Postprint version. Published in Packaging Technology and Science, Volume 21, Issue 2, March 1, 2008, pages 91-102.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a term used for any device that can be sensed at a distance by radio frequencies with few problems of obstruction. The origins of the term lie in the invention of tags that reflect or retransmit a radiofrequency signal. According to a recent article by Forrester Research, the minimal ‘Slap and Ship’ approach to RFID compliance will cost an individual company between $2 million and $20 million. Because retailers like Wal-Mart plan to share with their suppliers all the RFID-generated data points (from when a case/pallet enters their distribution centre until it leaves their stockroom), suppliers will eventually be able to use this data as a powerful forecasting tool. RFID is an enabling technology that can potentially facilitate a real-time, end-to-end supply chain visibility system. Suppliers who integrate full-scale RFID systems will realize efficiencies in time, material movement, inventory planning, shipping and warehousing both internally and externally. This paper provides a brief overview of the RFID technology, mandates by retailers and federal agencies, advances towards global standardization and typical consumer level RFID applications, and discusses RFID initiatives taken by some of the global leaders in apparel, consumer goods and fresh produce industries.