Sir; The honesty of Mark Rowlatt’s article regarding the impact of radio frequency identification (RFID) on his organisation, clients and suppliers was refreshing (Saturday Essay, The Grocer, September 4, p28). He was appreciative of the positive and negative issues associated with the technology and the ‘not that again’ attitude towards RFID that we all feel in the retail industry.
But I am concerned by the consistent absence of one factor that will massively affect the future success of RFID: global data synchronisation (GDS).
Let’s put it in context. There is little point in knowing a case of shampoo with an RFID-based electronic product code (EPC) is speeding through the system if you think it’s a 12-unit case when it’s actually a 24-unit case.
Moving the wrong product more quickly is clearly not the objective of RFID technology, but it is a danger. Consultant AT Kearney estimates that 30% of item data in product catalogues is wrong. In total, $40bn (£22bn) or 3.5% of global sales are lost every year due to inaccurate data in the supply chain.
Despite having such huge financial implications and it being fundamental to RFID and the supply chain, GDS receives little attention.
The GDS effort is being developed by the Global Commerce Initiative and standards body EAN.UCC in the retail sector. The process requires all manufacturers to send item data electronically to ensure consistent standards. By standardising, matching and synchronising this critical data, national and global supply chains will operate more efficiently and profitably.
If they haven’t already, companies seeking to participate in RFID should begin planning and implementing a data synchronisation strategy. Delivering the benefits promised by RFID-based EPCs will only be possible if trading networks tackle the inaccurate data that pervades the supply chain. The alternative will be failing to make the best use of this potentially valuable technology.