As radio frequency identification usage continues to increase, and the technology continues to make its way into headlines, we’ve noticed a growing trend in the application of DoD labels and DoD RFID tags. Specifically, RFID is being implemented as an inventory-tracking tool. We’ve previously blogged about clothing retailers, grocery stores and other corporations utilizing tags and readers to control their inventory on an individual level (here, and here). These item-level RFID solutions that offer tracking looks to be the future of product management because it allows singular assets to be tracked with identification exclusive to those items. Whether it be a pair of shoes or a t-shirt, more and more retailers are using RF solutions to keep track of how much inventory they have, and where that inventory is located at any given time during its lifetime.

A recent article in RFID Journal announced the integration of item-level tracking to manage uniforms at the Fort Leonard Wood Recruit Training Center. The article specifically discusses the training center’s use of tags and readers when ordering uniform items from the DLA. With the exception of low-cost items such as socks, all assets are individual tagged and tracked to ensure orders to the training center are both accurate and efficiently filled. Once on site, the tags allow individual trainees to pack duffle bags with necessary uniform items. Readers placed at a checkout counter ensure that the trainees have all necessary items before they depart. It’s a solution that makes managing tens of thousands of individual assets possible.

Despite the timeliness of the article, item-level radio frequency identification isn’t a new technology. Another article written in RFID Journal focused on our Odyssey defense commerce solution software being used at Wellco, a manufacturer of combat boots that provides assets to the U.S. Air Force. This article, written in 2013, describes the process of tags being affixed to individual pairs of boots before being loaded onto cartons that are also given tags. These carton tags are married to the individual Item tags on each pair of boots that comprise the carton through a process called aggregation. Cartons are then placed on pallets at the tune of about 16 cartons per pallet. You can probably guess the next step. An RFID label is then attached to the pallet and married to all the tags contained within that pallet. The boots can then easily be shipped in bulk while allowing workers to track them on an individual level once they arrive at their destination.

Wellco’s item-level integration came as a necessity in early 2012 when the DoD requested tags on every pair of boots. So while the change was a necessity, the DoD knew what they were doing asking them to switch to this system. Previously, Wellco, and similar suppliers, would need to both receive and fill orders manually, electronically entering the data. With the sheer volume of boots moving at any given time, manual tracking welcomed the opportunity for errors, some requiring significant amounts of time to locate and rectify. By utilizing Odyssey’s cloud based software platform, along with RF tags and readers, the entire operation’s efficiency increased significantly.

While Odyssey exclusively operates within the defense industry, we recognized that the benefits of item level tracking via radio frequency identification are far-reaching. We live in a connected world, one where people and assets can be moved to different continents in mere hours. Because of this connectivity, both DoD suppliers and retailers are in positions to move massive amounts of inventory to locations all around the world. By using passive RF technology that inventory is assured to arrive in its accurate physical and corresponding data entirety (barring an external incident during the shipping process), in a manner that takes human error out of the equation. As the popularity of the technology continues to grow, we foresee more companies seeing the benefits of RFID for internal purposes and integrating it into their own asset/property management functions. We’re excited to be among the pioneers of this growth as organizations begin to reverse the current positive externalities associated with radio frequency identification.