RFID Mandates Spur Industry Action

Companies offer new tools to simplify supply chain automation.

Integration software developers are introducing new ways to help manufacturers associate RFID data with products, then tie that information into back-end systems and EPCglobal Inc.s standardized network.

To help companies meet mandates from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Department of Defense, Global Exchange Services Inc. is working on products, due next year, that will enable users to make radio-frequency identification tag information available to the supply chain network.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to find out how Wal-Marts RFID pilot is going.

"Connectivity [to internal systems and the EPCglobal network] is essential," said Gerald Darsch, director of combat feeding at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, in Natick, Mass. "Without it, you dont have much of anything. If you cant get the zeros and ones [in the EPCglobal RFID code] to somehow integrate into the AIS [automated information system], you really havent accomplished much of anything."

Darsch conducted an RFID pilot as one of the early RFID proofs of concept for the DOD, which will require suppliers to use RFID on portions of their inventory by January.

GXS, of Gaithersburg, Md., will support the transfer of EPCglobal-related data through its business-to-business e-commerce network. The company is working to combine its integration software and services with advanced shipping and order fulfillment capabilities at the transaction layer to provide better information availability.

Sterling Commerce Inc., meanwhile, announced last week it has joined EPCglobal, of Lawrenceville, N.J., to help guide standards development for RFID, which Sterling will integrate into its product portfolio.

The Dublin, Ohio, company is working to enable RFID data to interact with integration software inside and outside an enterprise. The company plans to integrate EPCglobals RFID standards into its data synchronization software by years end.

WebMethods Inc., on the other hand, this month will announce Version 2.0 of its RFID Starter Kit, which provides direct connectivity to the EPCglobal network so that users can better access and use supply chain data stored there, according to company officials in Fairfax, Va. The kit includes integration with ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, warehouse management systems and databases, as well as a business process template for an RFID process implementation.

Although the mandates from Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., and the DOD are driving RFID projects now, wide adoption is still a ways off.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCongress is considering RFID legislation to address privacy concerns. Click here to read the full story.

That possibility is raising red flags among privacy rights advocates and sparking debate in Congress, which last week heard calls for legislative action to protect privacy.

"Its really anywhere from six months to two years before companies start to embark on [RFID] pilots, so this is critical," said Jim Hendrickson, vice president of strategy and corporate development at Sterling. "Finding an ROI [return on investment] for manufacturers is a difficult prospect. Most companies are looking at the horizon for the use of RFID in a three- to five-year time frame."

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