SAP Introduces RFID Tracking Of Individual Product Units

The database software lets you follow that $300,000 Bentley or bottle of ibuprofen from the manufacturer to the customer's door

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

March 15, 2007

2 Min Read

SAP on Thursday introduced technology that makes it possible for a company to track individual products from the manufacturer to the customer's door, a capability that's useful to drug companies and makers of expensive jewelry and other high-end retail products.

The technology, unveiled at the CeBit trade show in Germany, works in conjunction with SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure, the repository for data read from radio frequency identification tags placed on goods flowing through a supply chain. Along with the new technology announcement, SAP also launched version 5.1 of its Auto-ID software.

Sometimes referred to as an object-event repository, the latest technology would receive from Auto-ID the unique serial numbers in RFID tags placed on selected products. Once in the database, the serial numbers could be tracked separately by SAP software, and the information displayed through the product's tracking and authentication application, which has its own desktop user interface. The software also has an application programming interface for feeding information to a corporate portal.

Once the serial number is in the system, the product can be tracked in the case in which it is shipped, Krish Mantripragada, global head of RFID and Auto-ID Solutions at SAP, said. If a bottle, for example, was swapped with a counterfeit, the system would send an alert through the PTA. "We know exactly how things were packaged, and which serial number went to which case," Mantripragada said. "We also know what's to be delivered to which customer."

The technology is built for companies that need to track individual products either to meet government regulations or because the goods are expensive and unique. An example of the latter could be jewelry for the very wealthy or a $300,000 Bentley.

But a big market for SAP is the drug industry, which in some states (e.g., California and Florida) requires tracking individual bottles for certain drugs, Mantripragada said. SAP is currently installing a tracking system at the U.S. operations of pharmaceutical company Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland. The aim is to track each Novartis medication bottle, display carton, shipping case, and delivery pallet in real time, verifying the authenticity of products as they travel through the supply chain.

In the Auto-ID upgrade, SAP has added support for the Defense Department's unique identification program, or UID, which contractors must follow in delivering goods. In addition, the new version of Auto-ID has been integrated with SAP's warehouse management enterprise resource planning system, Mantripragada said. Auto-ID version 5.1 and the object-event repository are scheduled for wide release in the second quarter. Pricing was not disclosed.

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