New RFID Tools Stress Ease, Savings

Software vendors are rolling out a slew of new offerings designed to help manufacturers and suppliers get up and running quickly with RFID programs, while recouping some of their investments.

With the use of RFID technology taking hold in the enterprise, software vendors are rolling out a slew of new offerings designed to help manufacturers and suppliers get up and running quickly with radio-frequency identification programs, while recouping some of their investments.

At last weeks RFID Journal Live conference in Chicago, supply chain management and optimization software developer Manhattan Associates Inc., based in Atlanta, announced the next iteration of its EPC Manager RFID integration platform, part of its RFID in a Box program; Catalyst International Inc. unveiled a new "slap-and-ship" suite of products; and OATSystems Inc., which provides RFID framework software, released a return-on-investment program that includes new technology and services.

Other vendors took more of a comprehensive approach. SeeBeyond Technology Corp., of Monrovia, Calif., and ConnecTerra Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., announced they will jointly develop an RFID composite application framework for building and deploying RFID applications and infrastructure. The alliance will tap See-Beyonds Integrated Composite Application Network Suite and ConnecTerras RFID infrastructure software. And Sybase Inc. announced an entirely new RFID infrastructure, RFID Enterprise, geared toward helping users collect, track and integrate RFID data and develop RFID-based applications.

Components of the RFID Enterprise platform include RFID Edgeware, which provides the interface and systems management for RFID devices such as readers, bar-code scanners and printers. An RFID open database schema and persistence layer component automates RFID data loading to a Microsoft Corp. SQL Server database and provides an RFID database schema for contextual data. An RFID business process, integration and monitoring component provides a visual business process development environment that includes mapping and monitoring capabilities. Lastly, an RFID reporting tool lets users create predefined and custom reports.

The enhancements to Manhattan Associates EPC Manager, on the other hand, home in on inventory capabilities. The upgraded software adds centralized track-and-trace capabilities, inbound and outbound order and container validation, and more support for compliance requirements using XML-based configuration, officials said.

EPC Manager enables users to capture, validate and track EPC (Electronic Product Code) data.

David Silva, manager of business applications at Ballantine Produce Co., is implementing the latest version of Manhattans warehouse management system that includes the EPC Manager RFID integration platform.

"[Manhattan] is providing a whole host of inventory options including boxes, bins, inventory of our product," said Silva in Reedley, Calif. "So not only are we utilizing Manhattan for our RFID initiative and getting products out the door to meet retailer mandates, but were also using it to track assets internally."

Catalyst, a supply chain execution software developer, is also taking the quick-implementation route with its RFID-based software. The Milwaukee-based company introduced a handful of RFID QuickStart Kits that help users comply with RFID mandates from big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Brands Inc., as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Department of Defense and RFID.

The kits, which include software, hardware and implementation services, start at about $35,000 and are preconfigured to meet various mandates in different supply chain environments, based on three levels of service. RFIDComply includes RFID device management software, a database license, an RFID reader, an RFID printer and supplies. RFIDConfigure adds 20 days of services, including assessment, planning, system design, transaction mapping and deployment, and three days of case and pallet testing. RFIDComplete adds 45 days of services, three days of case and pallet testing, and a guarantee of meeting RFID standards.

Based on work with companies that have pioneered RFID implementations, OATSystems, in Waltham, Mass., announced its two-phase program to help companies get a return on their investment in RFID technology—an oxymoron in most cases.

Built on OATSystems Oat Foundation Suite 4.5, the companys Comply for ROI includes software, hardware and services and takes the approach of "working backward from the sources of value," officials said. In this respect, Comply for ROI identifies specific SKUs that are likely to provide the most value from RFID tagging—an expensive prospect at this point. From there, the Comply software captures and filters data from readers and creates an EPC manifest that links case and pallet codes with shipments, providing a context for RFID data, and acts as a data element for RFID applications.

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