ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

5 Reasons Automation is Your Friend, Not Your Foe

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 @ 17:09 PM

Using software to automate tedious back-office tasks


When you hear the word “automation,” what comes to mind? Robots taking all our jobs? Not so fast.

Why the robots aren’t coming for us

The experts agree that technology is getting smarter and more capable of handling various tasks. McKinsey & Company found that occupations across the board have some activities that are automatable – in fact, their research revealed 30% of activities in 60% of jobs could be automated.

Lest we all panic about our job security, it’s more likely we’ll be working alongside smarter technologies than being replaced by them. The New York Times reported that process automation technology is “freeing workers from drudgery far more often than it is eliminating jobs.”

And according to Leslie Willcocks, a professor at the London School of Economics and industry expert, companies that use technology to automate the most tedious aspects of back-office jobs retain staff to work in tandem with technology, but focused on more interesting or complex work. “It takes the robot out of the human,” he says.

The conclusion is clear: A blended approach is best. Humans are good at certain things, software is good at certain things, and they can accomplish more when they work together.

5 reasons to embrace what technology can do

Software tools can automate mundane tasks and help you be more efficient, but for Department of Defense suppliers, they can be even more valuable. Complying with DoD requirements and managing fulfillment can be complex and time-consuming, but government contract management solutions can make these processes faster and more accurate.

Here are five reasons you should use advanced DoD software solutions to improve operations:


  1. Gain peace of mind knowing the right software can ensure 100% compliance with DoD requirements.
  2. Improve cash flow by mitigating errors that could cause payment delays and penalties.
  3. Get both real-time and long-term visibility for your shipments, while eliminating the headaches, personal liability, and physical space associated with maintaining government audit files.
  4. Software support teams can reduce the pressure to know everything about the complex world of supplying the government, and provide additional help on those unsure shipments and contracts.
  5. For most companies, working with the DoD represents a fraction of their operations. Embracing software and automation allows you to spend more time on your core business.

Benefits to you

Remember that government contract management software is just a tool in your toolkit. It still takes a human to perform the tasks and complete the shipments. Plus, automating processes can revolutionize the way your company does business with the government, and being an internal champion for these improvements will raise your status within the organization.

Learn more about how Odyssey’s technology can make doing business with the DoD more efficient, and help you work smarter. See a demo or get in touch with us today.

Topics: dod software, automation

What Clothing and Textiles Suppliers Should Know about Item-Level RFID

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Aug 28, 2018 @ 17:08 PM

Military helmets provided following item-level RFID requirements

 

We’ve written about the value of item-level radio frequency identification (ILRFID) across different types of industries, but for makers of clothing or textiles for the federal government, item-level RFID has become vitally important.

Item-level RFID tagging identifies and tracks unique assets, allowing companies to better understand inventory levels and locations. RFID in general has gained in popularity – in fact, research found the total RFID market had an estimated worth of $11.2 billion in 2017, and estimated that more than 18 billion tags were sold. This amounts to a growth rate of 20% compared to the prior year.

Why item-level RFID is important for clothing and textiles producers

While there are RFID standards for the case and pallet level within the Department of Defense suppliers, clothing and textiles producers are required to also RFID-label items at the individual level.

Take, for example, the story of Original Footwear LLC, makers of combat boots for the U.S. Air Force. A top supplier of combat footwear since 1965, a few years ago they were asked by the DoD to begin individually RFID-tagging every pair of boots they shipped. While this required a major process change, the company was able to quickly and efficiently achieve compliance with the DoD’s requirements using Odyssey’s cloud-based software platform, RF tags, and readers.

Another example is heart&core, which was awarded a contract to supply t-shirts to DLA Troop Support. Shipping more than 90,000 items per month, with item-level RFID tracking required for each, they looked to Odyssey to help them with label printing and tracking. In addition to using Odyssey’s VIM-ASAP Console software and scanning equipment to streamline their fulfillment and shipping processes, they also use the proprietary Odyssey software that allows them to scan a box and automatically capture all the item-level information for each of the individual items it contains. Instead of having to scan item by item to meet the DoD’s item-level RFID tracking requirements, heart&core can simply scan each box once and get the required data on its contents.

