Manhattan Associates has released an improved version of its EPC Manager which Greg Gilbert, director of RFID Solutions, says will enhance a company’s “work flow and translation activities to better enable the integration of EPC technology into existing business applications.”
The company announced its new EPC Manager, now in its third version, in early April and says it will help its customers boost accuracy, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and experience greater visibility and improved security within their supply chains through the use of RFID functionality. Enhancements in this updated version were based on the latest RFID technology and evolving industry needs, added Mr. Gilbert.
The product is part of the company’s RFID in a Box solution and, said Mr. Gilbert, was developed for companies that wanted to implement RFID without having to replace their existing supply chain systems.
“We’ve added three different batches of functionality,” said Mr. Gilbert. “The first is the ability to do a shipping and receiving container validation, making sure you get the right stuff to the right place, or receiving what you expect.”
Mr. Gilbert said the second improvement is in the company’s enterprise module. “It allows us to collect EPC track and trace events from a variety of sources, such as EPC event data from a trading partner. We can aggregate all that into one instance of analysis, for example, from the time it takes me to tag an item until it hits Wal-Mart.”
The third enhancement “is serial number batch allocation so we can assure that duplicate serial numbers are never created at two different facilities,” said Mr. Gilbert. This particular improvement, he added, is targeted towards suppliers who deal with retail stores. The solution uses a tiered approach to EPC allocation where every EPC is automatically given a unique serial number. This eliminates the previously manual process of assigning serial numbers in batch and allows the EPC allocation process to be managed at the local facility, regional and enterprise levels, he said.
“Workflows are all driven by some device with a screen where you punch buttons,” he explained, “but that process changes with RFID readers which allow receiving, shipping, validation, supply processing. To generate EPCs for specific tag objects, from a data standpoint, you have to be able to translate EPC data and correlate it back into the types of information that other systems understand.”
The EPC Manager is targeted “at anyone wanting a better view of their supply chain. The same holds true for validation functionality. It could also be used at receiving in the retail store’s backroom,” he added. It provides customers with the ability to quickly deploy RFID technology to capture and track unique EPC read data.
So far, he said, 40 clients have purchased the EPC Manager. “Right now, a good chunk of these (clients) are consumer goods companies supplying to retail. We’re also working with a couple of retailers, mass merchant department stores.”
How will EPC Manager help? “It depends on where you are in the supply chain,” he said. “The serial number implementation will make sure they don’t create duplicates. If you’re doing that manually, it can be very inefficient. Receiving and validation could be used to alleviate congestion on the shipping and receiving docks. It will also help with reconciliation of receipts.”
As to RFID In A Box, “That’s our blanket offering,” a one-stop shop. It includes third party components “and our own professional and technical services so we can do the entire installation for a client. It gives them one number to call and we’ll manage the entire process if that’s what they want,” he said. In short, according to Manhattan Associates, RFID in a Box eases RFID deployment and reduces implementation time by leveraging a variety of software, middleware, hardware, tags, antennae, readers and services offerings.
With the EPC Manager, “We want to make sure people are using our system effectively, so they’ll know how to configure it,” said Mr. Gilbert. “The installation is very simple, but when you start talking about how to configure a reader in the system, it can be a little complicated. We like to walk our clients through the first few times they do that.”