number of companies in healthcare and financial services, and even the U.S. Department of Defense. It will replace the Universal Product Code as a smarter technology.
The P&G Fund, which manages philanthropic contributions on behalf of Procter & Gamble Co. of Cincinnati, has awarded a $150,000 grant to the school to help incorporate this emerging technology into its undergraduate and graduate programs. This is in addition to other ongoing funding and software support awarded to school from SAP.
The Kelley School proposal was one of only three proposals across the United States selected to receive a P&G grant this year. This is the second year in a row that a Kelley School curriculum proposal has received a P&G grant, following last year's curriculum grant to Raymond Burke, the E.W. Kelley Professor of Business Administration.
Last spring, Kelley School faculty built the first working RFID model at a U.S. business school, primarily for students in its MBA Supply Chain Management Academy. It includes several different types of systems which involve antennas, EPC tags and reading devices that are hooked to computers that store the information. Students can experiment with the system in different ways to study, for example, how a transportation system gets products from warehouse to warehouse and ultimately, into consumers' shopping carts.
Dan Smith, interim dean of the Kelley School, said that today's (March 30) announcement is yet another example of how the school has responded to emerging changes and innovations in American business over its 85-year history.
"Today's global business environments are characterized by unprecedented competitive pressures and sophisticated customers who demand innovative and speedy solutions," Smith said. "With changes in RFID technologies, businesses are abuzz with its potential, and it is vital that our graduates leave our program ready to play a leading role at corporations that have always looked to Kelley for such understanding."
A study released on March 16 by the Computing Technology Industry Association, a global IT trade organization that develops certification processes for the IT industry, reported that the current supply of professionals skilled in RFID is too low to meet demand. It found that 80 percent of those surveyed said there are insufficient numbers of professionals skilled in the technology.
The P&G grant will be used for course development throughout the school and to expand the RFID lab into a full-fledged technology center to enable the study of advanced supply chains and retail operations.
Ash Soni, chair of the Department of Operations and Decision Technologies, said the school's undergraduates will learn about operational aspects of the technology, its infrastructure, data analysis and day-to-day operational issues. MBA students will focus on how it strategically can and will be used. For them, the school will develop a multidisciplinary series of cases about RFID and related technology, and will look for experiential learning opportunities for studying it more closely.
"This technology is going to impact business in lots of different ways, so it makes sense for us to do it at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," Soni said. "All indications are that RFID technologies will have revolutionary applications not only in supply chain management, but also in operations and management well beyond the obvious benefits we can identify today."
RFID eventually will be a part of a functional core of classes that all Kelley School undergraduates must complete in order to graduate. "Every student goes through this, and it's really important for them to know these advances," added M.A. Venkataramanan, professor of operations and decisions technologies. "Even through our operations course may use it more, in marketing it has own applications, such as tracking customers and increasing customer satisfaction."
Understanding and optimizing business processes will be crucial to Kelley students' future success.
"Students from the Kelley School will be knowledgeable about RFID and its applications and will have the necessary skills to assess the technology's fit in an enterprise's business model," Soni said. "They will be able to leverage these skills to implement and manage RFID projects. Such skills will be extremely valuable for companies looking to incorporate this emerging technology into their operations."