Other benefits of item-level RFID

Implementing item-level RFID also helps clothing and textiles suppliers with:

  • Shipping lead times: RFID can solve speed and accuracy issues with sorting and tracking finished products and their components.
  • Accurate inventory tracking: RFID tagging provides highly accurate, precise information while greatly reducing the opportunities for human error. According to RFID Journal, this type of tracking can bring inventory accuracy up to 95% or better.
  • More efficient scanning: RFID tags can provide information more quickly than traditional tagging methods, like barcodes. This is due to the fact that they can wirelessly multiple item tags simultaneously. The technology also reduces man-hours spent scanning, which helps with cost control.

How to successfully implement item-level RFID

Adopting any new tech brings its own challenges. Item-level RFID is no different. Human error is often the culprit, since it doesn’t matter how well an RFID label is printed if someone entered incorrect information to generate it, or applied it to the wrong item.

It’s important to look for item-level RFID technology that can:

  • Generate hang-tag or item labels with integrated RFID
  • Create and associate item labels with an RFID case label
  • Produce and associate RFID case and pallet labels
  • Electronically submit the RFID shipment pedigree to VIM

But arguably more important than the technology is the provider you choose to work with. Partnering with a provider like Odyssey that specializes in working with defense suppliers can help your implementation of item-level RFID go smoothly.  

See which item-level RFID tagging solution is the best fit, and talk to the experts at Odyssey to plan your strategy.

Topics: RFID labels, Item level RFID

What is MIL-STD-130N UID & What Does It Mean for You?

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 17:08 PM

Military equipment markings must follow MIL-STD-130N UID rules

MIL-STD-130N is a set of directions for how to mark items purchased by the US Department of Defense, including instructions on acceptable materials, text formatting and syntax rules for identifying marks, where markings should be located, and so on. The requirements include rules about using the UID unique identifier data matrix for machine-readable information.

The most recent updates to MIL-STD-130N, referred to as “Change 1,” took place in 2012 and established the UID requirement to allow for easier automation data capture via machines. The unique identifier follows an asset throughout its entire lifecycle for easier tracking. Read this article to learn more about the history of UID.

What does MIL-STD-130N UID mean for you?

The asset marking requirements set forth in MIL-STD-130N can be complex and difficult to manage. And failing to comply with this and other DoD supplier regulations can result in delayed payments, damage to your relationship as a vendor, and even non-compliance penalties.

With these challenges in mind, it’s vitally Important to automate the process of managing UID markings as much as possible, resulting in greater efficiency as well as better compliance due to reduced errors.

3 tips for managing MIL-STD-130N UID

1. Reduce errors when creating new UID MIL-STD-130N labels.

The key to reducing errors is limiting the opportunity for them to occur – in other words, by decreasing the amount of manual data entry required to create the labels. Odyssey offers a user-friendly UID Module that allows you to create or import UID information that the system then validates, ensuring each UID is truly unique and compliant with DoD requirements. From there, it’s easy to associate end-level UID, as well as parent UID and any children, to individual transactions within the iRAPT Console. Instead of manually entering this information and introducing the opportunity for errors along every step, you’re ensuring compliant markings.

2. Automate submission to the UID Registry.

Using a platform like Odyssey’s allows you to automate submitting UIDs to the Registry, saving valuable time while meeting DoD requirements.

3. Speed up payment with iRAPT integration.

Odyssey provides a direct, DoD-approved integration into iRAPT that allows you to quickly push UID data into the iRAPT system for payment. The sooner this information is logged in iRAPT, the better your chances of getting invoices paid quickly.

With an integrated UID software module to manage UID compliance more efficiently and accurately, as well as MIL-STD-130N compliant labels, Odyssey has the solutions you need to streamline processes and improve cash flow from your government contracts.


See how Odyssey has helped companies like Perkins Technical Services manage MIL-STD-130N UID marks and other DoD requirements with a comprehensive solution.

Topics: MIL 130 N

4 Reasons Item-Level RFID Matters for Defense Suppliers

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, May 10, 2018 @ 09:05 AM

Army recruit waiting with gear tracked with item-level RFID tagging

Item-level radio frequency identification (ILRFID) can be an indispensable tool for companies across many different industries, from retail to logistics to manufacturers – and especially Department of Defense suppliers.

