Alum’s RFID project named best in 2012

Maryanne Flynn, director of operations at Cisco Systems, says that her courses and team-leading experiences at Purdue helped prepare her to lead a team to implement radio-frequency identification (RFID), which resulted in a prestigious award.

In many industries, RFID technology is being implemented to improve on older technologies and pave the way for its own unique uses. RFID Journal awarded its annual “Best RFID Implementation” award to Flynn and her team for their innovative use of the technology. Flynn’s project at Cisco was the biggest application of passive RFID at the time.

Cisco routinely conducts an internal inventory of lab and network equipment. Using bar-codes and scanners to track their fixed assets took weeks and required a lot of manpower. Flynn and team co-founder, Ted Baumuller, wanted to create a faster and more efficient way to conduct inventory audits and cycle counts.

Flynn, who earned a degree in organizational leadership and supervision in 1994, has worked for Cisco for over 13 years. She co-founded an internal start-up organization within Cisco to determine where their network systems were being used and make sure their inventory was being used most efficiently. This was a skill she practiced at Purdue.

"I learned a lot of skills in terms of how technical processes worked and how to continually improve results in an efficient and financially conscious way,” said Flynn.

Their solution was to implement RFID, which has a bigger readable area than bar codes. Because the bar code scanners have to be within about a foot of the code, using them is very time consuming. RFID can be used within a few feet of the tag. The RFID approach cut the auditing time of a large lab from a weeks to only a few hours.

Flynn said that her co-op experience at a diesel engine factory while studying at Purdue helped her understand manufacturing processes and how to conduct case studies. She learned a lot from her professors about how to take on a managerial role and how to build an effective team.

“I learned how to overcome obstacles and how to use the team’s creative minds to solve problems,” Flynn said. “The spirit of being part of a team and a student group set me up well. I can create the same environment in my career. When you work together as a team, you get a better project and a better product. I’ve figured out how to replicate that in my career. You can also create wonderful opportunities for your team members to grow and flourish.”

For the RFID implementation, Flynn’s team addressed the variety of RFID technologies and implementation costs, and they worked with the company’s stakeholders to determine where the technology could best be utilized. She kept the team focused by determining objectives and timelines to keep things on track.

RFID Journal awarded Cisco Systems with the “RFID Implementation of the Year Award” in April 2012.