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EPCglobal Transportation and Logistics Pilot Takes Visibility to a Global Level

The program's second phase, the organization says, illustrates how EPC-based technology can be utilized to track goods as they are transported by air, sea, road and rail, from China to the United States.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 16, 2008GS1 subsidiary EPCglobal recently announced the completion of phase two of its Transportation and Logistics Services (TLS) Pilot Program. This program tests RFID technology, including Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) software, to track shipments between the point of manufacture in China and receiving warehouses within the United States. The pilot's second phase followed two shipments from a Chinese manufacturer through ports in Shanghai and Long Beach, Calif., and on to at a warehouse in Janesville, Wisc.

"The TLS pilot demonstrated that GS1 EPCglobal standards can facilitate the utilization of RFID technology in a collaborative supply chain," says Tom Escott, president of Schneider National, which supplied trucks and project management for the project. "The success of the pilot, despite the challenges of multiple supply chain stakeholders with disparate business conditions and technology platforms, helped define the 'art of the possible' from a transportation and logistics business value perspective."

The successful completion of the pilot's second phase, Escott says, triggered plans to launch the Transportation and Logistics Phase 3 Pilot Program. This third phase will involve the active participation of additional organizations and corporations in the transport and logistics industry, as well as a greater number of parts and finished products, and more regions.

The first phase of the program monitored shipments between Shenzhen and Hong Kong (see 'Largest Global Pilot Yet' in the Works for EPCglobal). During phase two—which began on Dec. 1, 2007, and concluded five weeks later, in January of this year—two shipments of tires were sent one week apart from an unnamed manufacturer in Shanghai.

For both shipments, the pallets, shipping containers and tractor trailers were tagged, using a combination of passive and active RFID tags. Pilot participants applied EPC Gen 2 UHF passive tags to the pallets. To identify the containers and trailers, those participating employed what GS1 refers to as conveyance asset tags (CATs), also complying with the EPC Gen 2 UHF standard, as well as one 2.4 GHz and one 433 MHz active tag, serving as extended conveyance asset tags (XCATs).

As the containers and trailers moved from Shanghai to Janesville, data generated from RFID reads was stored in EPCIS-based applications in China and the United States. In-transit visibility and chain-of-custody information could be accessed by the tire manufacturer, logistics providers and consignee, using a password to log on to a Web-based accessing application. The application transmitted e-mail alerts to authorized recipients when the shipment's status changed—for instance, when the cargo arrived at a location such as the sending or receiving port.

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