As the name suggests, this technology allows for RFID tagging at the individual item level, going beyond container- or pallet-level tracking. Item-level tagging allows singular assets to be uniquely identified and tracked. This enables companies to understand how much inventory they have on hand, and where assets are located at any given time.

And companies are taking note of the many benefits of item-level RFID tagging: research found the total RFID market had an estimated worth of $11.2 billion in 2017. It’s also estimated that more than 18 billion tags were sold, a growth rate of 20% compared to the year before.

4 reasons defense suppliers should adopt item-level RFID

  1. Efficiency

RFID tags can provide information more quickly than traditional tagging methods, like barcodes, because they can scan wirelessly and scan multiple tags simultaneously. This approach also reduces man-hours spent scanning, helping to control costs.

  1. Precision

RFID tracking can give you real-time data about your assets, allowing for informed decisions based on the most up-to-date, precise information.

  1. Accuracy

RFID tagging provides highly accurate information with less opportunity for human error. It can bring inventory accuracy up to 95% or better, according to RFID Journal.

  1. DoD expectations & requirements

DoD use of item-level RFID for asset tracking is well-documented; a good example is the uniform management system at Fort Leonard Wood Recruit Training Center in Missouri. In addition to using item-level RFID tagging to make sure the Training Center has enough of each uniform item on hand, the tags help the trainees pack their duffel bags – and even scan their duffels at a checkout-style counter to ensure they have all the items they need.

Another example illustrates how implementing item-level RFID isn’t always the supplier’s choice: Original Footwear LLC, a combat boot manufacturer that supplies the U.S. Air Force, was asked by the DoD to begin individually RFID-tagging every pair of boots for enhanced asset tracking. While this represented a major process change for Original Footwear LLC, it ended up being a change for the better. The previous approach of manual tracking was prone to errors, and correcting issues was often cumbersome and labor-intensive. Using Odyssey’s cloud-based software platform, along with RF tags and readers, Original Footwear LLC significantly improved efficiency, precision, and accuracy while meeting the requirements of working with the DoD.

Overcome implementation challenges by relying on experts

As with adopting any new technology, implementing item-level RFID can come with its challenges. Human error is often to blame, as it doesn’t matter how perfectly a label is printed if someone entered incorrect information to generate it, or applied it to the wrong item.

These organizational challenges are the very reason a consultative approach is needed during item-level RFID implementation. Working with a provider like Odyssey that specializes in working with defense suppliers can ensure a smoother transition. Plus, it helps to have label creation software that can be configured to your company’s exact labeling needs. 

Item-level RFID has transformative power for DoD suppliers, but needs the right technology partner to enable seamless adoption.

See which item-level RFID tagging solution is the best fit for your business, and get in touch with the experts at Odyssey to learn more.

MIL-STD-129R: What You Need to Know

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 @ 09:04 AM

Freighter carrying military shipments requiring MIL-STD-129 labels

MIL-STD-129 is a labeling standard approved by the US Department of Defense and other agencies to track the shipping of requisitioned supplies and equipment. All US government suppliers must ensure compliance with MIL-STD-129 when shipping products.

Having a consistent labeling standard allows government personnel to easily track shipments, monitor supply levels, and reorder when necessary.

What is MIL-STD-129R?

MIL-STD-129R, or Revision R, is an update to MIL-STD-129 that replaces linear barcodes on identification labels with machine-readable PDF417 barcode symbols. The change was made in 2014 to allow for the use of UID labeling, which can up to 50 characters long – too long to fit on a traditional, linear barcode.

The use of PDF417 symbols not only allow large amounts of data to be securely stored on a 2D shipping label, it also allows both the DoD and defense contractors to scan barcodes automatically without the need for human eyes, drastically simplifying asset management and tracking.

What information needs to be included on MIL-STD-129 labels?

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) checklist for MIL-STD-129 labeling identifies 10 key components that must be present, in order, on the shipping container:


  1. NSN/NATO stock number
  2. CAGE code
  3. Part Number (identified as PN or P/N)
  4. Item description and nomenclature, exactly as it appears on the contract, purchase order, or requisition
  5. Quantity and UI
  6. Contract number or purchase order number
  7. Military preservation method and date of unit preservation, if applicable
  8. Shelf-life markings, if applicable
  9. Serial number(s), preceded by the abbreviation SER NO
  10. Barcode markings, including NSN and CAGE, if required 2D (PDF417), and serial number

With so many inputs needed, the process of creating MIL-STD-129 labels has many opportunities to go wrong. Failing to comply with DoD labeling standards can result in shipping mix-ups, delayed payments, possible non-compliance penalties, and damage to your relationship as a vendor.

