- RFID and Auto-ID in Planning and Logistics: A Practical Guide for Military UID Application
Looking at business innovations, it is difficult to imagine technologies evolving faster than those that identify, categorize, and wirelessly communicate accurate information between trading partners. Describing these technologies at a fixed moment in time and remaining relevant is a daunting task. This book undertakes that challenge and then applies that technology to the military sector.
Military identification applications are themselves a vast and highly evolving area of interest, one that is moving closer to commercial practices. As the line between military or civilian applications blurs, the uniqueness of military RFID solutions diminishes and what becomes necessary is an understanding of how to leverage these technologies, regardless of the actual application. Along this line of reasoning, this book scores both hits and misses, and like most military engagements, the outcome appears to be somewhat less than what was expected going in.
Organized into seven major sections, the text first introduces military logistics from ancient armies to current US operations. Although a somewhat interesting read, there is no common theme focusing the reader on the importance of item identification or tracking. What does become clear is the breadth and depth of logistical issues inherent in military operations. Standard US and NATO forces identification schemes are discussed for both the item and container level. But there is no mention of the ongoing discussions to develop more widely accepted commercially based identification strategies, an initiative surfacing as a result of current US combat actions and increased RFID capabilities.
Subsequent sections focus on the technical aspects of RFID and auto identification. The authors describe in detail automated information technologies and the various hardware and software components required for active or passive RFID applications. The text then examines the existing interoperability protocols and standards required for successful data communications. Although rich in technical data, the work contains several [End Page 258] errors consistent with the first edition that potentially may frustrate the reader: descriptions of hardware, protocols, or procedures are somewhat sparse or at best refer the reader to a secondary reference or government standard. The occasional proofreading omissions and topic organization also make the text difficult to follow.
A key element of the book is the section on RFID implementation, which includes chapters on project management; system design; strategic, intermediate, and tactical planning; and the actual system implementation. A discussion on post-implementation evaluation contains a case study on inventory carrying cost reductions.
Case study methodology is also used to illustrate logistics planning and inventory control beginning with a discussion of RFID engineering economics. Although this path seems promising, the focus on RFID is lost amid the authors’ discussions of forecasting methods, manpower planning, production planning and scheduling, inventory management theory, and transportation management.
The concluding sections of the book focus on RFID and military applications. Although numerous applications are illustrated, one would have expected a major emphasis on RFID for total asset visibility and in-transit visibility—as demonstrated in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. A key issue not discussed—the hot button among today’s military logistics planners—is the role of RFID in tracking product to the individual user, or in military speak, “maintaining visibility in the last tactical mile.”
As an RFID reference for engineers, an academic text for students, or a user’s guide for operational logisticians, the evolving scope of RFID and the expansive audience may be too great to address adequately in a single volume. The evolving technologies create a perishable information source above discussion of the basics. At times, the book lacks sufficiently detailed explanations, forces the reader to search out source documents, or strays too far from its intended RFID focus. For the logistician, the text contains excellent overviews of current technologies but misses the breadth and depth of military application detail required to make it a true “must have” guide. [End Page 259]