AutoID technologies do much more than improve supply chain performance, says J. Craig Casto, global leader of the AutoID Expertise Center at the Dow Chemical Company. They provide a wide range of big business benefits.
Because there's a "uniqueness" about each of Dow's many products, determining just which technology to use is one of the biggest supply chain issues the company faces. Whether the solution calls for RFID, bar codes or GPS devices - or some kind of combination - turns on a number of factors. But in every case, of course, the choice of autoID technology has to accord with corporate strategies and goals on supply chain safety and security, and on compliance issues.
Oddly enough, Casto says, that means the approach to technology is "technology-agnostic." What's chosen must be what best benefits the individual deployment. For example, tracking small bottles of chemicals, such as pesticides, may call for use of RFID tags or bar codes in certain shipments; if they are moved by railcar, however, GPS is likely to be called for.
Multiple technologies are not at all unusual in intermodal shipments, but regardless of the number of technologies used, keeping track of the information generated is a challenge, says Casto. Consequently, Dow has integrated all of its tracking solutions into a central site that has a rules engine built into it, and that can receive alerts from any system. For example, sensors that monitor railcar domes immediately send alerts to the central information hub if a dome is opened during transit.
Casto says the benefits of autoID technology are felt well beyond the supply chain. Operational benefits include better management of demurrage costs and much better utilization of company fleets, often resulting in a reduction of units in those fleets.
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