ClearOrbit Offers "Layer-In" RFID Extensions for ERP Systems

Supply chain execution specialist also rolls out purchase order change management solution

Austin, TX — April 29, 2004 — Supply chain execution specialist ClearOrbit has rolled out a new solution designed to let companies "layer-in" radio frequency identification (RFID) capabilities on top of existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, along with a new purchase order change management solution intended to automate the communication of order changes suggested by a manufacturer's material resource planning (MRP) system.

The new RFID Product Suite is a combination of three products: Compliance Label Manager, RFID Tracker and Collaborative Print Manager. Compliance Label Manager is a turnkey RFID solution that works in tandem with legacy barcode systems. Designed for business users, not programmers, Compliance Label Manager is "rules-based" and allows users to define and manage their own label formats, according to ClearOrbit.

Working in tandem with Compliance Label Manager, RFID Tracker offers platform-independent transaction management of tag readers, providing the transaction context required to translate the information received from an RFID reader and maps it to, for example, a purchase order-receiving transaction in an ERP system.

Finally, Collaborative Print Manager leverages ClearOrbit's Internet architecture and Web-based management console to allow users to burn RFID tags over the Internet. By driving RFID and barcode label production from a customer's ERP, suppliers can comply with RFID requirements, ClearOrbit said. All that is required is an RFID printer and an Internet connection at the supplier's site.

Overall, the new RFID solution is intended to let companies "layer-in" RFID capability on top of existing ERP systems without requiring custom code or the "tear out" of old barcode or ERP software.

Steve Banker, service director for supply chain management at technology research firm ARC Advisory Group, noted that ClearOrbit is a company with a history of integrating barcode devices, printers, scales and other real-time sources of supply chain information. "They have grown up getting their hands dirty solving these kinds of problems," Banker said. "RFID is just another form of real-time data. As a result of its history, the ClearOrbit architecture is well suited to supporting RFID."

"There is almost a level of frenzy around RFID, as companies scramble to comply with new standards and maintain access to vendors and outlets for their goods," said Tom Dziersk, president and CEO of ClearOrbit. "Though RFID may seem initially perplexing, we have broken it down, simplified and mastered it just as we mastered similar issues when companies faced RF and barcode requirements."

Dziersk said that ClearOrbit's systems allow companies to leverage both barcode and RFID simultaneously within their supply chains.

New PO Change Management Module

Meanwhile, ClearOrbit also has released Purchase Order Change Management, part of its Advanced Collaborative Replenishment Suite. PO Change Management automates the communication of order changes suggested by a manufacturer's MRP system, according to the solution provider. It also allows buyers and suppliers to simultaneously change, manage and collaborate on purchase orders and MRP suggestions.

The solution also includes a "prevent control" system that automates data reconciliation and can help reduce errors by barring shipments with mismatched data records.

PO Change Management was intended to reduce the time buyers and suppliers spend communicating by providing shared, real-time visibility and control over the entire purchase event history. Users can now view all purchase order data without having to manually look up data in disparate systems. Suppliers can access the system via standard Web browsers, by uploading or downloading spreadsheets into the system, or via a Web services XML interface.

ClearOrbit's original collaborative module is PO Collaborator, which provides suppliers with online visibility and control over orders so they can meet their customers' production schedules. The solution provider said that the new PO Change Management module extends this capability by bringing a manufacturer's MRP output into the same closed-loop replenishment system. This eliminates a disconnect between MRP and purchasing systems, providing suppliers with visibility to both systems at the same time. In addition, buyers now have configuration rules that give them greater flexibility in dealing with supplier responses to shipment requests, ClearOrbit said.

"ClearOrbit's existing Purchase Order Collaborator application helped to assure the perfect order metric for inbound supplies to a factory," said Banker. "With this new release, Purchase Order Change Management, the MRP output is more tightly integrated into their application for a more seamless process."

Dziersk added that the new capabilities would allow ClearOrbit to "layer-in" a Web-based purchase order change management tool that enables new collaborative capabilities while avoiding high integration costs.

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