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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.


Mayank, you are right when you say that organisations need to take the ownership of the RFID data rather than relying on third party solution hosted as services. Besides that Organisation needs to identify a platform which is scalable & supports the EPCIS standards to receive RFID events data from supply chain partners as well as share the data with the partners. The EPCIS standards is key for the collaboration and co-ordination between the supply partners improving visibility and efficieny of the supply chain processes.

It can definitely be argued that there would be slow adoption by small or medium sized organisations to adopt the solutions and may look for hosted services. But as the bigger organisations have started adopting EPCIS standards based data sharing it will become imperative for the partners to define the strategy to adopt the EPCIS based solution platforms. Also the standards will evolve as the adoption improves which will provide enhanced ways of data sharing. Its just matter of reaching the inflection point.

1. Why do organizations go for RFID applications developed by third party or any other organization?
2. What plays an important role for an organization to decide on employing RFID on its own?
3. You had mentioned that “Deploying a central repository which is compliant with EPCIS standards goes a long way in eliminating the dependency on vendors”. But if a vendor provides you with a RFID application that is compliant with the EPCIS standards, Will it be beneficial for an organization to go with the vendor or you still say that building one’s own RFID application will be beneficial.
4. I feel that the small and medium players in the market take a majority share of business in the world, for e.g. the vendors who supply for Wal-Mart, etc. These RFID applications which we are talking about should be built in such a way that these SME’s can implement without any hassle following the EPCIS standards. Automatically the bigger players will benefit from RFID.

Just to clarify, I'm not saying that the organization should build its own solution as against using a 3rd party solution. In most cases, a 3rd party would be creating the solution. What I'm referring to is depending on those solutions for hosting the data.

1. RFID is new to almost every organization and it wasn't there 5 or 10 years back for most of them. So they prefer a solution provided off-the-shelf by a third party vendor to provide a jump-start to the adoption.

2. They can still go ahead with a 3rd party implementation (which would mostly be the case), but the catch is that the information-hosting should not be done in a proprietary format. RFID should be looked at as a business-enabler, just like barcode was. Hence, the organization should maintain its own information and integrate with trading partners using standard mechanisms.

3. If a vendor provides an EPCIS compliant repository, it is fine. However, it would be easier to maintain that within the network of the client organization rather than the vendor's network so that they still own their information. What if the vendor increases the hosting charge tomorrow?

4. Agree to your point.

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