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RFID and Global Warming

The same technology used to increase operational efficiencies can also save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
By Leslie Downey
RFID Has a Role to Play
The longer the world waits to address the global warming problem, the more expensive it will be to do so at a later date. The International Energy Agency estimates that delaying action until just the end of this decade would quadruple costs to the global economy.

Clearly, the time to act is now. Substituting non-carbon energy sources for fossil fuels in power generation and transportation is critical. However, even aggressive plans to do this will take time. Conserving fossil fuel by using it more efficiently can be accomplished quickly. RFID can play a significant role here, by helping to optimize the production, transportation, inventorying, reclamation and recycling of goods, as well as through more efficient buildings and people transport.

Here are some examples:

Supply Chain

Reducing out-of-stock situations within stores saves customers car trips. Wal-mart has estimated that inventory management through item-level RFID tagging within its stores has the potential to eliminate extra trips for 100,000 customers daily—customers who would otherwise seek products elsewhere. The retailer has calculated that this would result in the elimination of 80,209 metric tons of CO2 per year.

Reducing excess inventory saves production and transportation. In a 2008 article written by Mickey Brazeal, titled "Green Revolution: RFID and the Rise of Convenient Sustainability," Sandra Hughes, the global information governance and privacy executive at Procter & Gamble (P&G), stated that greater accuracy in supply chain tracking from RFID had enabled the company to begin reducing safety-stock levels. Hughes estimated that P&G had been keeping more than 65 days of inventory out in the supply chain, en route to retailers, so that they would never run out, at an annual cost of $3 billion. One can infer that reducing this excess stock would save an enormous amount of energy—as well as GHG emissions—by reducing the need for extraction, production and transportation associated with the stock.


Improved Cargo Management
The accurate location of cargo containers, truck trailers and drivers in seaport cross-docking applications saves fuel, pollution and over-production. NYK Logistics has dramatically improved service levels and productivity at several of its port facilities, through the use of an RFID-enabled, real-time location system (RTLS). The company has decreased truck idling times from hours to minutes, and has removed two days of "dwell time" for inbound goods moving through the supply chain. Customers are able to reduce safety stock levels and the expediting of orders, thanks to superior, Web-based visibility of their in-transit goods.

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