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RFID Trial Down Under

The project, which included Proctor & Gamble, Gillette, pallet supplier CHEP and retailer Metcash, demonstrated the EPC Network’s benefits to companies throughout an Australian supply chain.
By Jonathan Collins
Aug 02, 2006An Australian RFID trial to investigate the sharing of RFID-collected data across a supply chain has found that the increased visibility enabled by RFID yielded real benefits to players throughout a consumer goods supply chain.

Overseen by GS1 Australia (formerly EAN Australia), the Australian National Demonstrator Project tagged nearly 500 specially marked pallets, as well as the products shipped on them, for about seven months. Ending in June, the project brought together Australian academic and government organizations, as well as Proctor & Gamble (P&G), its Gillette division and their supply chain partners.

Fiona Wilson
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) came up with original idea for the project, and Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) provided some funding.

“The goal of the project was to take the EPCglobal Network out of the realms of theory and into a reality,” says Fiona Wilson, general manager of standards development at GS1 Australia.

Although the trial was in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, the results are applicable to every industry interested in using RFID technology to create a more efficient supply chain, says Wilson. The results of the pilot, available in an online report, will be used by GS1 to foster interest in RFID among Australian businesses.

Tags fitted to empty pallets supplied by CHEP were read as they left the company's site. In Gillette’s supply chain, the pallets went to packaging company Visy, where the tags were read as the pallets were unloaded, and again as they left Visy, after the pallets were loaded with cartons of batteries or razors. Visy then added an RFID shipment label to each pallet load.

Upon arrival at Gillette’s warehouse, the shipment and pallets tags were read once more, after which each carton received its own RFID label. All pallet and carton RFID labels were read when the loaded pallets left Gillette’s warehouse for a distribution center operated by logistics provider Linfox. At Linfox’s DC, pallets were unloaded and rebuilt to match orders from Metcash, the retailer participating in the project. Each pallet tag—which was associated with the tagged cartons on the pallet—was read upon departure from Linfox and on arrival at a Metcash-operated DC. The retailer then interrogated the carton tags to identify products needed to fill orders from its stores.

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