New technology that tags and tracks inventory and equipment could save manufacturers and retailers billions of dollars each year, according to a report by consulting firm Accenture. The technology, known as auto-ID, is a combination of electronic product codes (EPC) and radio frequency identification (RFID). According to Accenture, auto-ID solutions can dramatically improve production operations, asset utilization, forecasting and inventory accuracy and, ultimately, customer satisfaction by pinpointing the location and status of products as they move through the manufacturing and retail value chain. Their use can also bring significant savings in areas such as inventory and labor costs, the report claims. "Our research found that by 2005, many manufacturers -- especially those in the consumer electronics and grocery sectors -- will be using RFID technology to track products at the pallet and case levels," says Jeff Smith, global managing partner of Accenture's Retail & Consumer Goods practice. The research was published in three white papers: "Auto-ID on the Line," geared to the manufacturing industry; "Auto-ID in the Box: The Value of Auto-ID Technology in Retails Stores"; and "If You Build It, They Will Come: EPC Forum Market-Sizing Analysis." According to "Auto-ID on the Line," manufacturers can dramatically improve production operations, customer satisfaction, profitability and shareholder value. For example, use of auto-ID technology can: increase revenues up to 1% through improved quality and customer service; cut working capital 2% to 8% by reducing the amount of raw materials inventory needed for production as well as the amount of work-in-process and finished goods inventories; and reduce fixed assets 1% to 5% through better maintenance and use of equipment. The research results were published as part of a business case program for the Auto-ID Center, a not-for-profit global research organization comprised of more than 90 companies. Accenture is a board member of the Auto-ID Center.