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DOD Redoubles Its Efforts to Lower Costs Via RFID

Paul Peters, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for supply chain integration, says his department is launching a second phase of RFID deployment, focused on reducing inventory and increasing efficiency.
By Claire Swedberg
One pilot conducted during the past two years was managed by the DLA, which is currently in the process of deploying EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to track the receipt of supplies at 26 DLA distribution depots, based on the results of testing the technology at one such depot (see Printer-Encoder Order Represents New DOD Milestone and DOD Grants ODIN $14.6 Million Contract). By reading the tags, Peters explained, the agency was able to increase productivity and reduce errors.

The U.S. Air Force's Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) program (see RFID Takes Hold in the U.S. Air Force) tested RFID tags on more than 12,000 assets, including nuclear weapons materials. By using RFID, the Air Force was able to reduce inventory labor by 60 percent.

The U.S. Marine Corps employed RFID tags to track containers destined for shipment, in order to manage the prepositioning of those containers (see U.S. Marines' Blount Island Command Attaches Passive Tags to Containers). The system provided improved visibility regarding the locations of supplies, Peters said. U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) used an in-transit visibility solution employing active RFID and satellite technologies to provide intrusion detection of containers, and thereby reduce pilferage. According to Peters, the results of those pilots have convinced the DOD that the agency is now ready to enter phase two.

"Going forward, it's time to take that home," Peters said. "Our view is, Let's achieve the benefit from end to end across the supply chain. It would be fair to say the research and development has laid a pretty good foundation over the next five years to accelerate and expand from individual pilots across the DOD supply chain."

Beyond gaining experience from pilots, the department is also motivated to proceed into a new phase of RFID adoption due to advances in RFID technology; both active and passive tags have become less expensive, and readers have become more robust to operate in harsh environments. In addition, there has also been movement toward more open standards, Peters noted, "so greater interoperability will facilitate deployments that could reach across a supply chain and operate globally."

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