As most companies are moving towards globalization to maintain competitive one factor must be considered product tracking. As items move through the supply chain many factors affect their movement, without constant monitoring items could become lost or stolen. By providing real-time tracking on products a firm could improve customer service levels, reduce inventory, and establish more predictable supply and maintenance timelines. This paper will discuss the use and advantages of Electronic Data interchange, bar codes, and Radio Frequency Identification technology, and how they are used to provide real-time tracking. Furthermore, the discussion will move towards how this can be accomplished for intermodal transportation and what the positive and negative effects are of real-time tracking.
Keywords: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Just-in-Time (JIT), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Transportation, globalization, tracking,
Table of Contents
Table of Contents______________________________________________________________3
Electronic Data Interchange______________________________________________________4
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)____________________________________________14
Cargo tracking in Intermodal Transportation________________________________________19
Positives and Negatives of Real-Time Tracking_____________________________________21
The True Value of Real-time Tracking
As technology has evolved and continues to, the Transportation community relies more and more on it to aid in the ability to track and trace cargo while in the transportation system. This is evident in the use of bar code labels or Universal Product Code (UPC) labels that have been attached to cargo for years. This gave shippers and customers the ability to track their shipments while en route to the final destination. More recently as the technology has changed these bar code labels are being replaced with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. This technology allows for the user to receive information from the RFID tag at any point along the transportation route. The ability to track these items could significantly influence inventory levels, average transit times, and maintenance and production timelines. Fred Smith said it best, 'The information about the package is just as important as the package itself' (FedEx, 2014). The information he was referring to was essentially the ability to track the package along the transportation route and allow the customer to make determinations based on the estimated delivery timeframe. This is becoming even more crucial as most companies are reducing inventory levels in order to save costs and relying on a Just in Time (JIT) delivery concept. This allows the company to reduce inventory holdings, which reduces costs while relying on the transportation community to deliver an item as it is needed and not before or after. This project will focus on the true value of real time tracking and why it is important in transportation logistics management.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems play a huge role in the ability to broadcast information so a company or customer can access shipment information on an in transit shipment. As EDI emerged and were first used in the transportation and logistics fields there use was limited to larger companies that could afford the costs to maintain such a complex system (Tai, Ho, & Wu, 2010 p 5398). These systems were closed systems that only involved a limited number of supply chain partners, which limited the flexibility of the supply chain. As the reliability of the internet improved the ability to harness it in cooperation with an EDI system emerged. By using web based e-procurement or EDI systems a company can link both with the customer and the suppliers through these systems to become more reactive to the customer's needs (Tai, Ho, & Wu, 2010 p 5405). This allows the customer to and all linked businesses to limit the amount of inventory they hold to reduce their operating costs overall. Moreover, by employing a web based e-procurement system a firm can reduce transaction costs and times, reduce inventory costs, increase performance, while improving forecasting data to meet the customer's needs (Tai, Ho, & Wu, 2010 p 5411). As mentioned earlier these EDI systems were reserved for larger companies, however as they have moved to the web there have been several commercial off the shelf systems created to meet small businesses needs. As EDI systems improve performance and reduce costs, they can also improve the visibility of cargo within the transportation system.
An Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system allows supply chain partners to share information while also pushing that information to the internet to allow customers to track their package progress. The construction industry is looking at ways to reduce manual costs while tracking products en route to multiple jobsites while simultaneously reducing inventory loss. They have conducted comparative tests on a few different systems to include manual procedures, RFID, and a wireless embedded sensor system that will conduct administrative and tracking functions concurrently (Jang, & Skibniewski, 2009, p.384). Using total cost analysis they found that even with the purchase of additional equipment such as RFID tags and readers, and the wireless embedded sensors and readers both of these options were significantly cheaper and more accurate then the manual procedures (Jang, & Skibniewski, 2009, p.384). This is due to the higher labor costs over the study period as well as the better accuracy acquired from these tracking devices. In Jang and Skibniewski's (2009) analysis they surmise that even though the both RFID and the sensors performed better than manual procedures the sensors lower startup costs made them the clear winner in this experiment (p. 385). Many companies these days are seeking a competitive advantage and an EDI system linked to the internet could be that advantage to reduce administrative, labor, and inventory costs, while providing a clear picture of product movement. As businesses employ these systems they are reaching out to supply chain partners to improve relationships and establish even more savings.
