As the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry gears up for RFID (radio frequency identification) mandates from giant retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, enterprise software vendors appear to be in lock step with CPG industry initiatives. Oracle made good on its promise that the next version of Oracle Warehouse Management would be RFID-ready with this week's launch of Oracle Sensor-Based Services at the RFID Journal Live! conference.
The Sensor-Based Services consist mainly of two middleware components, Compliance Package and RFID Pilot Kit, plus the promise of an array of "sensor-centric applications" for the Oracle E-Business Suite for Oracle 10g available this summer.
The Compliance component will include a prebuilt compliance application to allow companies to address the specific and unique reporting requirements coming down from major retailers and the Department of Defense. The Pilot Kit will allow smaller companies to put a toe in the RFID waters with a smaller solution that includes drivers for the major RFID readers, plus reporting and analytic tools to process RFID data.
Jakob Christfort, the RFID executive sponsor for the Oracle Program Office, said that Oracle has a significant advantage over application vendors. "Because they are not players in middleware, they have to build these capabilities into each application," Christfort said.
The Oracle middleware will interface with readers and other edge services to provide event filtering before it is passed on to the rest of the software architecture. "It is done with a queuing system that sits in the application server," Christfort said.
Steve Banker, service director of supply chain management at ARC Advisory Group, said that although companies may want to hold some RFID data locally, the preferred solution is to filter the data and turn it into business logic. "By having this kind of data across the supply chain you can get a much clearer picture of variability around lead times and do a better job of supply chain optimization," Banker said.
There are also benefits at the local warehouse level for material handling, Banker added. If there is a bad batch of a product, instead of a mass recall, RFID will allow for quicker and more focused recalls that save money.
Currently, the Oracle Sensor-Based Services is in beta with companies like DHL and will be available in the next version of 10g Application Server. Current users of Oracle Application Server can upgrade to these components at that time, according to a spokesperson.