Logistics value of using tracking data from uniquely labelled goods

Abstract: Managing material flows along a supply chain is a complex matter involving a great many interfaces both between activities and between actors. Integration of material flows may smooth the interfaces and thus also the potential errors and delays in the material flows. The potential to obtain such integration is facilitated by recent developments in identification technologies, particularly RFID technology. Such identification technologies create the opportunity to uniquely identify items leading to improved control of products and goods through tracking. The purpose of this thesis is to extend the logistics knowledge base in academia and practice regarding the logistics value and its dependent mechanisms of using real-time tracking data from unique identities. A multi-methodological approach involving two major literature reviews, two case studies and a survey is used. The first case study provides details of an interorganisational implementation process of RFID technology, i.e. exploring logistics value, challenges and dependent mechanisms when unique identities are implemented in part of a supply chain. The second case study focuses on a distribution system of uniquely labelled containers involving several actors and modes of transport. It provides tangible details of the potential impact of tracking data on material flow control, and illustrates where in the distribution system specific points of impact are obtained. The survey investigates drivers behind the adoption of unique identities, perceived improvements, and mechanisms determining improvements in Swedish manufacturing industries. The conclusions are that utilisation of tracking data from unique identities can provide logistics value in terms of improved supply chain integration and logistics performance. The thesis presents empirical links between drivers for adopting unique identities and the level of integration obtained, which, in turn, is linked to logistics performance. The thesis also explains mechanisms determining such value in terms of attributes of the tracking system, identification technologies, use and sharing of tracking data, and implementation concerns. Furthermore, it presents an analytical structure addressing the logistics value of using tracking data for material flow control purposes, and a framework for designing a logistical RFID technology system. To extend and complement these findings, the thesis presents future research opportunities in five areas.