 What’s the best way for DoD suppliers to manage MIL-STD-129 labeling?

Just as the assembly line changed the game for manufacturing, so too can technology bring much-needed automation to the military shipping label process.

Odyssey’s NSN Label Manager streamlines and automates the creation of MIL-STD-129R compliant labels. The system lets users simply choose an NSN, then uses that data to automatically populate all the additional information needed to print a compliant MIL-STD-129R label. If shelf-life markings are required, the system allows you to easily input that information.

Having the right software transforms a confusing, lengthy, and error-prone process into a few simple keystrokes. By ensuring you’re creating correct MIL-STD-129R labels, you are...

  • Increasing your chances of being paid on time for your products
  • Making it easier for government agencies to reorder from you
  • Saving yourself time and hassle

Watch this one-minute video to see how Odyssey’s NSN Label Manager works:

Interested in learning more about how Odyssey can streamline the process of doing business with government? Talk to one of our experts today.

Why Integrated, DoD Approved Software is the Best Solution for Suppliers

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 @ 12:03 PM

DoD Approved Software.jpg

 

Businesses of all descriptions work as Department of Defense suppliers; simply because the federal government is one of the largest purchasers of all sorts of things. But many DoD suppliers struggle with the systems and processes needed to effectively support their work.

For any vendors on the DoD approved software list you may consider, it’s important to know what to look for – not all DoD approved software is created equal.

What’s the difference between software and solutions?

The purpose of software solutions is to allow users to complete tasks as efficiently as possible. However, the words “software” and “solution” are often conflated, so as to suggest that all software is inherently a solution.

There are many kinds of software that organizations use to improve a specific process or meet a special requirement. Different teams use different software for different needs. For example…

  • The sales team uses software to communicate with potential customers or respond to quote requests
  • The shipping and logistics department uses software to create the required documents and labels to send assets out the door
  • The accounting team uses software to efficiently invoice and maintain receipt of payment for compliant record keeping purposes

The only common thread between these tools is that they are separate in nature, unrelated to each other, and they force an organization to maintain multiple applications.

Is ERP the answer?

Many organizations have found a way to achieve better integration using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP systems). ERP systems can be a great way for businesses to integrate their departments and allow users to work in a more streamlined way.

Yet for all their benefits, ERP systems have limitations in niche spaces. Seldom do they meet MIL-STD 129 r or MIL-STD 130 n mandates. Department of Defense requirements such as these can put companies at a disadvantage, especially when they’re working as a federal supplier for the first time.

Failing to comply with DoD requirements can have a major impact on your success as a government supplier. For all the time and money spent, you should expect your software to provide a complete and compliant solution. Unfortunately, it is common to hear from DoD suppliers that have purchased an ERP system only to later learn that more investment is necessary to create a solution that fits both their needs and the DoD’s requirements.

What makes DoD approved software different?

CRM, ERP, accounting, and logistics software works well for many businesses, but not necessarily for DoD suppliers. This is because DoD suppliers have unique requirements and process standards that other businesses do not, including:

With these needs in mind, what should DoD suppliers look for when it comes to software solutions?

Look for DoD approved software that provides an integrated, cross-departmental solution

Finding a compliant DoD approved software solution specific to your needs is often one of the greatest challenges facing supplier organizations. No matter which vendors you’re considering from the DoD approved software list, you will be best served by initially reviewing your DoD process from a 10,000-foot view rather than “boots on the ground.”

It’s important to first understand how the entire DoD commerce process flows between your departments. This will help you ask the right questions during a solution evaluation.

Here’s why the cross-departmental view matters:

  • Tasks occurring within the contracts department affect the shipping and accounting departments
  • Shipping and logistics data corresponds with required accounting information
  • Compliant fulfillment affects your organization's future ability to win DoD awards

DoD commerce is truly a 360-degree process. Enabling your key departments to work together and capture the right data will help you be successful as a DoD supplier.

