Tag Archives: Packaged RFID solutions

Press article on S3Edge Spotlight Software powering Mission-Critical RFID for Tool-tracking & FME Services at Power Plants

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Source:http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/8112

Great article by – Self-contained RFID Cube Helps Keep Out Foreign Material – by Claire Swedberg at RFID Journal discussing how S3Edge Spotlight Software powers Mission-Critical deployments for Access Solutions today, helping:

  1. Automating the process of monitoring which tools are carried into or out of different zones , and in whose custody at nuclear power plants.
  2. Reducing processing times for check-in procedure  by upto 83 percent (previously required three to 15 minutes per person – now requires only 30 seconds to three minutes).
  3. Providing an electronic audit trail for safety and security compliance while significantly reducing tool loss and personnel violations in a secure site.

Enjoy the read and drop us a line if you’d like to learn more – and check out the video of the solution at work as well (see blog post below or click here)

Cheers!

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“Technology needs to support and help enhance our processes, vs. try and force fit what we need into an approach that’s based on how the technology works” – a simple, yet elegant business model.

Source: www.istockphoto.com 

Been a while since I posted – it’s been busy with some exciting things coming up (and will  share) over the next few months including (you heard it here first :))another book deal with yet another author from the S3Edge stable – but the opportunity to share an ‘aha’ moment that I recently had was too good to pass up and hence the brief post.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed why examples of enterprise-ready commercial off the shelves (COTS) solutions for vertical markets are few and far in-between for our nascent industry – Before you start screaming in protest, I am referring to the lack of ‘total solutions’ (encompassing software + hardware systems) when compared to hardware technology (that’s been around for decades and has matured quite significantly in terms of enterprise-readiness), and how one might go about addressing the same.

To refresh your memories, here are the posts I am referring to:

 

Now while all of the above address a bunch of areas from a perspective of process, software, and technology, a recent conversation with one of our industry partners (with deep domain expertise in how things are done in a particular vertical market via years and years of ‘doing it’), had me shaking my head in terms of how we missed articulating this simple, yet extremely critical aspect that’s been holding this industry back….Which essentially is this impedance mismatch between vertical market expertise and the technology expertise…. What do I mean by that? Well quite simply put, today you have a fractured, and often a ‘blind men and the elephant’ industry solution landscape that looks something like this:

  • RFID solution vendors who offer ‘end-end’ packaged offerings based on 1 or 2 deployments in the vertical market 
  • Vertical market leaders with deep domain expertise, claiming RFID capabilities that are often no more than a check-box integration of the technology
  • <and then you have the hardware ecosystem who continue to blaze their own, often mysterious strategies, but we won’t go there today ;)>

Now, if you are a logical person (like almost all of us are) you would think this is easy to fix – get the 2 parties to work with each other and leveage their skill-sets!! But it’s sadly not that simple – and having been in the trenches myself, I can completely empathize as to why this is hard – quite often you see conflicting, and mysterious agendas from the different parties at work when different parties come together and try and march towards something each one considers it to be his or her own master-piece, or simply put their corner of the workd – And control / power are age old human behaviors that the RFID industry should not and cannot really change ;)

But that does not mean you don’t try – At S3Edge, our core belief has always been that technology works only if it’s an unobtrusive enabler i.e. a tool that can be used to make a business process better, faster, and more efficient vs. replace or worse re-engineer the way things need to be done – and that’s the statement I leave you with today as our “business model” (a term that imo is an oxymoron in this day and age of social computing – and a separate topic for discussion by itself); A model and core belief that has worked (as we saw with the Toll Global Logistics case-study – where they are the 3PL expert and we are the humble RFID technology experts), and is continuing to work as espoused by the title statement of this blog (by one of our industry partners).

And we’ll continue to put more effort into this as this is the only way we know to add real value to end-users at the end of the day. 

Stay tuned for more details on the partner and industry solution we are launching – more on that next week!

