SAP, Intermec Form RFID Alliance to Aid SMBs

A joint offering aims to help small businesses meet retailers' RFID mandates.

With the intent of weakening the suspected blow of radio-frequency identification mandates for small and midsize businesses, SAP AG announced Tuesday an alliance with Intermec Technologies Corp. that will provide a basic starting point for smaller companies to implement RFID pilot programs.

Intermec develops automatic data collection hardware including RFID readers and scanners. Over the past year the company has been working with large manufacturers to help them comply with RFID mandates from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Albertsons Inc. that required some inventory to be labeled with RFID tags by 2005. Those mandates, and others from "big box" retailers, are expected to impact smaller manufacturers in the future.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about other retailers considering RFID mandates.

"A lot of SMBs are scared of [RFID] technology—they thought they would have to have a consultant come in and set something up," said Dan Kraus, vice president of SAP Business One, which provides a suite of applications for SMBs. "Were saying, start small and add. What SAP brings to the table is were able to look at best practices and say, SMBs, this is coming toward you, lets help you figure out how to get to it."

The combined SAP Business One and Intermec offering provides integrated ADC (automatic data collection) tools interfaced into SAPs Business One suite.

Through Intermecs EasyADC for SAP Business One platform, users will have the ability to perform basic RFID functions including collecting and managing data from bar codes; printing bar codes; and automating inventory tracking, shipping and receiving.

The hardware package includes two handheld terminals, an integrated radio and scanner, and a bar-code printer.

Later in the year SAP plans to come out with an RFID starter kit for SMBs that includes the next generation of RFID readers that incorporate the Gen 2 standard, expected on the market this spring, and the ability to upgrade the bar-code printer to print RFID tags.

"SMBs are ready to do bar-code data collection, but theyre very confused about RFID and are waiting for a leader," said Kraus. "Were at the right time to start educating."

To better educate SMBs about RFID challenges, SAP also announced Tuesday that it is joining APICS (Association for Operations Management), Intermec, American Express Tax and Business Services Inc., and fourth Shift—which has developed an RFID implementation model—in a group set up to identify issues for SMBs and provide some guidance. The group plans to develop educational materials and RFID road maps, among other initiatives.

Intermec has a similar agreement with Microsoft Corp. to integrate its hardware into Microsofts applications. Microsoft has four separate ERP (enterprise resource planning) suites geared toward SMBs.

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