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A Quick Fix for RFID Compliance

Provia unveils a software option for retailers struggling to meet Wal-Mart's RFID compliance deadline of January 2005.
By Bob Violino
Sep 25, 2003By Jonathan Collins

Sept. 26, 2003 - Provia Software, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company that offers supply chain software, has created a bolt-on module that it says will help Wal-Mart’s top 100 suppliers meet the retailer’s requirement to put RFID tags on shipments beginning in January 2005. All of Wal-Mart’s suppliers have to comply with the RFID tagging requirement by the end of 2006.
Provia's Pulling

"This is for suppliers already behind the eight ball on this," says John Pulling, VP and COO at Provia. "Wal-Mart has put them in a bind, and they are looking for a way to comply that doesn't include implementing an entire warehouse management system."

The company's new module, dubbed RFIDware, aims to help companies achieve compliance in the quickest and simplest way. "Every supplier has a logistics system of some kind," says Pulling. "The question is how to get tags onto the shipments and the information to Wal-Mart. This is a bolt-on to those existing systems."

To use the new module, a company would have to set up an RFIDware station in a distribution center. Orders being shipped to Wal-Mart would be sent to the station, where an RFID tag or label would be applied. Data about the shipment (order information, carton contents and so on) would be associated with the RFID tag's serial number, and the information would be sent to the retailer. The product could then be shipped with full RFID compliance.

Pulling says the advantage of this type of application is in the speed of deployment. Adding RFID to an existing logistics system could take up to six or seven months, but Pulling says RFIDware could be deployed in six to eight weeks. That's because of the way the software delivers Wal-Mart compliance and because it delivers compliance without integrating the RFID data into the supplier's own systems.

RFIDware runs on Windows and will be available in the fourth quarter, after Wal-Mart spells out its compliance requirements (the retailer is sponsoring a gathering outside Bentonville, Ark., on Nov. 4 and 5). Pulling says there are some details that Wal-Mart is still working out, but they shouldn't require major changes to RFIDware. "Only around 15 percent of what Wal-Mart wants is still soft," he says. "We know the core of the requirements."

A bigger issue for Provia has been the lack of availability of printers capable of delivering RFID, bar code and human readable labels. Companies such as Zebra Technologies that make printers that can print RFID labels are waiting for specifications from the Auto-ID Center, which developed the Electronic Product Code, and details about Wal-Mart's requirements.

Provia is not the only supply chain software company working to help companies deal with Wal-Mart's RFID mandate. Rival vendors Manhattan Associates and Red Prairie have also announced plans for similar solutions.

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