EDI information sharing can save money by eliminating manual tasks, while also speeding up the processing of vital documents such as shipment orders; they also store pricing data, and inventory data to facilitate the swift reordering of products as needed (Goksoy, Voyvay, & Karabulut, 2012). Furthermore, as companies continue to move their business globally the expenses to relocate their workers are increasing. It is estimated that simply by employing an EDI system for invoicing, freight and storage charges the cost to transport household goods overseas could be reduced by 10 to 20 percent (EDI can Save on Relocation Abroad, 2001). This estimate was developed with the understanding that the swift payment of EDI systems coupled with the amount of overseas employees a large company moves, would earn a price reduction from the household goods carrier. This type of thinking is an example of supply chain partners leveraging the volume of the people being moved to incur a price reduction. Further information sharing can be seen to improve customer relations and reduce costs, however not all research agrees with that assumption. Downing (2010) discusses in his comparison of manual supply chain procedures, traditional EDI, and Web based EDI that initially customer service levels were higher in the traditional EDI then that of Web based EDI systems (p. 136). This could be attributed to the personal relationships the suppliers and manufacturers have with each other as well as the relative new idea of web based systems. However, this study did confirm improvements in supply chain costs, operational efficiency, and improved coordination (Downing, 2010, p. 136). As the web based EDI system is a fairly new occurrence the change has not caught up to the entire logistics community, which could be another contributing factor to the lower customer service levels discussed above. Marshall, and Heffes (2004) also explain that internet based EDI systems had a rocky start due to some firms being unwilling to share proprietary information that is embedded in their EDI model, while also being resistant to change their EDI system to facilitate a supply chain wide system to share information (p. 12). This raises the question as to how much information sharing is too much. As supply chain partners are being connected via EDI and web based EDI systems they must be cognizant of what information they are sharing so as not to reveal any proprietary information that could cost them their competitive advantage. As discussed information sharing improves coordination between supply chain partners, however what happens when those partners are internationally based?
EDI systems are becoming more important due to globalization. More and more companies are moving their business internationally, which requires a strong computer system that can handle tasks at multiple locations and transmit information across borders. Not to mention storing and transmitting customer bills of lading, and customs documentation to facilitate swift movement of items through the supply chain. These types of IT solutions are allowing companies to manufacture their products in multiple facilities around the world. For example Saturn uses an EDI system that is linked with its suppliers to establish delivery timeframes at over 56 different facilities (Fitzpatrick, & Ali, 2010, p.2). This type of integration and communication allows businesses to work with suppliers to develop a Just-in-Time approach to logistics. This type of approach reduces inventory and only requires items be shipped when needed to fill an order. This also, allows customers to devise the most optimum supply chain network from many different characteristic such as facility location, transportation mode and carrier, as well as manufacturing facility throughput. As the EDI systems have evolved they are also being paired with simulation technology to improve inventory forecasts as well as potential delivery timeframes (Fitzpatrick, & Ali, 2010, p. 3). Since the company and suppliers have integrated or connected EDI systems the data can be pulled from these systems to integrate past performance and identify the best supplier to be used on a specific product or to a specific location. Furthermore, this information can be utilized to forecast potential bottlenecks in the supply chain, as well as react to delayed shipments by upgrading the shipment priority and expediting the transportation of these items to avoid late shipments (Fitzpatrick, & Ali, 2010, p. 4). The inclusion of simulation in the EDI system should increase customer service levels as it will reduce delayed shipments and identify bottlenecks in the current system. Moreover, as the simulations are run on current orders from multiple suppliers it will identify which suppliers perform better and may aid a company's decision on eliminating low performing suppliers. While EDI systems manage the information once received, bar codes are what are read by readers and transmit that information to the EDI systems.
Initially bar codes were attached to all shipments and a series of readers placed throughout a warehouse or distribution facility to track movements of these items on their way to market. This was a huge advancement over manual product inventories. Bar codes facilitated advancements in product tracking and significantly reduced inventory shrinkage and product loss. Estimates show that during the initial push to bar code use that error rates dropped significantly from one error in every three hundred shipments using manual procedures to one in every million shipments utilizing bar codes (McCathie, & Michael, 2005 p. 4). The simplicity of the bar code system is that it only requires ink and paper to make a bar code and most companies have their own specific number prefix to allow for quick identification. However, there are some infrastructure requirements for such a system to function. Too initially setup a bar code system a firm will require bar code writers, which are just label printers that can print in the bar code format, bar code readers which can be wired or wireless, (wireless is the preferred) and a computer system such as an EDI system to gather the information. Figure 1 shows a typical Unit Product Code (UPC) label, while figure 2 illustrates a wireless bar code reader.
