Paul Peters, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for supply chain integration, says his department is launching a second phase of RFID deployment, focused on reducing inventory and increasing efficiency.
After a decade of conducting pilots to track the movements of supplies using active and passive radio frequency identification tags across multiple agencies, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is entering phase two of its RFID deployment, with an eye toward adopting end-to-end solutions, according to Paul Peters, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for supply chain integration.
These end-to-end solutions would allow greater visibility across the DOD's supply chain, thereby reducing the risk of errors, enhancing safety and security, and lowering expenses through reductions in inventory and improved utilization of labor devoted to tracking items at each point along that supply chain.
That second phase will involve the use of RFID data integrated with the DOD's existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, as well as certain legacy systems, providing the DOD with insight into business processes, and thus identifying areas in which efficiencies might be improved.
A reduction in federal budgets, Peters noted, will serve to encourage RFID adoption rather than inhibit it. The DOD's logistics services cost $215 billion in fiscal year 2010, accounting for 30 percent of the DOD's total budget, he added, and reducing costs in that area could thus provide a positive impact on spending.
"With the demonstration of the business value of RFID," he said, "I view this [budgetary constraints on the DOD] as an opportunity for the RFID industry."
One pilot conducted during the past two years was managed by the DLA, which is currently in the process of deploying EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to track the receipt of supplies at 26 DLA distribution depots, based on the results of testing the technology at one such depot.
By reading the tags, Peters explained, the agency was able to increase productivity and reduce errors.
The U.S. Air Force's Automatic Identification Technology (AIT) program tested RFID tags on more than 12,000 assets, including nuclear weapons materials.
By using RFID, the Air Force was able to reduce inventory labor by 60 percent.
The U.S. Marine Corps employed RFID tags to track containers destined for shipment, in order to manage the prepositioning of those containers.
The system provided improved visibility regarding the locations of supplies, Peters said.
U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) used an in-transit visibility solution employing active RFID and satellite technologies to provide intrusion detection of containers, and thereby reduce pilferage.
According to Peters, the results of those pilots have convinced the DOD that the agency is now ready to enter phase two. Beyond gaining experience from pilots, the department is also motivated to proceed into a new phase of RFID adoption due to advances in RFID technology; both active and passive tags have become less expensive, and readers have become more robust to operate in harsh environments.
In addition, there has also been movement toward more open standards, Peters noted, "so greater interoperability will facilitate deployments that could reach across a supply chain and operate globally."