Sun Tags CPGs For RFID

Sun Microsystems announced a new architecture for radio frequency identification (RFID) applications targeted toward consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers.

CPG companies were under the gun to begin using RFID technology to track shipments to their major customers. Jan. 1, 2005, deadlines were mandated by Wal-Mart , Target Stores, Albertsons and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Now that the deadline is past, the RFID industry hopes CPG manufacturers will take the next steps to derive internal benefits from the technology, such as better warehouse management and automating the advance shipment notification process.

The manufacturer-specific architecture, announced at the RFID World 2005 Conference, demonstrates a proof-of-concept deployment architecture that has been designed, tested, tuned and documented.

“We’re telling customers we have the expertise to build the solution you’re looking for, and we’ve already done all the complex part at our end,” said Vivek Khandelwal, Sun senior product manager.

The industry solution architecture (ISA) is designed to help Sun’s RFID services consultants enable manufacturers to move beyond slap-and-ship tagging and integrate the information available from automatic tracking of goods through the supply chain into their business processes.

The RFID ISA for Manufacturing offers detailed guidelines to help manufacturers build an end-to-end RFID application, specifying all the hardware and software needed for warehouse management and shipping notification. The architecture specifies Sun Java System RFID software, Provia Software’s ViaWare Warehouse Management System, a Printronix RFID printer, an RFID reader and integration middleware.

Replacing paper manifests and hand scanning of barcodes with RFID in the warehouse can increase efficiency and reduce error, Khandelwal said, especially in the area of advance shipping notification.

“When you have RFID enabled, as you load the shipment onto a truck, you know exactly what has gone on it, with very little error,” he said. “If there is an error, when you compare it against the purchase order, you’ll know it upfront.”

Sun has worked with these vendors to make sure their products interoperate successfully, Khandelwal said. At the customer’s location, the Sun RFID services team will use the ISA as a guideline to speed the implementation of RFID while instituting the best practices identified by Sun.

Khandelwal noted that all components are standards-based and employ standard interfaces, so that customers can swap out or add other components. The ISA supports integration with other enterprise software, such as enterprise resource planning and supply chain management systems.

Sun will release ISAs for other vertical markets, including government, pharmaceutical and retail. In February 2004, Sun and partner Supplyscape stated its intent to release a Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeit RFID Package. In January 2005, it announced a similar ISA targeted toward retail.

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