Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Bridging the Gap between RFID/EPC Concepts, Technological Requirements and Supply Chain E-Business Processes

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Bridging the Gap between RFID/EPC Concepts, Technological Requirements and Supply Chain E-Business Processes

Article excerpt


Supply chain pressures have caused some firms to reexamine their processes. In doing so, firms are exploring emerging technology such as RFID to enable seamless exchange of information within their supply chain. While RFID promised to "revolutionize" the way business processes are managed today, the impact and benefits of the technology are still unclear and ambiguous concepts such as "intelligent products", "smart supply chains" or "the internet of things" are still creating confusion within potential adopters. In this paper an attempt is made to (i) clarify the ambiguity surrounding RFID vs. other AIDC and IOS technologies such as the EPC Network (ii) specify the technology readiness & IT related requirements of actual and emerging applications, and (iii) propose a framework to highlight how the technology can be used to support RFID/EPC enabled ecommerce processes and support practitioners and academicians in assessing the impact of RFID on electronic supply chain business processes.

Key words: Supply Chain Management, Electronic Product Code, RFID, Electronic Commerce, Ubiquitous Commerce

1 Introduction

Pressures to reduce supply chain costs, shrinking margins requirements for optimizing working capital, escalating service demand, increased risk exposure (security, environmental, financial instability), and the rise in business/multi channel complexity are some of the reasons why a number of firms have reexamined their supply chain management (SCM) processes in the last few years [78], [66].

In doing so, the focus on business improvement has moved from the single firm to consider the entire supply chain. In this context, emerging technologies such as RFID & the EPC Network have been at the storefront to "revolutionize" the way business processes are now managed. The initial idea behind these technologies is to facilitate information capture, access and sharing, and to improve physical flow coordination, therefore allowing firms to move from a traditional supply chain model to a more integrated and synchronized supply chain model [9].

Since 2005, short after mandates to adopt the technology have been required by major prime contractors such as Wal-Mart and the US DOD, RFID technology has attracted the interest of the academic community. Since then, apart from the increasing number of papers being published on the subject, various special issues have contributed to explain technological and business aspects related to its adoption [19], [21], [25], [31], [36], [47], [52], [69], [71], [72] [79]. Among them, in its April 2008 issue (Volume 3, no. 1), Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research published a special issue on "RFID and Supply Chain Management" [18]. This paper is in line with this previous work and contributes to remove some remaining ambiguity from the subject, which is especially relevant since the literature on RFID applications in supply chains is still limited [67] .

In reality, despite the fact that RFID technology has been coined as the "next big thing in management" [84], and identified as "one of the ten greatest contributory technologies of the 21st century" [16], its early adoption has been plagued with numerous and complex issues such as technological uncertainties, lack of software applications, back end integration issues with Enterprise Information Systems (EIS), expensive software and services, data management challenges, lack of foreseeable benefits and unclear ROI for SCM applications, global standards issues and finally competition with established dominant designs (e.g. bar code) [12], [24], [77], [46], [83]. Although most of these challenges have been addressed, the RFID adoption process suffered from its early "over promising reputation". Accordingly, in 2009, Gartner research released its "technology Hype Cycle" [32], as a graphical way to track multiple technologies within an IT domain or technology portfolio. …

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