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February 25, 2010

How do we obtain Traceability - Part 2

In my earlier post (available here), I had raised a few points regarding how we can obtain traceability across the supply chain using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). I would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming response received in that post. In continuum with the same, I have published a white-paper on the topic "Supply Chain Traceability with RFID and SAP" (available here), in which I have elaborately discussed a viable solution for realizing Track and Track and Trace in the supply chain by the use of an EPCIS (EPC Information Service)-certified repository.

Based on the EPCIS standards, there are several compliant products available in the market which can be used as central repositories to store and maintain RFID information. Through these repositories, existing applications such as WMS systems can obtain relevant EPC (Electronic Product Code) information whenever it is required, e.g., while commissioning or creating ASN (Advanced Shipment Notification).

Most of these products provide standard interfaces for posting data to them, for querying them for information and for managing EPC serial-numbers (e.g., HTTP, HTTPS, web-services) via standard integrators and EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) tools. Through these interfaces, it becomes very easy for all trading partners in the supply chain to post or retrieve RFID events on a real-time basis, thus allowing every RFID-tagged object (like a pallet or a case or a cart) to be tracked with a greater amount of granularity and accuracy, and providing information pertaining to its complete life-cycle.

A lot of organizations have got acquainted with RFID by using proprietary technology provided by vendors, and in many of these cases, the third-parties (vendors) also host the information for them. In certain cases, the dependency on vendor-hosted applications and repositories is to the extent that critical business functions like commissioning and creating ASN (advanced shipment notification) are done by them. While such solutions have helped jump-start the adoption of RFID, they are not scalable in the long run because they impose a lot of dependency on the vendor and they lack standards, thereby implying lesser integration with a large number of existing systems or with trading-partners. Deploying a central repository which is compliant with EPCIS standards goes a long way in eliminating the dependency on vendors, ensures that critical information related to the business processes of an enterprise remain within its systems, and also allows for seamless data-exchange with trading partners using industry-standard mechanisms.

For more information on this, please refer to my white paper whose link I've provided above. I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions too - please feel free to post your comments about the same here.