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Microsoft Details RFID Features In Upcoming ERP Software

Among other things, Axapta 4.0 will accept RFID data that could help companies determine where RFID tags need to be affixed to products.
Although Microsoft has postponed delivery of its next-generation Axapta enterprise-resource-planning software by about a year, company officials say the new release will have radio-frequency identification features beyond simply processing RFID data.

Microsoft on Tuesday briefed members of the Microsoft RFID Advisory Council, Microsoft Business Solutions division partners, and system integrators in Redmond, Wash., on its RFID strategy.

What attendees heard is that Microsoft says it's on track to meet customer requirements and expects the features in the Axapta 4.0 release will exceed them. "Many companies will not have the ability to embrace the scope of features we are providing in this first version," says Alex Renz, RFID program manager for Microsoft Business Solutions. Renz says most companies won't have done the necessary business-process integration and reengineering necessary to leverage some of the more advanced RFID features.

When Axapta 4.0 is released, it will accept RFID tagging and shipping data that identifies the retailer, distribution center locations, and product lines. This data could help companies determine where RFID tags need to be affixed to products. Axapta 4.0 also will include the ability to filter RFID data, configure specific setups, monitor devices throughout the network, and set rules and alert policies to notify someone in the IT department when a reader fails. The ability to generate an advanced shipping notice will be included, too.

Axapta's RFID capabilities will be powered by Microsoft-developed technology that lets it accept and process RFID data. That technology also will be added to other Microsoft products and will be made available to all 60 members of its Microsoft RFID Council--vendors that are building RFID products. Two vendors, GlobeRanger Corp. and ConnecTarra Inc, already have agreed to build the technology into their products once it becomes available. Microsoft hasn't set the release date, but says the technology can be integrated with SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and the .Net Framework.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has already started planning for capabilities in Axapta 5.0, which will likely ship 12 to 18 months after the 4.0 release. By that time, Microsoft expects companies will have deployed RFID across numerous sites and will tag a larger part of their overall production volume.

Axapta 5.0 will track the movement of orders from manufacturing sites to distribution centers to warehouses, improving the visibility in a company's supply chain outside its four walls. As companies begin tagging products at the time they're manufactured, they'll be able to include RFID tags in the bill of materials they send to manufacturers.