Defense Dept. Taps Savi for RFID&Again

Plus, Manhattan Associates, Zebra Technologies offer "smart label" solution for supply chain execution

Tempe, AZ  February 10, 2003  The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a three-year, $90 million procurement contract for radio frequency identification (RFID) hardware and related logistics software and services to Savi Technology.

And in other RFID news, Manhattan Associates is partnering with Zebra Technologies to provide a solution for printing "smart labels" that can help companies track inventory using Manhattan's supply chain execution solution, and Manhattan announced that it was extending its retail compliance guarantee to cover RFID standards.

Under Savi's latest Defense Department contract, U.S. military personnel will be able to procure directly through Savi a range of automatic identification and data collection technologies (AIDC) and related software to manage military supplies worldwide. The contract calls for three years of equipment purchases and two years of training and maintenance services.

This is Savi's third multi-year RFID procurement contract with the Defense Department since 1994, for a combined total contract value of $280 million. During this time, Savi has helped to build and operate, and continues to extend, the department's total asset visibility (TAV) network, already the world's largest active RFID logistics tracking system, which monitors and manages 270,000 cargo containers transporting military supplies throughout 400 locations in more than 40 countries.

RFID tags along with a wide variety of AIDC technologies from barcodes to satellite systems are affixed to cargo containers and other conveyances. The real-time data that these systems automatically capture are integrated into a global software network to provide current information on the location and status of the containers and their contents.

Savi will be responsible, in conjunction with the U.S. Army's product manager for automatic identification technology, for responding to military proposals for real-time solutions provided by the company and through strategic alliances with automatic identification technology providers. The procurement contract calls for five types of RFID technologies: passive, active, beaconing, portal-based and real-time locating systems (RTLS).

In its latest RFID procurement contract with Savi, the Defense Department said the real-time technologies can be used for both in-transit and asset-visibility operations, including inventory and warehouse environments, maintenance, repair and tracking facilities, in-transit and checkpoint transportation, hazardous materials handling, transactions at custody exchange points and controlling military convoys, among other applications.

Manhattan, Zebra Technologies Parnter

In other RFID-related news, supply chain execution specialist Manhattan Associates is partnering with Zebra Technologies, a provider of thermal printing solutions, to deliver a joint solution intended to help companies create and leverage RFID labels to gain real-time visibility into their supply chains.

The companies' solution allows for integration between infolink and PkMS, Manhattan Associates' supply chain execution solutions, and Zebra's R-140 and R402 RFID printers.

With Zebra's R-140 and R402 smart label printer/encoders, users will be able to print, program and verify labels embedded with ultra-thin RFID tags known as smart labels. Issued on demand, smart labels can be printed with human readable text, graphics and barcodes, and programmed with relevant shipping, product and tracking information.

Using Manhattan Associates' warehouse management and supply chain execution solution, PkMS, smart label information can be captured, accepted and then executed against such distribution center (DC) processes as receiving, putaway, replenishment, picking, packing and shipping. Additionally, the labels can be read and printed remotely with Manhattan Associates' infolink, a solution that provides real-time connectivity and integration  via the Web  between users and their trading partners.

The solution providers believe that the combined solution can help organizations achieve savings through increased inventory visibility and accuracy, greater operational efficiency and improved customer service. The joint solution also will help organizations improve inventory turns, the providers assert, thereby helping to reduce the associated operational carrying costs.

In addition, the joint solution is intended to provide organizations with the migration path needed to comply with the upcoming electronic product code (EPC) guidelines. A recent study from systems integrator Accenture found that combining RFID and EPC technologies could help companies save billions of dollars a year by allowing them to capture accurate information about the location and status of physical objects  an ocean container, a pallet of paper towels or hazardous materials, for example  and track the objects as they move from the manufacturing shop to the retail store.

Manhattan Extends Compliance Guarantee to RFID

Finally, Manhattan Associates also said it would expand its retail compliance guarantee for the top 100 global retailers and the top 100 U.S. retailers to include any new and emerging RFID standards.

Manhattan introduced its retail compliance guarantee in the late 1990s, promising to meet all the shipping and labeling requirements of the top retailers. Today, the company maintains a dedicated compliance team that monitors retailers' changing requirements, working to ensure that its solutions can keep customers compliant.

In announcing its latest guarantee, Manhattan said it is committed to developing solutions and the associated domain expertise that will support RFID in its customers' DCs and in the overall retail supply chain.

"For consumer goods manufacturers and distributors, including [consumer packaged goods] companies, this extension of our compliance guarantee means they don't have to worry about gaps or delays in their ability to service their retail and grocery customers as they figure out new RFID requirements  that will be our job," said Eric Peters, Manhattan Associates' senior vice president for product strategy, marketing and alliances.

Manhattan has made a recent push to expand its RFID offering, partnering in late January with mobile computing solution provider Symbol Technologies and Alien Technology, a provider of RFID tags and hardware, to integrate RFID technology with Manhattan's PkMS solution.

In addition, RFID has been much in the news of late following Gillette's January announcement that it would buy half-a-billion RFID tags from Alien Technology for use in its supply chain and in retail stores over the next several years in the first large-scale test of a new product ID technology.

For more information on wireless tracking solutions for the supply chain, see "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.