DoD improves logistics through RFID
Logistics is a concern for the $450 billion a year Department of Defense (DoD). To become the best in class logistics, the DoD is turning to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. "We've actually been using active RFID for about 10 years in the Army," noted Alan Estevez, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Supply Chain Integration. Speaking at AMR Research's recent Supply Chain Executive Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Estevez said the DoD will also add passive RFID. "It will take about five years to roll out all across the department," he said.
Why RFID? "We need to know what we have and what we're consuming," Estevez acknowledged. "We want to do sense-and-respond logistics. RFID can be the sense in that sense and respond." He was cautious to point out that RFID is a component; the technology alone will not fix all of the DoD's logistics issues.
The DoD plans to use active RFID on freight containers and consolidated air pallets and will use passive RFID on cases, pallets and packaging on unique identification (UID) items -- those things inside the freight containers and air pallets. Tags will be nested. A passive pallet tag will be associated with a passive carton tag that will be associated with eight UID packaging tags, each with one associated UID item.
Beginning in January 2005, cases and pallets shipped to DoD receiving points will require passive RFID, as will packaging for UID items shipped to DoD receiving points.
The DoD has many supply chains to manage, including commercial commodities (food, fuel, pharmaceuticals and clothing), weapon systems and deployed land forces. Deployed land forces is the hardest supply chain to manage, Estevez confessed. "We're working to take advantage of best practices to make it better."
It is Estevez's hope that RFID will help with demand visibility. The DoD is getting no data right now, he noted, so it should be easier with data. "I expect to get data and pass that on to suppliers," Estevez added. With 43,000 suppliers, that promises to be a significant project.
Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.