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November 11, 2007

RFID – more than tags and readers

RFID, combined with data standards, is the key to unlocking the next generation of supply chain systems that can deliver real-time data. The next logical step is for manufacturers and vendors to ensure that manufacturing and packaging processes are optimized to take full advantage of RFID, so that holding safety stock becomes an obsolete practice.

By CBR Staff Writer

GSI – EPCglobal, a subsidiary of GS1, is a not-for-profit organization entrusted by industry to establish and support the EPCglobal Network as the global standard for real-time, automatic identification of information in the supply chain of any company, anywhere in the world. Most people when they hear EPCglobal think of the Gen 2 RFID tags, but RFID tags and readers are now standardized, and the real battle is to ensure the data can be categorized and shared to make the real-time ideal a feature of modern day supply chains.

The Building Radio frequency IDentification solutions for the Global Environment (BRIDGE) project is supported by the EU’s Sixth Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP6) with E7.5 million funding. It is a three-year initiative dedicated to research, development, training and demonstration in the effective use of RFID based on EPCglobal standards.

The lack of development of standards for data in the RFID world was the main reason why the technology could not deliver the real-time data exchange between trading partners. However, since EPC has produced the first standard to be ratified, real-time data exchange will become a reality as more companies start to produce RFID-read data.

The BRIDGE project was piloted in February 2007 by the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry (METI) in Japan, which assessed the use of both passive and active UHF EPC/RFID tags for the shipment by sea of cartons and containers between Hong Kong and Japan. In the pilot, the associated data was exchanged through EPC Information Services (EPCIS). The Hong Kong EPC Network, developed by GS1 Hong-Kong, was used to communicate with other EPCIS in Japan. A second phase, scheduled for completion in September 2007, expanded the pilot to handle shipments between Shanghai and Los Angeles.

This truly multi-industry, multi-stakeholder initiative is a significant step towards standardizing RFID data, said Chris Adcock, president of EPCglobal. He is not wrong; the missing link is now not having the standards like those for barcodes so that as a product is scanned in and out of a location the information can be shared with all parties

Following the delivery of real-time data, the logical next stage would then be to optimize the manufacturing and packing processes and systems so that this information could be used to ensure that packing to demand becomes a reality, and the holding of safety stock becomes an obsolete practice. The advantage of this to industry is that it frees up capital and floor space, as well as enabling companies to meet customer demand more satisfactorily.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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