Figure 1. This is a typical UPC used for inventory and tracking purposes. This bar code was generated from bar coding incorporated.
There are multiple different types of bar codes available for use however the UPC is by far the more popular and is used worldwide by over a million firms (McCathie, & Michael, 2005 p. 7). For the purposes of this paper the UPC will be the only bar code discussed. As previously mentioned in order to operate this form of technology the scanners must be tied into an EDI system that can translate the information on the bar code into product information for the firm.
Figure 2. This Standard Bar code scanner is used to transmit information from a packages' bar code to the firms EDI system.
Just as there are many different types of bar codes there are also different types of readers or scanners as well. Each company has different types of scanner technology that they find most useful, for instance FedEx is using scanners that the customer can sign to signify delivery of an item. This type of scanner captures the signature which allows for delivery confirmation. Once the product is signed for this information is transmitted to the EDI system to update on the FedEx website that the item has been delivered and the name of the person who signed for it. This delivery confirmation is an additional service for most transportation carriers to include the United States Postal Service (USPS). However, the ability to track a product all the way to delivery is a function that many supply chain managers like to allow for transparency in the system. As bar codes have developed over the years the information they hold and their usefulness has also evolved.
Bar codes are used in multiple applications to include commercial such as retail, transportation, and military applications. This allows companies and the DoD to monitor movements throughout their transportation network and ultimately through the supply chain. By monitoring product movement these firms can identify bottlenecks in their transportation system, and adjust the transportation of goods to eliminate any unexpected product delays. The origin of their use has signaled a shift in logistics to focus on customer service as well as reduced inventory levels to reduce the costs associated with warehousing and transportation.
The commercial application was established on the UPC for use in Supermarkets and grocery stores to reduce the time spent at the checkout stand (Kennedy, 2013). It evolved into a point of sale system that allows retail stores to track product sales, while also allowing companies to track products en route to market. This revolution allowed for an improved shopping experience, by improving the speed in which the customer was able to check-out and pay for their goods to get on with their day. As this system originated in the Supermarkets it has evolved and is affixed to almost every product. In fact there are regulations that require bar codes on prescription medications that are sold for use in hospitals (21 CFR, 2013, p. 19). This requirement is for doctors and patients to keep track of medication, while also ensuring that the correct medication gets to the appropriate patient. This also allows the pharmacist to double check all prescriptions the person is taking to avoid a potential overdose or unfavorable reaction to multiple medications. Moreover the bar code is being used to track an abundance of products, tasks and operations to include employee badges, records, medication, movie tickets, train tickets, and individuals even have bar codes on their driver's license. Since the bar codes use is so widespread it can be used in many different ways to swiftly and accurately process data. One example discussed above is the use of bar codes for issuing medication at one hospital's emergency room. This hospital recorded a 9% increase in medication accuracy due to the use of bar codes (Seibert, Maddox, Flynn, & Williams, 2014, p. 6). This means that the patient received the correct medication more often when a barcode system was used then without. As these examples have shown barcodes have improved the way products are moved throughout the supply chain. However, they may not be the most reliable system, as the barcode label could be damaged making it unable to be scanned by a reader. This is why there is a barcode number associated with the barcode for manual entry, as well as a tracking number in the case of carriers such as FedEx or UPS. In the case that the barcode is damaged entering one of these two numbers in the EDI system will render all the required information. The bar code was born out of the retail market however it also has use for the military as well.
