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DoD Wants YOUR RFID Shipments: 5 Steps to Compliance

Related Topics:
Military RFID - RFID Tags - Passive RFID

Scott Decker
ODIN technologies

Well, it’s finally here. DoD suppliers are now being asked to ship items that include RFID tags. While the proclamations from 2003 and 2004 wound up in a series of predictable government delays, in 2006 RFID is here. Since November DFARs language has been creeping into DoD contracts. The expectation? Suppliers must apply RFID tags to pallets and cases of select items and forward advance ship notices (ASN) to DoD including the order and RFID data.

Bret Kinsella
ODIN technologies


How are you going to ensure you can apply RFID into your shipping and wide area workflow procedures (WAWF)? If you are just planning your RFID deployment now, you are in luck.Others such as GTSI have already paved the way and provided a road map for successful RFID compliance.

Why a DoD RFID Mandate
The DoD issued the RFID mandate to optimize its supply chain and improve its ability to support the warfighter. Throughout history, providing a robust supply line to military forces in the field has been a critical element of military success – and a significant challenge. The utilization of RFID tags reflects a move to improve asset visibility within the DoD supply chain. This will facilitate better and quicker decision making in the field and reduce material handling time.

The DoD Gets Serious
While the DoD is about 18 months behind its original roll out schedule, it has an aggressive plan in place to outfit all continental United States (CONUS) facilities by the fall. And, the two largest distribution depots already have RFID capabilities today and will be Gen 2 ready shortly. New contracts are already beingmodified to include the RFID requirement. For many DoD suppliers, RFID compliance is a matter business continuity. If you want the business, you better have the tags.

Where to start
Forty thousand US Department of Defense (DoD) suppliers are wondering how the new RFID mandate will affect them and more importantly, where to start. DoD recently spelled out the technical aspects of the mandate, but most suppliers want and need to know more to get ready.

There are five steps to DoD RFID compliance:

  1. Know how the mandate affects you

  2. Design the right process

  3. Design the system for high read rates

  4. Select the right middleware

  5. Enable RFID data in ASNs

Step 1: know how the mandate affects you
The mandate covers both active and passive RFID. However, the active RFID requirement only applies to shipping container quantities destined for bases outside the United States (OCONUS). By far the biggest impact to DoD suppliers will be the requirement for passive RFID on case and pallet level shipments in 2006. UID items will also require tags at the unit level starting in 2007. Key passive RFID requirements include:

  • EPC or DoD tag data formats

  • Contractual obligation for suppliers to apply tags

  • EPC compliant UHF(902-928 MHz) RFID tags of Generation 1 Class 0, 1 or Generation 2 Class 1

  • Inclusion of RFID tag information on the supplier ASN

  • Transmission of the ASN in acceptable format via WAWF

The key exceptions to the mandate are bulk commodities such as sand, gravel, bulk liquids (water, chemical, petroleum), ready mix concrete, coal or other combustibles, and agricultural products such as seed grains and animal feeds.

Included Not Included
Active Tags Passive Tags No Tags Required

• Shipping containers

• Unit movement


• Ammunition

• Pre-positioned materials


• Everything else at the

pallet and exterior

container (case) level

• UID items will require

tags at the unit pack

level in 2007


• sand

• gravel

• bulk liquids (water,

chemical, petroleum)

• ready mix concrete

• coal or other


• agricultural products such

as seed grains and

animal feeds


Step 2: design the right process
If anyone suggests that you can implement RFID without changing your processes, you can be

sure they don’t have much experience. If you are not tagging product today, then you clearly need to add processes to apply and verify tags and generate the required ASN data. A key objective should be to design an RFID process which is complementary to your existing material flows. At GTSI, the RFID tagging and verification processes were seamlessly integrated into existing QC checks. RFID technology ultimately should support your business objectives and processes and not the other way around.


Step 3: design the system for high read rates

The first point of success or failure in any RFID system is tag and reader communication. If the reader cannot hear the tag the whole system fails to generate accurate data. Radio frequency physics is different from product to product and location to location and has a direct impact on read rate performance. Because of this, no single tag or reader will work for every situation. RFID system performance is heavily dependent choosing the right tags and readers and then scientifically tuning the reader interrogation zone. How do you do this? You can leverage software tools such as Trifecta and RFID Deployment Manager to take scientific measurements of radio wave propagation to select the right tools and expertly tune reader set-ups. While this goal is nearly impossible through trial and error testing, it is fairly straightforward with the right set of tools. Get the physics of the readers and tags right and your RFID system can achieve 100% read rates. 


Step 4: select the right RFID middleware software 

Not all RFID middleware is created equal. RFID middleware is software that manages RFID readers, collects data, enables business rules and workflows and moves data between the readers and enterprise software systems such as ERP. Some middleware packages are far more mature and flexible with custom workflows while others excel in data integration. No one package does it all today. The market is as fragmented as the product feature list.


In every case, you will need some sort of Middleware to integrate with your order management system and to manage and commission electronic product code (EPC) numbers. There are many options for RFID Middleware today. Be prepared to carefully detail your process, systems and user interface requirements so you can effectively compare vendors. Once your readers are properly installed, the middleware will be your control panel for the RFID system.


Step 5: generate the ASN (advance shipping notice)

An Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) is required for every DoD RFID shipment. ASNs should be nothing new to DoD suppliers. They are a required component of the Wide Area Work Flow (WAWF) specifications and require suppliers to send order and shipment data electronically when the shipment leaves the supplier’s dock door. For RFID shipments, the ASN will also require RFID tag numbers associated with the order.


The ASN is an often overlooked aspect of many DoD compliance discussions. If the ASN is not sent, then DoD’s RFID readers have no context for the incoming shipment. It is the linkage of the order data with the EPC data sent ahead to DoD that can make the receiving and receipt verification process seamless and inventory tracking possible.


Time to Get Started – get your plan in place

When GTSI and ODIN technologies first started along the DoD compliance path, it was critical to GTSI that is become one of the first to comply. However, GTSI also wanted to ensure that it was designing a compliant and scalable system. By following the five steps above, you can quickly kick-off your RFID project and begin tending to the most critical elements that will determine your compliance project success. The time to start is now. Your competitors already have.




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