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To EPC or Not to EPC?

That is the question on the minds of companies as they consider the benefits and challenges of deploying Electronic Product Code technology.
Oct 01, 2008—Our cover story for this issue examines the state of Electronic Product Code adoption. As part of our investigation, we surveyed RFID Journal subscribers to learn whether they're using the technology—and if so, how, and if not, why not. Respondents' answers were as diverse as their industries and the countries they hail from. As in past surveys, respondents came from all corners of the globe—Argentina to Vietnam.

The annual revenues of their companies ranged from $1 billion or more (26 percent) to less than $25 million (35 percent). End users came from a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, logistics, packaging, pharmaceutical and retail. About 30 percent of respondents were RFID technology or service providers.

Yet most respondents have one thing in common: EPC technology has captured their attention. Some are early adopters that are fairly advanced in their deployments and are sharing data with trading partners. Others seem to be realizing they can no longer ignore EPC technology, so they're keeping a watchful eye on what's happening in the market in general, as well as in their industry. Given that 52 percent of respondents are either deploying the technology or making plans to, that may be a smart move.

The data suggests that EPC technology is taking hold: 25 percent of respondents said they are currently piloting the technology or have deployed a system. Another 27 percent are taking the necessary steps by exploring the technology and putting an RFID strategy in place.

While EPC Gen 2 standards have improved read rates, it's still not a plug-and-play technology. Roughly 25 percent of respondents are struggling with hardware issues. Another 9 percent seem to have overcome those challenges but are dealing with the more advanced issues of using and sharing data.

Of the companies that have deployed EPC systems, respondents are split on the potential business value. Some indicated they are using the technology to improve internal processes and operations, while others seek benefits in tracking goods received from or sent to supply-chain partners.

The data indicates that slightly more than 40 percent of respondents recognize the benefits of sharing EPC data with trading partners. Slightly more than 20 percent are currently exchanging data or have plans to within the next 12 months. And another 23 percent said they are exploring the benefits.

It doesn't appear that any one factor is inhibiting the exchange of data among supply-chain partners. Roughly 10 percent of respondents might be interested in sharing data if their partners were tagging products. But slightly more than 10 percent of respondents have concerns about the standards or security measures. And another 10 percent either don't believe there are any benefits or are taking a wait-and-see stand.
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