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SAP, OAT Provide Way to Link Platforms
With help from Kimberly-Clark, the RFID vendors developed software to connect their platforms and integrate RFID data across a company's business applications.
Jun 08, 2005—Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor SAP and RFID software developer OATSystems announced today that they, with the assistance of Kimberly-Clark, have developed interfaces between SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure (AII) and OATSystem's Foundation Suite.
Kimberly-Clark, one of Wal-Mart's top suppliers and one of the earliest adopters of RFID technology, brought the two companies together six months ago to help them develop interfaces between AII and the OAT Foundation Suite. The company’s goal was to ensure that it and other companies using the vendors' platforms would not be required to develop their own custom software. Those interfaces are now available to users of AII and the OAT Foundation Suite for no additional fees as application programming interfaces (APIs).
Mike O'Shea, director of auto-ID sensing technology for Kimberly-Clark, says the interfaces will reduce his firm's cost of ownership of the two platforms by avoiding the expense of creating custom interfaces, and improve its ability to integrate RFID data with its business applications. "We are pleased to help shape this joint SAP-OAT offering and hope other companies will find it as valuable as we do," he said in a statement.
Kimberly-Clark is using Foundation Suite, OATSystem's set of RFID middleware, to print EPC labels and AII to generate EPC numbers for shipments, commission EPC tags and integrate RFID data into its R3 ERP software.
"Kimberly-Clark brought SAP and OAT to the table and asked them to work together to create the productized interface. Kimberly-Clark was instrumental in developing the interface and should really be commended," says Marc Osofsky, OAT's vice president of marketing and products. Kimberly-Clark told the two companies how it wanted to use the platforms and provided a structure for the interfaces.
The AII platform can be used alone or in combination with the OAT Foundation Suite or other middleware, according to SAP's RFID solution director, Dave Marzouk. But when a SAP customer is already working with RFID device management software from another provider, such as OAT, that customer often wants to retain its RFID middleware and link the SAP AII infrastructure to that middleware. This was the case with Kimberly-Clark, and many other end users might want a similar setup.
"We have more than 50 customers, and dozens of them are SAP ERP shops," says Osofsky.
Marzouk says this is not the first time SAP has been involved in creating interfaces between its AII layer and another RFID device management platform. "We have partnerships with Acsis, ConnecTerra, PEAK Technologies, OAT and Sun Microsystems," he remarks, "and we are also in discussions with a number of other [RFID vendors]. We are offering the customer a wide range of options as to how to utilize AII; it can be linked directly to [hardware] or through a device management partner."
Without these interfaces, also known as software adapters or integration protocols, end users would need to write customized software to send and receive RFID data between the two platforms. Osofsky says, however, that few end users have done this, since most are not yet integrating RFID data into their enterprise systems. Kimberly-Clark is currently using the interfaces, he says. Neither OAT nor SAP could cite any additional end users who have installed both SAP's AII and OAT's Foundation Suite and could benefit from the software adapters.
The interfaces can be used to send the EPC numbers of a pallet and the cases of goods on that pallet from AII to the Foundation Suite, which would be used to generate tags and then send the tag data and complete order information back to AII. This, in turn, would generate an advance shipping notice to the receiver of the goods and send the order data to the user's ERP system. (For more information on AII, see SAP Takes RFID into the Enterprise.)
Without these interfaces, "the customer or a consultant has to write custom code to link the platforms," says Osofsky. "And if that interface breaks, or if a change needs to be made in how the data is handled, the custom work needs to be redone."
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