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In comparison to the well known and widely used UPC bar codes, that offer generic object-level visibility, RFID tags, also referred to as the ePCs: electronic product codes with a 96-bit identification method, offer unique, item level visibility throughout the entire local and global supply chain. This is because UPC codes are typically product and manufacturer specific, whereas RFID codes are generic, truly unique IDs. This is why RFID technologies with the appropriate information systems and information technology (IS/IT) infrastructure help both major distributors and manufacturers, as well as other logistics operations, such as the electronic manufacturing industries, defense industries, automotive, pharmaceutical industries, and others, dealing with complex, global supply chains in which products and product manufacture, assembly and shipments must be traced and identified in a non-contact, wireless fashion. Engineering management is collaborating with IS/IT professionals to model and integrate RFID-related information systems engineering requirements into computer networks, because of reducing cost, increasing security, or safety, or because parts are subject to corrosion, or food/medicine is subject to quality degradation, or other reasons. All of these requirements point to an automated, wireless-readable sensory-based identification method, and network, that offers more functionalities and is significantly 'smarter' than the well known bar code or the unified product code (UPC). RFIDs are available as passive and/or active radio read/write sensor-packages with active read (and often write) capabilities in relatively large areas (like a large distribution center warehouse, or a containership), all performed automatically, supervised by computers and communicated in a wireless fashion over secure intranets. The attraction to an engineering management-focused supply chain manager is that when the RFID network is integrated with the factories' material resou- rce IT management systems, accurate information can be obtained on all tagged parts in close to real-time, throughout the entire supply-chain. This can include the globally distributed factories, as well as information about parts and assemblies during shipment, including in-transit. This is why RFID represents great research, technology, as well as huge business opportunities. In this paper we introduce some of the most important engineering management information system modeling principles, challenges and solutions, that RFID researchers, implementers and users should keep in mind when developing such systems, and/or planning for such applications.
Date of Publication: Second Quarter 2007