The military application of the bar code label is used to track cargo to and from the origin to the destination. This allows cargo to be scanned at transiting facilities and the information uploaded into the DoD's In Transit Visibility (ITV) EDI system which is the Integrated Data Environment & Global Transportation Network Convergence (IGC) (DTR, 2013, p. ii-iv). The inclusion of a bar code on all cargo is a requirement for movement in the Defense Transportation System, and is only waived when labels are handwritten, due to limited available technology such as deployed locations (DTR, 2013 p. 208-3). Figure 3 illustrates a military shipping label for cargo moving from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. As shown in this example the military barcode label has quite a bit of manual information to backup the barcode in case it is incapable of being read by the scanner. In this instance the manual input of the Transportation Control Number (TCN) in one of the military's EDI systems would give the applicable information of this item. However, the issue that has been identified by the author is that the DoD has multiple EDI systems used to track cargo throughout their supply chains. For Example just focusing on the Air Force for the purposes of this paper there are three EDI system interfaces. The Air Force utilizes the Cargo Movement Operating System (CMOS) for surface (truck and vessel) movements, while most things moved by air are inputted into the Global Air Transportation and Execution System (GATES). Both of these systems feed into IGC to offer tracking on items as they move through the Defense Transportation System. Unfortunately due to multiple systems the information that is most current is not always the most accurate within IGC. Sometimes the information sent to IGC is received after another data point has been entered. This could confuse customers who are tracking their items online as the most current tracking information per IGC actually happened two days ago and the information has just flowed through the systems. This is sometimes caused by CMOS field users who physically move the cargo to the Aerial port which means it is processed into GATES; however they do not depart the item out of CMOS until the next business day.
Another concern in the field is that the use of the bar code scanners has not been adopted at all locations. This is in part due to workload and the uniqueness of military operations as well as the current scanner technology being used, takes longer to process cargo then via manual procedures. This could be due to faulty software or incompatibility issues with the host EDI system GATES. Moreover, because of the lack of use at most Aerial Ports, the Air Force could be missing out on a possibility to lean their process of unnecessary manual procedures by improving the technology and adopting a more streamlined process. Furthermore, the failure to adopt these procedures could be partially due to the military's high ops tempo causing personnel who are trained on such procedures to move to another location or deploy to a forward location. The creation of the bar code has shifted the customer's focus of just receiving the item to monitoring it while it is en route to try and improve product flow to improve customer service while lowering costs. An emerging concept focusing on this same ideal is the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to pinpoint cargo locations while in transit to the destination.
Figure 3. Military Shipping Label for a unit move piece of cargo.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
An emerging concept is the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track cargo throughout the supply chain. RFID allows a more true idea of cargo tracking throughout the transportation network. By utilizing this form of tracking a customer can pinpoint the location of an item without relying on actively scanning a bar code. This was initially put into the mainstream by Wal-mart and the DoD (Violino, 2003). Wal-mart led the way for the supply chain community in RFID technology as they required their top 100 suppliers to adhere RFID tags on all shipping pallets by early 2005 (Williams, 2004). This mandate followed by the DOD's own version of such a requirement increased demand for this technology. RFID technology is essentially the ability to track an item from a distance without having line of sight. This is accomplished by the RFID tags being read by interrogators that feed that information to an EDI system to record the data. There are some Technology infrastructure requirements to allow for interrogators to be placed at key transit points to facilitate real-time tracking. However, one of the most important aspects of this technology is that it does not require the active scanning of bar codes. In fact it only requires the item be fairly close to the interrogator to get a reading, reducing the need for manual processing. With the demand increasing for RFID technology it has driven the costs down of the system to allow for smaller companies to enjoy similar gains as Walmart and the DoD. This will enable these companies to experiment with other applications of this technology; which will foster innovation in the global supply chain. With that being said there are different aspects of this technology to consider such as passive and active tags, infrastructure requirements, and an EDI system to manage all of this communication.
There are different types of RFID technology; passive and active. Passive relies on interrogators to read the tag when the item gets within a certain distance, while active continually sends a signal and can be read by the interrogator at greater distances, this feed is used to report its current position (Ga-Escribano, de Dios, Pastor, & Garcia, 2012). Most military bases, ports, and main routes of transit have RFID interrogators mounted at some point to read the tags as they pass by, this is part of the infrastructure requirements to make the system work. This is due to the DoD requirement to use RFID tags on all pallets and sealift containers to facilitate in transit visibility (DTR, 2013, p. 208-5). An Example of retail and military RFID tags can be seen figure 4, notice that the military version is more rugged offering more protection to weather and extreme environments, while the retail one is embedded in the label of item to make it invisible to the customer, this label is called an Electronic Product Code (EPC). The difference between RFID and the bar code is that there is no requirement to physically scan something. The truck or rail car can just pass by the interrogator and it will read the RFID tag that has been placed on the shipments.
Figure 4. This figure shows examples of an EPC tag that is embedded in the product label and the military version of an active RFID tag.