 

Cheers

 

/a

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“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”, Sir Victor Hugo 1852

Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Victor_Hugo

Hopefully you are still reading on, curious about what prompted my sudden philosophical leanings after a few months of silence :)

Well, simply put – we’ve been HARD AT WORK and the culmination of a 2 year effort is all ready to be unveiled tomorrow – but am not going to let it out just yet (however excited I am about the impact and the relevance to our industry :))

Today, I wanted to bring your attention to 2 recent articles / quotes that caught my eye and are extremely relevant to what we’ve been talking about for a while now: the need for packaged, scalable RFID based solutions for vertical markets

“I think we are evolving from a focus on pure middleware software to more packaged solutions around that middleware,” he told SCDigest. “Having big vendors like Microsoft investing in RFID support for their middleware is helping the solution providers by letting them focus on building the specific solutions for different industry scenarios as opposed to spending all of their time on building the infrastructure. I think this is helping to reduce the time it takes to deliver some of these implementations which can lead to quicker time to value”

  • Michael Dortsch’s statement (and to quote), “(RFID) technology is complex and costly to implement, requiring investments in the chips (ultra-high-frequency tags still run more than 7 cents apiece), readers, software, and new business processes ” in his write-up titled RFID in 2010: Will Anyone Care?”, and of interest to our favorite topic of discussion was Mark Roberti’s (of RFID Journal) response which went something like this:

“RFID needs to be simpler to deploy and more focused on complete solutions. RFID vendors have done a great job of making the technology work better and they have overcome many obstacles to deployment, but for many applications, you still have to buy hardware, software and hire a systems integrator to stitch together a solution.”

Touché! Simply put, the powerful idea whose time has come is:
A packaged offering comprising of hardware, tags and the needed controlling software, that can be quickly deployed with little or no disruption to existing enterprise systems, and dramatically simplifies the way enterprises evaluate and integrate RFID technology into their operations.
And from hereon nothing is going to stop customers from reaping the benefits of real-time technology by leveraging such an offering as their enterprise wide solution platform to enhance the efficiency of their processes for years to come!

Stay tuned – all the details in ~18 hrs time!

Cheers

/a

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The Top 5 habits of all successful, packaged RFID applications

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Source: www.istockphoto.com

In my last post, we talked about the top 5 critical factors to design for while deploying an enterprise wide real-time visibility system strategy with RFID. 

In this post, I will address what a ‘packaged’ application really means and the ‘Top 5’ characteristics to look for while choosing a packaged vendor

A number of vendors on the market have announced "packaged" applications. Here are some ways to read through the marketing literature to understand the real level of packaging:

1) Simple out of the box installation: Is there a binary installable offering (like a Microsoft installer or setup file). Can the customer IT organization use this to create a deployment instance, or does it need professional services even to just install and get it configured?

2) Clear demarcation between "product" and customization, at the binary level: A large number of "packaged" offerings involve starting from source code and changing it. This is an unsupportable recipe – For fixes and enhancements to be really applied, and breaking changes to be identified and fixed, binary base product is a pre-requisite.

3) Deep leverage of standard development tools: (1) and (2) are possible with completely integrated offerings from proprietary solution vendors, but if customization involves learning a new language, toolset, debuggers, or development methodology, the cost of enhancements will be prohibitive and non-scalable.

4) ‘Centralizable’, remote administration: Even in RFID deployments of scale with multiple support centers, the RFID expertise tends to be concentrated in small numbers of experienced IT departments. They need to be able to get to all the deployed instances and manage them effectively. This has to be self-service oriented, where administrators can completely administer all aspects of their application, including finding devices and antennas that are not working, replacing and adding new devices, configuring user administration, and delegating these capabilities in a self-service manner.

5) Rich out of the box functionality: Yes customization is inevitable for the following layers of the overall deployment:

  • Presentation
  • Integration,
  • Reporting, and
  • Human workflow,

…since each organization will want to view the RFID solution in the context of their overall enterprise architecture.

