Oracle’s New App Suite Tackles RFID

Oracle is preparing to release its next major upgrade to the E-Business Suite application suite in the next couple months. It promises more functions tailored to meet specific industry needs.

E-Business Suite 11i.10’s new features were unveiled at Oracle Open World in
London Monday, the biggest update to its application suite since the July
2003 launch of
E-Business Suite 11i.9
. Since that time, the Redwood Shores, Calif.,
software giant has enhanced specific applications within its suite for
11i.10 — namely its supply chain management (SCM) offering in
August
— and plugged numerous security holes in its software.

Oracle has instituted a monthly
patch schedule
— akin to Microsoft’s own system for
fixing bugs — in the wake of numerous vulnerabilities targeting the
E-Business Suite in June and
July.

E-Business Suite’s biggest functionality bump comes in the form of RFID
support within its Warehouse Management application. The
technology, a wireless tagging technology that promises to vastly improve
the supply chain management process, has gotten a lot of attention since
retail giant Wal-Mart mandated
its top 100 suppliers to have pallet-level RFID in place by 2005 and the
rest by 2006.

Oracle boosted its Warehouse Management application to provide improved
inventory control and extended supply chain visibility, a part of the RFID
management process that analysts say software vendors need to focus more
attention. An August study by Forrester Research concluded that RFID
middleware needs to
grow up
and feature a more robust set of capabilities than previously
shown. In addition to Oracle, the report points to competitors like IBM
, Microsoft , SAP , Sun
Microsystems and webMethods .

According to Jonathan Colehower, Oracle’s SCM vice president, that means for
the time being focusing on the area of RFID that’s of the most importance to
manufacturers right now — at the pallet-level or big-cost asset inventory
process, not individual-item consumer packaged goods (CPG) level.

“There’s a huge demand, and when I say huge demand I mean everyone’s
curious, they want to know more,” he said. “I don’t think they really know
how they are going to use it and we have to be very careful when we starting
talking to them about how to use it.”

Oracle is also set to support
out-of-the-box integration and software management RFID capabilities in its
upcoming Oracle Application Server 10, due out in the coming weeks.

Another E-Business Suite 11i.10 add is improved Enterprise Manager 10g Grid
Control integration with its Applications Manager. Officials say the
tighter interaction between the two will decrease the lag time between an
error in a business application and repairing the software, due to the
software’s ability to let IT staffers monitor both the infrastructure and
applications running on the network through a Web portal.

“Companies need comprehensive management tools that provide monitoring,
automation and administration capabilities for the entire technology and
applications stack — enabling companies to not only minimize IT
infrastructure complexity and cost, but also ensure the health of everyday
business processes,” said Gartner analyst Ray Paquet, in a statement.

Other E-Business Suite 11i.10 enhancements new industry-specific items like:

  • manufacturing – scarce inventory allocation, lot/serial receiving,
    better controls for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 21 CFR Part 11
    compliance and an improved channel/partner management dashboard for faster
    communications;

  • health care – iRecruitment improvements to better screen new applicants
    and enhanced par cart management functionality to link health care needs
    with medical supplies

  • public sector – an enhanced Oracle Service module to help with case
    management, as well as new contract and services procurement software.

    While the particular software enhancements are tailored for specific
    industries, Colehower said all the new software features are available to
    any E-Business Suite 11i.10 customer.

    The new contract and services procurement applications in the public sector
    updates were also announced by Oracle officials at Open World in London.
    The two programs, Oracle Procurement Contracts and Oracle Services
    Procurement, tackle the automation of business processes that are
    often-times left out of the loop.

    “Typically, most procurement applications tend to focus on goods and
    materials, not really on services,” Colehower said. “This is a particular
    issue with most organizations, primarily because a good portion of their
    spend is on services, whether it’s for janitorial or temporary/contingent
    labor, and they need to be able to source those services just as they would
    with materials.”

    Oracle’s Procurement Contracts application contains a terms and conditions
    library, contract authoring and contract deliverable and compliance, while
    Services Procurement deals with supplier collaboration, preferred supplier
    management and new service line types. Both fall under the company’s
    Advanced Procurement line, which is made up of Purchasing, iProcurement,
    iSupplier Portal, Sourcing and Daily Business Intelligence.

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