With this type of technology there are infrastructure requirements that must be taken into considerations such as RFID tags, interrogators, and the EDI system to enable the system to function properly. These requirements could be cost prohibitive for some businesses and will require research from the supply chain manager to identify if incorporating RFID into a company's business will be beneficial or if they will not make a return on investment. One thing to consider is if the RFID requirement will be on every item or if it will be on cases of items to reduce the number of tags required. Another concern would be how many interrogators are required, this will depend on the size of the transportation network, at minimum they should be placed at every key port or whenever an item changes hands such as warehouses, distribution facilities, and transiting water and aerial ports. An example of an RFID interrogator used in the military can be seen in figure 5. Final consideration would be the EDI system requirement, which will need to handle multiple feeds from different IT systems to incorporate this data and that of supply chain partners.
Figure 5. This photo illustrates a team of soldiers setting up an RFID Interrogator to read RFID tags as they enter a military installation.
When the system is set up and operational it will give the customer and firm a clear idea of how items transit their supply chain. It will supply them with data points to pinpoint flaws in the system such as bottlenecks at specific international ports of entry for example. This information can be leveraged to change the transportation flow of cargo to reduce any potential delays this bottleneck could have caused. Once the RFID tag is read by the interrogator the information is transmitted back to the EDI system to notify the company of a change in status. This change in status could be as simple as the movement of an item from one location to another, or the tampering of a container as is the case with some military sealift containers. While this technology is growing in popularity it will continually be adapted and be used in new and inventive ways.
As this technology continues to evolve it is being used in different ways such as to monitor inventory levels on retail shelves and stores to determine when to reorder items from the distribution facility. Dou, (2014) explains RFID tags are collocated with the anti-theft tags in many apparel companies and the goal is to eliminate the need to scan the items as a customer reaches the checkout stand all the clothing is scanned at once and prints a bill (p. 1799). This could signal a shift in the way department stores run their checkout stands and will likely speed up purchases of items. The removal of the anti-theft tag will also remove the RFID device to prevent a customer from triggering the store alarm (Dou, 2014, p. 1800). By combining this technology in the anti-theft tag the company realizes fewer losses in inventory while increasing customer output. Furthermore, one of the most interesting ways RFID can be used is the ability to track pets. A company called Haystack Technologies has developed an RFID tag that can be attached to the collar of a pet to allow tracking of animal if it escapes (Swedberg, 2012). This gives an owner peace of mind if their pet escapes instead of putting up lost posters they can track the animal with a smart phone Application and compatible RFID reader (Swedberg, 2012). The application of RFID technology to find animals is not new since it has been used for years by veterinarians to tag animals; however that process requires the veterinarian to be at close range to read the chip. However, Haystacks claim is that it can read the pets RFID tag up to one kilometer, as this product evolves it could also be used to track temperature changes and lack of movement of the animals to signal if they are ill (Swedberg, 2012). These are only a few of the potential uses of RFID tags the author feels the use of this technology will continue to grow. RFID is an important aspect of tracking, however how item transition between transportation modes is equally important.
Cargo Tracking in Intermodal Transportation
'[I]ntermodal transport is that transport system involving the successive use of at least two modes and where the intermodal transport unit is not divided to change modes (D??r??ban??, ??tef??nescu, & Cri??an, 2012, p. 82). This mode of transportation leverages the services achieved from each mode to offer a more streamlined service at a reduced price. This form of service benefits the manufacturer due to speed of service and general price reduction. The trucking industry is used for its ease of transport to areas away from the ports, while vessel or air service is utilized to transit over the water depending on priority and need of the item, rail service can be utilized for inland movement, and finally truck service again for local delivery to the consumer or retailer. Figure 7. Illustrates the product movement of items being transported via Intermodal Transportation.
Figure 7. Product flow via Intermodal Transportation.
