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Marching to Compliance and ROI

IT products provider GTSI was one of the first Defense Department suppliers to meet the military's tagging requirements. Now it's searching for ways to get a return on its investment.
By Bob Violino
Among the potential gains, Decker says, are more accurate data not only on the company's outbound shipments to the DOD and other customers but also on inbound shipments from GTSI suppliers. GTSI currently tags only cases and pallets that require tagging based on the current DOD mandate. A company spokesman says, "We will be taking a very hard look at increasing the scope of what we do tag in next couple of months."

"If we can drive our vendors to tag the parts that we purchase, we'll be able to leverage RFID on both the shipping and receiving sides," Decker says. He says a number of GTSI's suppliers-some of whom are also subject to the DOD mandate-are looking into placing RFID tags on their shipments. If GTSI's suppliers began placing RFID tags on their shipments, the company will have more accurate data on those incoming shipments, which will help GTSI better control its inventory.

Decker says his company is looking into using the EPC numbering system for future RFID applications. GTSI's immediate plans are to tag only cases and pallets, and the company will consider placing tags on individual items only if that adds value for its customers, he says. The company will explore ways it can leverage its newly acquired RFID expertise to deliver value-added services to its vendors and customers, but Decker won't elaborate on what these services might be.

One GTSI initiative already underway that involves RFID technology is an alliance called InteGuard. GTSI formed the alliance in early 2004 to help develop standards-based physical security protection systems, which track people or things as they enter and leave a building, for its government customers.

"RFID is a compelling technology for realizing an advanced level of enterprise security," say a GTSI spokesperson. "The technology is young and emerging, and there are significant privacy issues with an active RFID tag, since the signal can be used to track every movement of an individual. The Alliance is working on a viable strategy and will soon have a solution-strategy document on RFID."

InteGuard, which was created out of GTSI's physical security practice, now includes more than 60 companies that provide physical security products and services to government agencies. One of the newest members of the group is Axcess International, a provider of active RFID systems. The Axcess products are used for access control, asset and visitor tracking, and monitoring and detection of harmful radiation and chemical toxins.

GTSI is also considering using RFID systems to track its internal assets, including everything from laptops and computer accessories to office chairs, says Craig Ballam, CIO at the company.

"We would use it to track things as they come in and go out of buildings," Ballam says. He says the company is only in the early stages of exploring RFID for this purpose and still is looking into how it can best take advantage of the technology for that purpose. "But there are definitely some intriguing capabilities to help us track assets much better," Ballam says.

Bob Violino is a freelance writer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. He can be reached at bviolino@optonline.net.

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