Today’s global supply chain is rich in information, with trading networks moving at a lightning pace. To ensure shipping and product data is captured quickly and accurately, the Electronic Product Code – or “EPC” for short – was developed to standardize the process and make it easy to deploy worldwide.
Essentially, the Electronic Product Code is a unique serial number, programmed into an RFID tag, and associated with a specific product or container type. When the tag is within range of a reader, the tag will “announce” itself, and the EPC will be recorded, along with the time, date, and location. These tags can be programmed to contain a large amount of information, such as the manufacturer, its country of origin, use-by date, shipment and retail destination, and more.
While many companies have started to adopt RFID in their supply chains, they often create their own internal code to assign to tags – codes that are useful to that company and that company alone, and no one else. It is important to remember that while RFID is a powerful technology, it is not “magic,” and by itself will not deliver a return on investment.
Using the presence of the tag to capture each reusable container’s movements allows Wave Reaction to identify which ones are moving, and which ones aren’t, so unnecessary containers can be eliminated from the supply chain, and remaining containers can be better utilized. The time between stops, and the time it takes to make a complete loop through the supply chain, can be measured as well. These figures give managers a view into the efficiency of their operation, and highlights trouble spots to focus on. Additionally, Wave Reaction’s solutions can use the presence of the tag to trigger several business functions, from nonconformance alerts to automatically generating invoices or replenishment orders.
Understanding how the technology can help to streamline internal business processes, as opposed to simply meet requirements, will deliver greater long-term benefits and a higher ROI. But more importantly, by adopting the more universal EPC standards, a simple scan can universally communicate so much more, across all trading partners and beyond.