Intermodal Transportation relies on the tracking of cargo throughout the system to facilitate the movement between Transportation modes. As more companies make the move to intermodal transportation to take advantage of the combination of service and price benefits they are looking for better tracking information. This can become of great concern as items transfer between multiple modes, without a way to track these items inventory could be lost or stolen. Intermodal shipments transit between modes most of the time in containers the cargo inside is not always validated, which could lead to inventory shrinkage. RFID is one option to assist in this lack of visibility, while also looking at GPS options that monitor things like location, humidity, and temperature that could wreak havoc on sensitive items (Enhancing container visibility, 2007). The issue is the lack of RFID infrastructure at over the road transit points, most of the time the RFID tag is only being scanned or read at the ports of entry and departure, which makes them vulnerable to theft or damage (Meyer, Lyridis, Muller, & Zacharioudakis, 2012, p. 23). Furthermore, the RFID concept coupled with an EDI system that allows for projected norms allows the system to notify the firm or customer when an item breaks a normal threshold this system is called the Supply Chain Event Management (SCEM) (Meyer, Lyridis, Muller, & Zacharioudakis, 2012, p. 26). Without further infrastructure developments the SCEM software allows for tracking of items but makes up for the lack of visibility with the programmed normative data. As intermodal transportation gains ground, the use of technology to combat visibility issues will be required to assure companies and customers alike of the safety of their inventory.
Positive and Negative effects of real-time tracking
With any system there are positives and negatives to their use, real-time tracking is no different. Some of the positive effects could be seen as better transit times, improved planning timelines to include maintenance and inventory planning, increased customer service levels, and improved supply chain partnerships. Improved transit times can be realized by being able to pinpoint an items location within the supply chain to change transportation factors to improve its velocity. These factors could take shape as rerouting cargo to a different port due to delays at another location, changing transportation carriers for express movement, or identifying paperwork requirements to expedite customs processing.
Real-time tracking can improve the way a company uses their inventory. Being able to pinpoint cargo locations allows a company to rely less on inventory and move to a just-in-time inventory mindset. A small safety stock will be the only thing required, which should be based off of historical data on how often the item has been ordered in the past 12 months. Furthermore, by using historical data for failure rate of items the company will be able to know how much of an item to keep on hand as well. By being able to watch the progression of an item in transit maintenance personnel can plan out their tasks based off of estimated arrival dates. This plays a huge role in the airline industry, because if an aircraft is not flying it is not creating revenue, which means it is a multi-million dollar paperweight.
Transparency within the supply chain is a key element to foster customer trust and improve cooperation with supply chain partners. By allowing customers the ability to track their products from cradle to grave the firm is signaling it is there to provide solutions to any problems the customer may have. Moreover, by linking EDI systems with supply chain partners the firm can share inventory data, and projected order delivery timeframes which will reduce transaction times. By developing cross-functional team with suppliers to tackle large issues and create solutions the firm is essentially getting the suppliers buy-in and they will become more loyal because of that. With every positive there is a negative to all processes, and real-time tracking is no different.
Potential negatives or concerns to this idea of real-time tracking could be the aspect of too much information at the customers reach. This could cause more questions then answered and put the customer in a state of confusion. This could be brought on by the inability to read and understand the EDI system, if the customer will have access to the EDI system training should take place to prevent future issues. However, this was illustrated above in the example of the IGC system where the most current feed may not be the most accurate information, so assuring information integrity is important. One item specific to RFID tags is the price of tags and how much capital would be required to tag every item in a company's product line. With the inclusion of the EDI system and Interrogators to read the tags the investment may be too expensive for a small firm to get a return on investment. Supply chain managers will need to accomplish a total cost analysis to determine the feasibility of this kind of system. However, as the technology is becoming more popular the prices are being driven down, so if it is not feasible now it could be in the near future.
In Conclusion the ability to track items from origin to destination is crucial and dramatically affects a company's profit margin. Simply by tracking these items the customer is able to determine delivery timelines that allow for planning concerns such as production and maintenance timetables. Furthermore, this reduces inventory costs, reduces labor costs, increases customer service levels, and establishes a transparent supply chain. As technology has evolved the bar code was replaced with the UPC which is now being replaced or supplemented with the RFID tag. These tags used in tandem allow the greatest transmission and storage of data to facilitate the swift movement through the supply chain and greatly reduce paperwork concerns such as Bills of Lading. Moreover, as the visibilities of the items are increased in the supply chain it allows for a seamless transition between transportation modes. This coupled with the use of the container the transit time of intermodal transportation carriers has significantly reduced. RFID tags are the emerging technology that allows for real time location and data interface with products within the supply chain. As these tags become more popular the price will decrease significantly establishing a strong foothold within the transportation community. The RFID tags and real-time tracking is equally important in the military and civilian applications allowing both customers to plan for delivery estimates. Finally, with any new idea there is always the need to continue research on the importance of this topic and if RFID tags are the right answer.
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