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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

RFID Deadlines Intensify Need To Manage Product Information via Informationweek

Enterprises face dual 2005 deadlines relating to RFID and supply-chain data synchronization. Those that haven't moved forward with a product-information-management strategy will be under-prepared to realize RFID's value.A couple of key supply-chain imperatives are forcing many big companies to deal with two major issues concurrently--RFID and global data synchronization--while still conducting day-to-day operational activities.As various 2005 RFID mandate deadlines--from Wal-Mart, Target, and Albertson's--approach, enterprises are likewise making investments to meet the Wal-Mart UCCnet global data synchronization (GDS) 2005 mandate.These dual 2005 deadlines don't give enterprises much time to evaluate the linkage between a tag's 96-bit electronic product code (EPC)-based identifier and the global trade identification number (GTIN)-based structured and unstructured information associated with that product.Suppliers are in varying states of readiness for the 2005 deadlines. Some suppliers are focused on improving RFID tag read rates by adjusting the tags' orientation and pallet configurations. Others are working to ensure that retailers who subscribed to product data actually receive and implement that product data into their operational systems.Additionally, some suppliers are working on the product data-unification process that's needed to pull together product data stored in a variety of systems for synchronization and haven't embarked on their GDS or RFID initiatives. Furthermore, there are enterprises that have only focused on meeting the minimum UCCnet GDS mandate requirements and haven't embraced the full capabilities of a product-information-management solution.Of all of these groups, we believe enterprises that haven't moved forward with a product-information-management strategy will be under-prepared for RFID's long-term process-improvement contributions. These enterprises will be unable to convert EPC codes into the semantics needed for conversation between a retailer's and suppliers' operational systems since these operational systems aren't EPC-based and are more likely GTIN- or UPC-based. Both retailers and suppliers will need to create an environment that converts EPC-based activity into meaningful product information. The problems of implementing RFID to meet 2005 deadlines are indeed formidable.The long-term success of RFID initiatives is based on the linkage of the RFID sensing capabilities of the enterprise with the overall product information consumed in the transactional systems of the enterprise systems. That's because these enterprise systems--not tags on products--manage day-to-day business processes.
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