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Next Level of RFID Compliance: Data Synchronization

On June 7th, RFID Update hosted a webinar entitled in which data synchronization was defined and explained, and the presenters' data synchronization offering was demonstrated live. This article recaps.
Jun 20, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 20, 2006—On June 7th, RFID Update hosted a webinar entitled The Next Level of RFID Compliance: RFID Data Synchronization in which data synchronization was defined and explained, and the presenters' data synchronization offering was demonstrated live. Presenters included Gary Page, the US business development manager for Domino Integrated Solutions; Dwain Farley, CEO of Enterprise Information Systems, Domino's systems integration company; and Kevin Kail, president and CEO of epcSolutions, producer of the RFIDTagManager application and Domino's key software partner. A recording of the webinar is available for free download here.

In a nutshell, data synchronization is the practice of having product data be identical -- synchronized -- across all trading partners' systems. That data includes product attributes like net weight, description, and effective date, and it is crucial that the data not only be consistent between trading partners but also that it be standardized to allow for inter-partner exchange and exporting to various formats like EDI and XML. EIS's Dwain Farley explained that data synchronization means "clean, internal product data that adheres to a standard that I can take and pass to my trading partners, and that those trading partners (distributors, retailers, and so on) can download this data and use it for electronic catalogues, order guides, promotions, invoicing, whatever the case may be."

Why is data synchronization so important? Because currently much of the data that flows through the supply chain is "dirty", or not synchronized, costing stakeholders billions of dollars annually to correct or otherwise accommodate resulting errors. Specifically, a whopping $40 billion is lost each year due to bad data. Other nasty statistics include:
  • 30% of item data in retail catalogs is incorrect
  • Each error brings with it a cost of $60 to $80
  • Fixing those errors is a laborious manual process, taking on average 25 minutes of manpower per SKU per year
  • 60% of all invoices have errors
  • Invoice error reconciliation can cost between $40 and $400
Clearly, these inefficiencies are ripe for a technological solution. "Standardizing and automating this process is absolutely essential, and that's what data synchronization is all about," said Farley.

Enter RFID. By encoding a unique identifier known as a Global Trade Identification Number, or GTIN, on the RFID tag of each case and pallet, and associating that GTIN with a database record in a centralized repository, information about the tagged product remains consistent as it passes through the hands of all trading partners in the supply chain. This allows for a framework by which the trading partners can uniformly interpret the RFID data and expect that it is accurate and updated. Without such a standardized data synchronization framework, the RFID tag data carries far less utility for each trading partner. As Farley put it, "Without data synchronization, RFID is just data; it's not information."

It is for this reason that Domino, EIS, and epcSolutions believe data synchronization represents the next phase of RFID compliance. Now that many suppliers have RFID infrastructure in place and are actively tagging product, it is time to put the resulting data to good use in the form of supply chain-wide synchronization. They cited Wal-Mart, which has told its Next 300 suppliers (those whose mandate deadline is this coming January) that not only will they need to be RFID compliant, but that they will also need to eventually implement data synchronization.

About 15 minutes of the webinar was devoted to a demonstration of epcSolutions' RFIDTagManager product which Domino deploys for its clients. Members of the epcSolutions team took webinar attendees through the process of entering a new product, obtaining GTINs, creating case and pallet codes, printing tags encoded with the GTINs, validating the printed tags with a handheld RFID reader, and generating an ASN and EDI document from the new data.

The webinar was an excellent 40-minute introduction to the concept of data synchronization, how it represents the next phase of RFID compliance, and what tools exist to implement it.

View the webinar (free registration req'd)
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