But minimizing the customization to just these areas, without violating tenets (1-4) means the rest of the application, particularly as it pertains to RFID and device specifics, have to be clearly separable and outside the realm of the customization – Typically this means significant out of the box functionality at the RFID level.

Hopefully, this gives you insight into what to look for in a truly packaged application to solve your needs for a real-time visibility system, and you found this useful and valuable.

Looking forward to discussing and demo’ing capabilities of real-time visibility systems from S3Edge that demonstrate #1 through #5 above for your asset tracking needs in discrete manufacturing and warehouse operations! Stay tuned for the next post (and this will be a good customer scenario / ROI focused post! :))

 

Cheers!

/a

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The Top 5 factors that most influence a successful deployment of RFID applications in your Enterprise

Your management team comes to you one day and tasks you with figuring out what your enterprise-wide RFID roll-out strategy needs to look like 1, 3, and 5 years from now and the factors to optimize for in order to make it a core competitive differentiator for your organization.

You’ve read all about RFID, are excited about the potential of the technology (viable and useful  technology that can help achieve near term tactical and longer term strategic goals of your organization) but have seen enough minefields (and half-baked success stories) that leaves you in a conundrum, trying to address the following questions:

  1. How do I cut through all the FUD and get a deeper understanding of the factors to look for in order to successfully deploy an enterprise-wide RFID strategy?
  2. What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today, and 5 years from now?

Source:istockphoto.com

Based on learnings and direct feedback from our early adopters, we’ve attempted to capture some of the salient “must design for” factors that we believe will directly impact the probability of your success – irrespective of whether you go with S3Edge or not as your trusted partner for your enterprise-wide RFID solutions.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some answers for the first question,in order to optimize for success in your RFID deployments:

 

Source:istockphoto.com

 

  1. Device Independence matters New kinds of readers and tags continue to appear, existing products continue to mature, most if not all customers will have a variety of hardware that they will want to choose from. Need a platform that evolves with their needs in a straightforward manner. BizTalk RFID is far and away the leader in this category, the windows device driver like model and the assumptions of scale behind it already have momentum and will continue to build up more momentum as the logo programs and other things kick in. Oracle throwing in the towel here is an example of what the future will be for this category.
  2. Devices matter At first glance this might be counter to the point above, but RFID devices continue to be ‘cutting edge’ technology. Having deep device expertise is critical to success on an RFID project, a platform like BizTalk RFID does not mean that anyone who can program BizTalk can really build RFID applications. We have made deep and significant investments in understanding, controlling and taking advantage of the device experience, which gives us a sustainable deep competitive advantage in building RFID applications. Along the same lines, we believe that a robust tag placement and readability offering is critical for any RFID solution provider.
  3. Mobility matters The Microsoft BizTalk RFID Mobile platform (a standalone, yet integral part of the BizTalk RFID server platform) now allows application logic to be executed on device and distribute actions to HH’s / forklifts etc. based on real-time inputs / workflow logic via a rich set of out of box capabilities. These on-device capabilities include connection management, support for online / offline operations, cached storage via SQL CE on device, and web services based integration with multiple end-points for applications that execute on the mobile device. An integral part of any s/w solution package must include mobile apps that are capable of taking advantage of these rich capabilities while perhaps more importantly being able to address the mobile worker use cases like inventory / stock taking out of the box in the context of the business application being deployed.
  4. People matter RFID offers the promise of unattended, automatic, ubiquitous data collection that should enable unobtrusive operation. We call this the "observational framework", and it is an important cornerstone of any RFID deployment. However, when the framework detects anomalies, for actions to be taken, people have to be involved. This includes surfacing alerts and exceptions where they happen, enabling the staff on the ground to fix problems instead of compounding downstream errors. This is usually human workflow of some sort, either utilizing fixed stations, or more typically, handheld readers and terminals. A robust and scalable human workflow engine is a critical part of any packaged RFID offering. This has to be ‘tailor-able’ for the specific flows at any given site, while still offering leveraged out of the box functionality for connectivity, login, data synchronization, alerts, and exception management.
  5. Packaging matters BizTalk RFID, like its bigger cousin, BizTalk is an ideal platform for System Integrators given the amount of control and flexibility that is possible. This can lead to solutions with extensive customization. Extensive customization is expensive to specify, implement, deploy, support, and service. The way forward is to leverage this platform in a way that reusable solutions are created, and a cornerstone of that is building "packaged" applications, with their desirable ROI and time to deployment profiles.