The bottom line? Software is not truly a “solution” when more than one unrelated application is needed to complete a process.

At Odyssey, we have deep experience working with DoD suppliers to help them drive efficiency and ensure compliance with DoD requirements. To learn more, see a demo of our DoD approved software solutions or contact us to start a conversation.

Topics: DoD approved software, WAWF, RFID, UID

What is Wide Area Workflow (WAWF) and Why Does It Matter?

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Mar 8, 2018 @ 13:03 PM

WAWF Wide Area Work Flow.jpg 

Wide Area Workflow (WAWF), renamed iRAPT in November 2014, is the secure web-based system used by the Department of Defense for electronic submission of advance shipping data, invoicing, receipt, and acceptance, which allows DoD vendors to submit and track invoices and receipt/acceptance documents.

Although years have passed since the DoD made the name change from WAWF to iRAPT, which stands for Invoice Receipt Acceptance and Property Transfer, old habits die hard and many still refer to this system using its old moniker.

Why is Wide Area Workflow important for DoD vendors?

Wide Area Workflow/iRAPT is part of the DoD’s e-Business Suite, and serves as the method by which new acquisition UID and RFID data is submitted. As RFID and UID data are fundamental components in the DoD’s inventory control methodology, WAWF/iRAPT is a crucial part of doing business with the government.

Essentially, the DoD looks to the WAWF/iRAPT system for accurate, up-to-date data on:

  • Assets shipped
  • Assets received
  • Transactions that need to be paid to suppliers

Understandably, it’s vital to ensure the integrity of the data entered in WAWF/iRAPT.

Another important consideration is labeling. The DoD has specific requirements regarding how assets must be labeled. The data on the labels must match what has been entered into the Wide Area Workflow/iRAPT database.

Meeting the DoD’s requirements for data input, asset tracking, and labeling can be a challenge, especially for companies that are new to the process of working with federal agencies.

How to manage Wide Area Workflow/iRAPT compliance more effectively

No matter which acronym you use, using WAWF/iRAPT is a core element of being successful as a DoD supplier. But there are challenges, including:

 

  • The WAWF/iRAPT system works well for reducing paper documentation and tracking assets, but it does not equip vendors to effectively and accurately manage their RFID and UID data.
  • Manual entry of all your data is prone to errors, yet any one error could cause transactions to be rejected, or create other complications down the line.
  • The web interface requires redundant data entry, increasing the chances for errors to occur.
  • While a direct integration into WAWF/iRAPT is the best solution for managing and submitting compliant shipping, RFID and UID, and invoicing data, few organizations have the resources or government-approved status to execute this.

These challenges can be fully addressed by working with a DoD-approved software vendor, like Odyssey, to manage the entire process more effectively. Odyssey’s iRAPT Console software allows DoD suppliers to stay compliant with government requirements while increasing process efficiency and reducing errors. The software has been designed to submit all the required information electronically through direct integration, while helping suppliers manage unique identifiers and labeling compliance.

 To learn more about how Odyssey can streamline your processes and ensure DoD compliance, connect with us today.

Your Guide to DIBBS, the DLA’s Internet Bid Board System

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 @ 10:12 AM

woman using dibbs to find dla solicitations.png

 

When a friend is unlucky in love, what do we say to make them feel better? “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” That may be so, but that’s not the root of the problem—there are plenty of fish, but which one is the right fish?

In the same way, it can be challenging for businesses to find the right defense contracts on which to bid. There are plenty of opportunities, but how do you find the best fit for your firm? DIBBS is part of the solution.

What is DIBBS?

DIBBS is the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Internet Bid Board System. The online portal gives users automated access to approximately 85% of the DLA’s solicitations, which support a wide variety of defense needs, including combat logistics, consumables like food and fuel, uniforms, equipment, and spare parts.

According to the DLA, vendors can use DIBBS to search for contract opportunities, submit quotes on RFQs (Requests for Quotations), view RFPs and Invitations for Bid (IFBs), see awarded contracts, and find other information about government procurements.

Why using DIBBS can be challenging

The DLA provides over $34 billion in goods and services each year, and processes an average of 100,000 requisitions and 10,000 contract actions each day. Understandably, trying to find the best contract opportunities for your business amid such sheer volume can feel like a daunting task—too many fish in the sea! Businesses often waste significant amounts of time sorting through hundreds of RFQs just to find the handful that fit their criteria.

