Small businesses targeted with RFID

SAP is broadening its radio frequency identification (RFID) software to appeal to small and medium-sized manufacturing and distribution vendors.

SAP America Inc. is partnering with Everett, Wash.-based Intermec Technologies Corp. to offer new automated data collection and compliance capabilities with SAP Business One, SAP's integrated business management suite for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

SAP also said it was joining an SMB industry advisory panel to discuss obstacles to RFID adoption. The announcements were made Tuesday at the National Manufacturing Week conference, being held this week in Chicago.

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Intermec Technologies has been making systems to collect data from bar codes. It produces mobile computers, bar code printers, wireless data management systems and other devices that gather inventory, sales and tracking information.

SAP said the partnership will result in new data collection tools for SMBs within the SAP Business One suite to meet RFID compliance demands.

RFID has been in the spotlight after Wal-Mart issued a message to its key suppliers to adopt the technology. In January suppliers began shipping goods with RFID tags to three distribution centers in Texas that Wal-Mart uses as its pilot project.

RFID technology allows manufacturers and distributors to track products with a tiny tag containing a computer chip and a small antenna. Currently, tags containing specific product information are being placed on boxes or pallets. Analysts and industry experts are predicting a more widespread use of the technology to include tagging individual products.

So far Intermec will stick to bar codes through its partnership with SAP. The company will integrate its EasyADC product into the suite, adding bar coding data collection tools, which SAP said will automate inventory tracking, shipping and receiving and lead to easier deployments of RFID technology among smaller businesses.

SAP also announced Tuesday that it was joining an SMB industry advisory panel to discuss how to overcome obstacles to RFID adoption. The group consists of SAP, American Express Tax and Business Services Inc., Fourth Shift, Intermec and representatives from The Association for Operations Management.

The group hopes to promote further research, develop educational materials about RFID best practices and other information for small businesses planning to adopt the technology.

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