The group will focus on delivering state-of-the-art RFID-based system solutions to packaging manufacturers enabling them to improve internal operations in the factory and warehouse, as well as helping the packaging manufacturers' customers improve supply chain efficiencies through RFID-enabled packaging.
"There have been tremendous advances in RFID technology recently, with much focus on the tags themselves, and the supporting electronics," said VantagePoint CEO Jim Hennings. "But as these core RFID technologies become commercially viable, the real value of RFID is delivered through integrated business software solutions that track and trace real-time events, and uses this information to improve business operations and intelligence."
Like it or not, there is a pressing need for packaging suppliers and their customers to fulfil the requirements set by retailers such as Wal-Mart to have pallet-level and shipping case-level RFID tagging in place and functioning by January 2005. Hennings believes that the new RFID product group will help both packaging manufacturers as well as their key customers meet these mandated requirements.
VantagePoint announced that it would also be enhancing its own Business VantagePoint software product line to incorporate RFID capabilities that are compatible with the newly adopted EPC (Electronic Product Code) global standards. Among other benefits, this will enable packaging makers using Business VantagePoint to manage their own raw materials and finished good production much more effectively within their plants and warehouses.
Supply chain management is becoming increasingly important in efficient food production. A pilot project developed by Microsoft Business Solutions and KiMs, a Danish snack manufacturer, is a good example of how technology, especially the adoption of RFID, is transforming the way in which the industry operates.
This pilot project involved automating the company's supply chain and upgrading KiMs' existing software in the areas of demand planning, event management and hands-free warehouse management. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which combines silicon chip and radio frequency technology, has also been introduced.
"Putting technologies of the future to the test is important to KiMs, and we are very pleased to have been involved in this pilot project with Microsoft Business Solutions," said Jørn Tolstrup Rohde, chief executive of KiMs. "The prospect that RFID can help us dramatically increase our ability to read and anticipate our inventory flow is compelling, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of supply chain management innovation with the help of Microsoft Business Solutions."
KiMs produces crispy snacks that are bagged, cartoned and loaded on pallets, which are then moved to a staging area to be picked up by trucks for delivery to a distribution centre. The company ships approximately 100,000 pallets of snacks per year. A unique identifier is written to the RFID tag on each pallet, thereby associating the pallet with comprehensive production data.
Another innovative element of the RFID pilot project is its use of the metal foil of the chips' packaging as an element of the tag design. Typically, metal objects have been an impediment to the use of RFID. By treating the packaging as part of the RFID system, the tag could be made fairly simply, thereby keeping the cost down. The tags are monitored at storage, loading and shipment, and the data is fed back into Microsoft Axapta.
RFID technology has been called the 'bar code of the twenty-first century,' because it reads and writes information to the RFID tag electronically, not requiring line-of-sight viewing as required with conventional printed bar codes. RFID tagging of goods at the case and pallet level within the supply chain has been recently touted by major distributors and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Sears as a means to dramatically reduce the cost of inventory management within the product supply chain.