Last month we featured a blog article discussing two frequent challenges with RFID commerce compliance experienced by DoD suppliers. These two common, and very specific challenges, involve proof of delivery and the GSA transfer to DLA. While we saw these two obstacles on a recurring basis, the truth is that RFID technology is continually evolving and there are still many challenges yet to be overcome.
We, of course, strive to be RFID experts, but it may be more accurate to say we’re on the side of pioneers. The potential that RFID technology has is multifaceted and we feel as if the surface has barely been scratched. Pioneers are critical to evolving tech because they continually say, “How can we make this better?” That’s what we’re looking to do. We recognize that RFID still has a long way to go in order to be completely user friendly and, because of that, we’re always looking for ways to make our Odyssey software even more convenient.
We’re certainly not the only RFID pioneers, either. Scientists in Antarctica are currently using passive RFID tags to study large groups of Emperor Penguins. Passive RFID is an inexpensive and precise way to collect the data they need. Passive tags are also much smaller than other methods (such as active tags), and disturb the animals to a smaller degree. Unfortunately, passive RFID isn’t always efficient, as the tags located inside the penguins need to be close to a handheld reader/interrogator in order for the data to be collected. Previously, the scientists were required to walk into these large groups of penguins with the reader, which led to elevated stress levels in the penguins and potentially contributed to erratic behavior. Knowing that the reader needed to be close to the tags, the scientists started thinking outside the box. Their idea? Stick the reader on a small remote-controlled car and drive into the penguin crowds. Using this method, the scientists noted that the animals’ stress levels were significantly lower than when they had brought the reader in on foot, but they still thought they could do better. In an almost comical move, they attached a stuffed baby penguin, loosely resembling a young Emperor Penguin to the top of the toy car. The result was little to no elevated levels of stress amongst the penguins. The scientists now spend their days driving these penguin cars around different groups and collecting the data stored in the various tags.
This story is pretty comical and, on the surface, doesn’t seem to relate to DoD supplier compliance in the least, but these scientists ran into limitations with RFID that needed to be addressed and they overcame them. We’re doing the same thing at Odyssey. We’re looking at the challenges and finding creative solutions.
RFID Solution Examples:
RFID tags are composed of 24 characters, which appear as random numbers and letters. The monumental opportunity for human error in transposing these tags is negated by Odyssey’s proprietary software marshaling the tag in conjunction with electronically received contract data and user managed shipment composition. That means that RFID data can be sent to the DoD with 100% accuracy without the supplier having to touch a single digit.
Reading RFID tags in some environments, much like the example story, can also be challenging. For example, some Odyssey partners work in C&T and are required to pack 50-item level RFID in a box. The devices tasked with reading these RFID work well at this pack level with no concerns. But when the organizations receive a new contract whereby 200-item level RFID are now packed in a box, the task of reading these tags or aggregating them out of the box and allocating them to a contract becomes diametrically more complex.
RFID tags have fickle tendencies, and densely packed items can easily affect their readability. In order to overcome this environmental and contractual challenge ODYSSEY has developed its 4th generation Aggre-Cart solution for Item Level RFID processing.
Yes, RFID tags require special printers in order to be encoded and produced. Odyssey is a licensed Zebra dealer and offers these printers to clients, providing a complete turnkey solution if that is the desire. Odyssey has also developed an architecture if these printers don’t fit into our clients’ budgets. Clients have the opportunity to have their created tags print at our warehouse in real time and shipped to them directly, meaning they won’t need a printer on-site.
Successful DoD compliance typically involves a lot of asynchronistic activities or multiple pieces of unrelated software required to meet the DoD mandate; we have dubbed this the “Swivel Chair Syndrome.” Instead of downloading software to a single computer that must be shared across departments or purchasing multiple pieces of software only designed to handle one piece of the process, Odyssey’s software is web-based, allowing access to it from any computer or mobile device, no matter where users are. The same services can be accessed from opposite sides of the building or from any location outside the supplier’s facility, as long as the Internet is available.
We believe that we’ve made a lot of strides in making the ever-evolving nature of RFID technology more accessible, but we also know there’s plenty more to do. We’re not only looking to maintain our creative DoD approved SaaS platform ,but also continually seeking to implement more ways to make our clients’ DoD compliance experience efficient and effective.