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New RFID Data Link for SAP Shops

Supply chain systems specialist Acsis will integrate Matrics' technology into its data-collection platform.
By Bob Violino
Apr 14, 2003April 15, 2003 - Acsis, a supply chain systems specialist that focuses on companies running SAP software, is adding radio frequency identification to its data collection platform. The company has partnered with Matrics, a Columbia, Maryland, supplier of RFID tags and readers.

Acsis will integrate Matrics' technology into its own Data-Link platform, which is designed for businesses running SAP’s R/3 enterprise resource planning software (ERP). Data-Link collects information from RFID and barcode devices from different vendors. The raw data is aggregated, so it can be shared throughout the company or with external suppliers and customers through SAP applications. The aim is to provide real-time visibility into the extended supply chain.
Data-Link will process data from Matrics' readers

A new adapter for connecting Matrics readers to the Data-Link platform will be available for general release in May. Pricing will be based on a licensing fee per Data-Link user and additional fees that will vary according to each implementation. These variable costs are for development services and/or hardware configuration, such as the number of antennas or readers or the amount of pre-processing companies want the system to do prior to sending data to the back-end systems, according to Acsis.

The partners came together when an Acsis pharmaceutical customer wanted an RFID solution. "Matrics was the only company with a technology to enable us to deliver all the pieces that a customer wants included," says Dave Harty, director of research and development at Acsis. "This includes small smart labels with enough signal range, as well as smart printing capabilities."

The project will use Matrics' two-inch by two-inch smart labels and those printing capabilities include linking tag and asset ID’s and directly updating databases from the printer. Matrics also has the only system capable of producing UHF RFID labels straight from Zebra Technologies' printers, says Tom Coyle, VP of supply chain systems at Matrics.

Although Marlton, New Jersey-based Acsis will not name its international pharmaceutical customer, Harty says the deal could be a significant milestone in RFID deployment. "It has the potential to be ground-breaking," he says. "After an initial one site deployment it could be rolled out to all of the company’s eighty sites worldwide,"

What makes the potential for the rollout special is not just the scale but also that the customer wants to tag individual items, as opposed to pallets or containers of items. "We haven’t seen real demand for the item-level tags - and still don’t see it on low-priced consumer goods in the foreseeable future - but this customer's items are very unique and very expensive," says Harty.

According to Acsis, the companies had just 40 days to combine their technologies. Their first customer demonstration is set for May 9. The combined product will give many large companies a way to integrate RFID technology with existing applications. Acsis says its technology is installed in more than 325 manufacturing and warehouse facilities in 14 countries using SAP software.

The partnership also gives Matrics access to a large installed based of very large clients. SAP's ERP system is used by many large retail, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical companies, including many of those who are sponsors of the Auto-ID Center.

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