Australian retail industry lagging in EPC technology
Traditionally, Australians have a reputation for being early technology adopters but when it comes to EPC, we are way behind.
Scott Needham, managing director of retail technology company Leadtec, said: “To date, no major Australian retailer has committed to EPC technology, despite the fact that US retailer Wal Mart is currently adopting the new platform.
Mr Needham said the main problem is that Australia has already been successful in the past in creating supply chain systems in the form of scan-packing/EANway. Therefore most Australian companies can’t see the point in making further investment in a system that for the most part does the job.
“We estimate that over 5,000 vendors in Australia have implemented comprehensive scan packing systems and processes with an investment of $250 million,” he says. “Australia’s success with scan-packing systems means that the move to EPC will be more incremental than a great leap forward. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should not be taking the next step forward.”
To get to this next step, Mr Needham is proposing an innovative, yet practical approach to get the Australian retail industry up and running with EPC. The key is to not “throw the baby out with the bath water” but to build on Australia’s existing scan-packing paradigm to gain the best benefits of EPC.
“The prevailing opinion is that adopting EPC will mean a complete overhaul of the supply chain system, but this need not be the case. Traditional SSCC labels can be used in conjunction with EPC-RFID labels; retail communities can begin implementing EPC Information Services without all trading partners adopting the labelling; and traditional ‘licence plate’ information from SSCC labels can be captured from shipment notices and loaded into an EPCIS platform.
“Combining the old and the new will provide improved supply chain visibility across all levels of the supply chain process. Since the RFID tags are stored centrally, all parts of the supply chain can access the information at any time. You don’t get this with traditional scan packing systems, which only provide information to the retailer and supplier.
“It will also allow retail communities to adopt EPC standards at their own pace. Our hope is that this incremental approach will allow retail communities to more quickly adopt EPC so that they can begin to reap the long term financial and productivity gains to be made from it.”
Leadtec has begun offering its customers a number of solutions that will enable them to adopt the EPC paradigm. These will leverage existing scan packing solutions to populate EPC Information Systems and make the transition from SSCC labelling to RFID a much smoother process.
What is an Electronic Product Code?
The Electronic Product Code – EPC – is a set of identification coding or numbering standards. Unlike the barcodes commonly used to distinguish a can of soup from a box of chocolate chip biscuits, the EPC can identify a specific can of soup or box of biscuits by its unique ID number. The EPC contains no personal information.
What is RFID?
Radio Frequency Identification – RFID – is a technology that allows the identification of tagged items without a line of sight. It includes a tag, a reader and a computer system. A RFID tag containing a tiny microchip and an antenna is placed on an object. Most of the RFID tags, which usually carry information in the form of a unique serial number, require no external power.