I hope you found this useful and valuable – If the above resonates or helps with your efforts around RFID, we’d love to hear from you (send me a note, or drop us a line at info@s3edge.com)

Next post: In our next post we will talk to the “The 5 habits of all successful packaged RFID applications”, continuing from where I left off today to address the second question, namely What do I need to look for in a packaged (hardware + software) product that can address my needs today and 5 years from now?” – stay tuned!

Cheers!

Anush Kumar with Ram Venkatesh

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SAVE THE DATE: 04/14/09! Register today for an exclusive webinar to learn how our packaged solutions can help you cut costs and improve your warehouse & manufacturing operations within the year!

As a leading provider of  Real-Time Visibility Systems for warehouse management and manufacturing operations, S3Edge would like to invite you to a no-cost webinar we’re sponsoring with Microsoft on April 14th, 2009.

 

The webinar is titled:

An Insider’s guide to cutting costs and improving your operations with packaged solutions for Inventory and Process Visibility – How your company can create near-term customer value and strategic long-term differentiation by connecting your warehouse and factory-floor activities to controlling enterprise applications in real time

 

Who should attend?

Executives and decision makers responsible for Supply Chain or Plant Floor Operations in the 3PL / Logistics / Retail or Manufacturing arena & Answer ‘Yes’ to one or more of the statements below:

  • Direct the work of staff in an optimal manner
  • Ensure 95% to 99% order fill rates
  • Reduce labor costs 10% to 30%
  • Reduce or prevent errors during:
    • Data Entry
    • Receiving [Excess or Short]
    • Shipping [Excess , Short, Incorrect]
    • Inventory Movement
  • Improves pick productivity by reslotting warehouse inventory locations un real-time
  • Eliminate labor costs due to manual inventory
  • Reduce returns and charge-backs due to shipping of excess, incorrect inventory
  • Improve operating margins by reducing excess and obsolete inventory
  • Reduce time spend and errors from non-value added activities like SORTING, COUNTING, STACKING, EXPEDITING, CHECKING
  • Reduce customer violations
  • Reduce cycle times and errors during Replenishment by 10-20%
  • Get real-time visibility into job performance on the floor
  • Eliminate ‘lost’ , ‘excess’, or ‘incorrect’ parts via real-time Verification

Come learn how this this Webinar will help you experience immediate improvements and expense reductions by substantially reducing errors and improving existing processes in your warehouse / manufacturing environment – resulting in increased customer satisfaction / retention and reduction in labor + operating costs.

Where to register?

Goto the RFID Journal Webinar registration page [Click HERE] today and register for this great event with real end user value!

 

What additional value else can you expect?

Joining me will be Microsoft’s Director of Operations Excellence, Ingo Heel and we promise a high quality, relevant and valuable 60 minutes of real solutions for creating near term value with longer term differentiation for your business. We will also be revealing a special offer for webinar participants to schedule an evaluation of your warehouse / manufacturing operation to estimate the cost and the expected return of deploying a Real Time Visibility System at your facilities.

So don’t miss this opportunity to educate yourself on how to take advantage of our turnkey, packaged solutions to transform your businesses and if there are others at your organization that you feel would benefit from this webinar, let them know as well!

Look forward to meeting you on the 14th! :)

 

Cheers

/a