technology

Here is a quick guide to EPC, RFID, GDSN. 1Sync, EDI, GS1 and GS1US. As a supplier in the homegoods industry, you may have been contacted by retailers who request that you make technology investments to improve the performance of the supply chain.


electronic product code (EPC)

Definition:

The Electronic Product Code (EPC) is a globally unique serial number that identifies an item in the supply chain. It is an evolution on the UPC number, but has a far greater potential for number combinations that expands the total quantity of unique numbers in the system. The EPC is divided into numbers that identify the manufacturer, product, version and serial number. But, the EPC uses an extra set of digits, a serial number, to identify unique items.

EPC numbers are issued once a company becomes a member of EPCglobal Inc.

How the Technology is Being Used:

EPC numbers are being used within the EPCglobal Network. The EPCglobal Network is a system of identification and sharing of data among computers, using the Internet, to obtain different pieces of information about the product in the supply chain.

The EPC number and its related Network were conceived by the Auto-ID Center (now known as Auto-ID Labs) at MIT. The system uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to transmit the EPC number from its label, through the airwaves, to a reader, then to a computer.

Online Resources of Information:

EPCglobal Inc. - for information on the standards body and sponsored events

Auto-ID Labs - for research and archived white papers

Technology Suppliers:

None


radio frequency identification (RFID)

Definition:

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the mechanism used to get the Electronic Product Code (EPC), which is embedded in a computer chip, from the label on the pallet/carton to a computer. It uses radio frequency signals to identify the electronic number as the pallet/carton passes through and magnetic field.

A line-of-site to the label is not necessary to transfer the EPC to a computer as is necessary with the scanning of a UPC bar code.

How the Technology is Being Used:

Founders of EPC technology at MIT used RFID to transmit the number to a computer as part of their project launched with major suppliers and retailers. Organizations such as Wal-Mart, Gillette and the U.S. Department of Defense were all interested in how this new technology could be used to eliminate cost and errors in the supply chain.

Mandates have been issued by many of these organizations that suppliers must comply with this type of labeling scheme by certain dates. Many of these organizations have said that their current plans are to use the technology in the back room to improve their efficiencies without taking the technology to the store shelves and ultimately to their POS yet.

Online Resources of Information:

RFID Journal - for current news on the topic

RFID Solutions Online

Wal-Mart and RFID Technology (YouTube video)

Technology Suppliers:

Intermec

ODIN Technologies


global data synchronization network (GDSN)

Definition:

The Global Data Synchronization Network is the vehicle to exchange supply chain data that is accurate, up-to-date, and compliant with globally supported EAN/UCC system standards. The network provides timely distribution of standardized traceable product and company data from a manufacturer to a retailer, by pre-qualifying data through one of many data pools. A data pool is a regional source of a manufacturer or retailer's data. Individual data pools connect to the master Global Registry that is the global gateway of information exchange, operated by GS1 (formally known as EAN International).

How the Technology is Being Used:

The Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) is used to eliminate costly data errors when exchanging data with trading partners. It also eliminates the possibility of out dated and inaccurate data. Similar to EPC/RFID, many retailers are mandating that suppliers use Data Synchronization to exchange data with them. Larger suppliers have purchased computer systems to communicate directly with the Global Registry and skip the use of data pools. Smaller supplier organizations may find that the use of data pools is a more cost effective solution with little or no impact on their current back-end computer systems.

Online Resources of Information:

GS1, formerly EAN International (EAN), can be accessed for more information on GDSN.
What is the GDSN? (YouTube video)

Technology Suppliers:

One of the most popular data pool service providers is 1Sync. Other data pool providers can be found by clicking here.

Solution provider offering data synchronization tools and services for mid-size and smaller organizations:

Edict Systems


electronic data interchange (EDI)

Definition:

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of structured information, by agreed message standards, from one computer application to another by electronic means and with a minimum of human intervention. There are various standards used within EDI including EDIFACT which is the only international standard and is predominant in all areas outside of North America; ANSI ASC X12 (or just X12) and the Uniform Communication Standard (UCS) that are popular in North America and are very similar to each other.

How the Technology is Being Used:

Retailers and suppliers (aka trading partners) use EDI to conduct business. Examples of the types of documents transmitted through EDI include a Request for Quotation, Purchase Order, Purchase Order Acknowledgment, Purchase Order Change, Invoice, Functional Acknowledgement and Remittance Advice.

Online Resources of Information:

Edict Systems - Provider for Small and Mid-Sized Organizations
GS1