5 steps for using DIBBS more effectively

With that in mind, let’s dive into five steps for using the DLA’s online bid system.

  1. Register in SAM and DIBBS. Creating an account in both the SAM and DIBBS systems is a required first step. You’ll be provided with credentials to conduct transactions and given the opportunity to register for emails about solicitations and award notifications. 
  1. Decide on user roles. DIBBS gives you the ability to designate someone in your organization as a “super user,” which is essentially your account administrator. This role can add, delete, or modify user accounts, change passwords, and edit vendor profile information. Decide whether you’re the best person for this role, or choose a colleague to act as your super user.
  1. Identify RFQ opportunities. To find the best RFQs for your firm, DIBBS offers a database search function that leverages multiple criteria to sift through opportunities, including Federal Supply Class (FSC), National Stock Number (NSN), Solicitation Number, and other factors. This is where the process can become tedious and time-consuming.

DLA bidding software can simplify this process by allowing you to build profiles that contain the specific criteria you’re looking for in an opportunity. The software will search the database for you and surface only the opportunities that fit your profile, presenting them in a real-time dashboard.

  1. Submit quotes: DIBBS also permits users to submit their quotes directly to the DLA via the internet. Using a software platform that’s directly integrated with DIBBS allows you to complete the process of finding, submitting and tracking quotes in a single console, saving time and generating more precise reporting.
  1. Track your wins and losses. Using your DLA bidding console, track which contracts you’ve been awarded—and which ones you haven’t. Over time, patterns will emerge that will give you insight into your business and inform future bid decisions.

With Odyssey’s proprietary software, you can transform the DIBBS “sift and search” bidding process into “review and respond,” making your process more efficient and providing deeper insight into your bidding strategy. See a demo of our DLA-Bid Console to learn more.

5 Reasons Why Inventory Control Matters

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 @ 12:11 PM

 

Inventory Control.png

 

For whatever reason, being a “control freak” seems to have a negative connotation. However, when it comes to inventory control, being a control freak is actually a good thing. Having proper inventory management and control procedures in place is a critical factor in your success as a DoD vendor.

What is inventory control?

The objective of inventory control, also known as internal control, is right-sizing your in-stock inventory so as to serve the needs of your customers without keeping excessive supply on hand.

Although it is often confused with inventory management, there are some differences. While inventory control deals with tracking what you have in stock and knowing what is available, as well as understanding the location of your goods and ensuring they are stored properly, inventory management is more concerned with stocking the right amount of goods, knowing when to reorder certain items, and making sure you don’t overpay when you do.

Why should inventory control matter to DoD suppliers?

The importance of inventory management and control cannot be overstated. Cost, efficiency, and DoD process standards are all factors that lead best-in-class defense suppliers to employ strict inventory control procedures.

Here are five reasons to give careful consideration to your inventory control processes.

  1. The Department of Defense has inventory control standards.

UID and RFID comprise the backbone of the DoD’s inventory control methodology. Defense suppliers are required to use systems like iRAPT and Vendor Shipment Module (VSM) to do business with the government. These systems and methodologies are vital components of the DoD’s supply chain -- one that can only reach maximum cost savings if efficiencies are deployed on both sides of the transaction between the government and its vendors.

  1. Poor inventory control affects your profitability.

Inventory control and management is all about the interplay between too much and not enough. Having too much inventory on hand (especially slower-moving goods) ties up capital and eats into your profitability. When it comes to maximizing profitability, the established philosophies of lean and just-in-time inventory still hold true.

  1. Lack of inventory causes significant challenges.

The opposite of the above -- not having enough of the necessary inventory -- causes backorders, delays, and could put your government contracts at risk. In a competitive space where many vendors bid for the same work, you can’t afford to let inventory control issues hurt your performance and potentially damage your firm’s reputation.

  1. Good inventory control makes you more efficient.

Imagine being unable to find the inventory you need, even though you know it’s somewhere in the warehouse. Not only is this frustrating, but it results in lost time and other inefficiencies. Knowing where inventory is located at all times makes for a more efficient workflow.

