Tompkins' Emerging Technology Center to Evaluate Latest Supply Chain Solutions

Consultancy's expanded Orlando facility to feature RFID testing, updated warehouse control system

Consultancy's expanded Orlando facility to feature RFID testing, updated warehouse control system

Raleigh, NC  April 7, 2005  Supply chain consulting firm Tompkins Associates has expanded the focus of its facility in Orlando, Fla., from a material handling development lab into a full-scale supply chain technology evaluation and testing center, in order to meet future demands for comprehensive supply chain solutions, the consultancy announced this week.

The new Tompkins Emerging Technology Center will focus on research, development and testing of emerging technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), voice-activated picking and real-time warehouse controls.

"We've brought together the latest in technology testing, evaluation and integration at the Emerging Technology Center," said Jim Capece, a partner with Tompkins. "We've utilized all the knowledge and expertise developed since the lab opened in 2001 to make this enhanced facility a true extension of our clients' own facilities. This is one of the most objective, reliable supply chain technology and RFID test beds in the industry."

Tompkins said that, with the expansion of equipment and key upgrades in technology, the 11,000-square-foot, $6 million center can now demonstrate and test RFID compliance as mandated by Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense. "Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for RFID testing, warehouse controls and order picking, Tompkins Associates has tailored the technology to meet specific company and industry needs," the consultancy said in announcing the center's expanded mission.

Small, Medium, Large RFID Scenarios

Test scenarios with different readers, tags, equipment and software have led to the exciting development of three unique options for RFID implementation at the new facility, according to Tompkins.

The first test zone, suited for low-volume shipments, is a compact stand-alone system that allows the user to manually apply RFID tags to staged cartons, generate the electronic product code (EPC), encode and verify the tags, and create a pallet tag.

For medium volumes, Tompkins Associates has developed an off-line, semi-automatic solution incorporating an accumulating conveyor, scanners, RFID printers, RFID readers for encode and verification, and integrated software. Equipment supplied for this solution may be incorporated into an existing material handling system.

For high-volume product requirements, the RFID equipment and software is integrated into an existing material handling system process flow. Tompkins said it makes this possible with custom data collection and analysis software, which fully integrates RFID capabilities through the Tompkins Control System (TCS) middleware. "We have created building block solutions with the latest technology that can easily integrate into existing warehouse management controls and systems," said Frank Morrell, manager of the Tompkins Emerging Technology Center.

Vendor-neutral Approach

The updated facility also features a complete Order-Picking Method Evaluation Module, in which radio frequency (RF), voice and pick-to-light technology can be compared using the same order data. Tompkins said the Emerging Technology Center does not focus on one vendor or equipment provider; and therefore the options offered are unbiased and more beneficial for companies seeking the right solutions.

Vendors currently contributing solutions to the center include:

Tompkins Associates is headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.

Additional Articles of Interest

 For more information on trends relating to radio frequency identification (RFID), follow this link for an extensive listing of articles, featuring the latest research findings on the RFID, including adoption, return on investment and barriers to implementation.

 For a contrary view of the future of the RFID market, see the article "The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed," in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.