Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

rfid tagWe've been exploring supply chain visibility for some time, and most of the discussion has been around the transactions and understanding the status of the goods as well as the status of the various documents that accompany and enable the transactions. But there's an even deeper level of transparency that is inching its way into the supply chain even though the overall consensus is that there are too many obstacles in the way of full deployment. The use of RFID tags for nearly every consumer product may well be approaching reality.

If the difficulties associated with fully implementing RFID (cost, intrusion, compatibility with products like food) are set aside for the moment, it's difficult to argue against the benefits of RFID. An RFID tag attached to every item shipped to retailers' shelves provides the ultimate in visibility. Quantities and even serialized itemization can be traced and accounted for, specific items can be singled out for defect tracking, perpetual store shelf inventory can be a reality, and retail shrinkage can be substantially curtailed.

Still not close to reality? Buzz recently posted a story from DCVelocity profiling Gerry Weber, the German clothing company that says it now tags nearly 100% of its products. This might be considered an interesting experiment except for the fact that since 2011 the company has tagged more than 26 million of its clothing items.

One thing I found interesting is that each tag used in Weber's system contains its own serial ID. This kind of detailed level identification capability means more than just the ability to count items. It allows for item level query and identification at every step of the supply chain, even to leaving the store. So if the store is so inclined it can identify the register transaction associated with specific items.

The Gerry Weber story is still a singular example of this level of RFID integration, but it is not the only one, and certainly not the last. As we move toward near ultimate visibility the integration of the systems and software that connects the chain continues to become more important. Having serialized identification on every product means little if the system that provides the tracking is broken. The continuous and uninterrupted updates that bring visibility to products and processes together to provide product intelligence need to be ready to go when you and your trading partners shift gears to the next level. Your company may not be the initiator or even the first step in your supply chain, but eventually the transition will happen.

Last modified on Monday, 02 December 2013
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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