  1. Better control yields better insights.

It’s impossible to make truly data-driven decisions when you don’t have an accurate picture of what’s going on. Knowing what you actually have in your inventory not only saves time; it allows you to make decisions based on the most accurate data possible.

Diligent inventory control practices are a vital component to your success as a DoD supplier. Odyssey provides a DoD-approved software solution for managing iRAPT and VSM compliance, simplifying the inventory control procedures you’re required to complete as a defense supplier. Learn more about how our solutions can streamline and automate these time-consuming processes: see a personalized demo.

Why RFID Tags Are Your New Normal

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 @ 13:11 PM

RFID Tags.png

Just as cellular phones the size of suitcases have been replaced by smart devices that fit in our pockets, newer technological innovations inevitably supplant less efficient tools. While barcodes served many industries well in the past, RFID technology has reached maturity and is rapidly becoming standard practice for tracking assets and inventory.

For defense contractors, RFID tags can make a significant impact in streamlining asset tracking and delivering better data. In this article, you’ll learn how RFID tags can make a difference in your business, how to implement RFID tagging, and questions to ask a potential RFID solution provider.

What are RFID tags?

RFID stands for “radio-frequency identification.” This technology relies on electromagnetic fields to automate the identification and tracking of tags placed on items. DoD suppliers know how transformational this technology can be in terms of tracking and managing their products and assets.

Why should RFID tags be your new normal?

Companies across many different industries, from retail to logistics to manufacturers, have adopted RFID technology over the past several years. According to the editor-in-chief of RFID Journal, Mark Roberti, RFID is "just now reaching maturity and will soon explode," particularly as more and more firms experience the benefits of the technology for themselves. In addition, research company IDTechEx estimated the total RFID market to be worth $11.2 billion in 2017. They also projected that 18.2 billion tags would be sold, representing impressive year-on-year growth of 20%.

There are many benefits of RFID over more traditional tracking methods, such as barcodes. Using RFID tags for asset tracking is:

  • More efficient: Wireless scanning, and the ability to scan multiple tags at once, allows RFID tags to provide information extremely quickly.
  • More precise: The real-time nature of RFID tracking gives you more precise information, leading to better, more informed decisions.
  • More accurate: Item-level RFID tags give highly accurate information and have less propensity for human error. In fact, according to RFID Journal, RFID can bring inventory accuracy up to 95% or better.

Convinced yet? If you decide to switch to RFID, there are a few considerations you should bear in mind: the implementation process and which solution provider you’ll choose.

10 steps for implementing item level RFID

As you start along your RFID implementation journey, here are 10 suggested steps for the process:

  1. Identify your implementation project team
  2. Begin any necessary manufacturer preparation, such as process changes
  3. Create and distribute an RFP for RFID vendors
  4. Select an RFID vendor and finalize the contract
  5. Determine any new equipment you’ll need and procure it
  6. Install and test new equipment and software
  7. Train employees on new processes and technology
  8. Start tagging items with RFID
  9. Gather data on tag performance, cost, lead times, etc. to measure improvement and determine future opportunities to enhance the process
  10. Resolve issues and provide further training as needed

Although your process will vary depending on your business needs, the suggested steps above can serve as a template to get you started.

Evaluation questions for an RFID tag provider

As you evaluate vendor proposals as part of the RFP process, here are some questions to ask a potential RFID tag solution provider:

  • How clearly does the vendor explain the details of their solution’s functionality?
  • Does their solution provide:
    • Fully integrated solution
    • Item-level visibility
    • Item-level accountability
    • Tailored processes and scalability
  • Does their solution enable you to:
    • Download open contract data from VIM-ASAP
    • Encode and print item-level tags in accordance with customer requirements
    • Encode and print case and pallet tags
    • Integrate into manual packing process within space specified
    • Programatically link item to case
    • Handle exceptions
    • Provide case to pallet link
    • Seamless upload to VIM-ASAP
  • Does the proposal meet implementation timelines?
  • Is the cost fixed or variable?
  • Is the solution architecture remote or local?

Learn more about vendor selection and RFID implementation in our Best Practice Guide to Implementing Item Level RFID.

The Odyssey cloud platform is a DoD-approved software that provides one integrated location for all your defense commerce tasks using passive RFID. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you take advantage of all the benefits of RFID technology.