RPCC Leads U.S. Trial on RFID Technology, Reusable Transport Packaging

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition (RPCC) based here has launched a new study this month of the economic benefits and enhanced supply chain visibility that can be achieved through RFID technology and multi-use tags in reusable transport packaging.

"We believe that reusable transport packaging - unlike one-way packaging - will be the enabler for the successful integration of RFID technology within the supply chain," said RPCC president David Rodgers, s.v.p. with ORBIS Container Services. "We are confident that our research and multi-phase approach will demonstrate that the use of RFID technology on reusable transport packaging will deliver a positive return on investment."

Rodgers said the study was driven by the need for retailers (such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons, and Target) and consumer packaged goods companies (such as Gillette and Proctor & Gamble), plus governmental agencies (Department of Defense, among others) to track items as they move through the supply chain. Enhanced tracking of location, condition, and status of assets would help companies streamline their supply chain processes, increase asset utilization, and reduce waste. It would also address security concerns.

Although the momentum is growing among supply chain participants to use the technology, RFID is very costly for one-way packaging. However, it is anticipated that multi-use tags with reusable packaging will deliver a significant economic return.

In the first phase of the project, RPCC will work with PolyGait-RFID Research and Development Laboratory at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. Leading researchers will test the durability of EPC-compliant, Gen 2 RFID tags to determine whether the tags will survive a longer use cycle. In the second phase, the RPCC will develop an economic model for integrating RFID tags with reusable transport packaging. Quality Logistics Management (QLM), an EPCglobal-certified Solutions Provider will oversee the study, collect and analyze the data, and present an industry white paper with the results.

Upon successful completion of the first two phases, RPCC will conduct a field test this fall with approximately 1,500 RFID-enabled returnable containers. The RPCC plans to conduct the pilot with a producer/shipper of perishable goods, a major retailer, and other key players in the supply chain. Because perishables are shipped under demanding conditions, a successful field test with perishables will be convincing evidence of the feasibility of using RFID technology with reusable transport packaging in a wide range of other industries, including automotive, beverage, pharmaceutical, etc.

"Reusable transport packaging has proven time and again to reduce costs and deliver efficiencies throughout the supply chain," said Rodgers. "When this field study is completed, the business case for the use of reusable transport packaging will be further confirmed."

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