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Warehouse Receiving function in new video.

Category : warehouse management, WMS · No Comments · by Feb 2nd, 2016

We have started a new series of videos showing the functionality of various different elements of our our WMS, WAERlinx.

The first one is now available on YouTube and shows how goods are Received into the warehouse.

Why not take a look: WAERlinx WMS Receiving Functionality.

WAER’S CLOUD IT PARTNER, NOBLUE, EXPANDS INTO EUROPE

Category : warehouse management · No Comments · by Jan 29th, 2016

Waer Systems’ cloud IT partner, NoBlue Limited, today announced the upcoming acquisition of the concern of Spanish NetSuite Solution Provider, SaaS Consulting, further extending its services into Europe.

NoBlue, a leading NetSuite Solution Provider, is one of Waer’s key NetSuite partners, bringing WAERlinx – Waer’s advanced cloud warehouse management solution – to NetSuite customers across the UK, and increasingly throughout Europe.

NoBlue already has a strong customer base in the UK and Europe, and has experience of Spanish NetSuite implementations. Joining forces with SaaS Consulting will allow them to offer customers in Spain a local office with Spanish-speaking consultants, along with specialist local knowledge and experience.

As NoBlue’s international footprint continues to grow, the acquisition will also allow the company to:

• Continue to grow its European customer base
• Better assist UK businesses when dealing with EU suppliers / vendors
• Offer specialised support for compliance needs across various countries
• Provide multi-language options for businesses with international offices

This acquisition brings together two leading NetSuite Solution Providers. Based in Nottingham, NoBlue has 15 years of ERP consultancy and software development experience. Considering it to be the only mature cloud-based ERP solution, NoBlue has focused exclusively on NetSuite – and the solutions that complement it – for the last six years, providing NetSuite services spanning consultancy, implementation, development, integration, training and support to customers in a variety of industries. The company attributes the successful expansion of its customer base across the UK and Europe to its growing NetSuite practice.

SaaS Consulting has been delivering NetSuite consultancy services to small and medium enterprises in Spain and Portugal since 2009. Based in Madrid, the company has established itself as the official NetSuite Partner in Spain, and has successfully implemented various NetSuite projects across a range of industries.

“With the completion of this acquisition, we are combining the expertise of two leading NetSuite Solution Providers and increasing our reach across Europe.” said NoBlue Managing Director, Ian Irwin. “As NoBlue’s growth across the UK and Europe continues to expand, this exciting acquisition will allow us to continue to grow our European customer base and better serve our UK customers with European operations. Utilising SaaS Consulting’s local knowledge and experience, we will be able to offer specialised compliance support and multi-language options to our UK and European customers alike.”

“We are very excited about the synergy of NoBlue and Saas Consulting.” said Kelvin Seddon, Managing Director at SaaS Consulting. “With our local experience of fiscal, industrial and cultural specifics we look forward to giving our clients even more capability and empowerment with the backing of one of the top European NetSuite partners, NoBlue. Many countries have barriers to entry and we are certain that we have already beaten a path for NoBlue’s expansion in the Iberian Peninsula.”

David Snelson, Sales Director at Waer said: “Waer is absolutely committed to growing our NetSuite customer base in the UK and Europe, so this is great news. We extend our warmest congratulations to NoBlue and are excited by the potential this partnership brings for both our businesses.”

SaaS Consulting will be re-branded ‘NoBlue Spain SL’, trading as ‘NoBlue España’. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.

 

 

Just because you’re using SAP’s ERP doesn’t mean their warehouse management solution will be the best option…

Category : VMI, warehouse management, WMS · No Comments · by Dec 17th, 2015

Using SAP?  Need a VMI solution?  Surely SAP’s VMI product is the natural answer, or is it?

Whether you’re buying a new laptop, a VMI solution or your weekly shopping, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and often you are left trying to compare apples with pears.

Information is given in such different ways that you really have to dig deep to find out whether one product suits your needs better than another.  Well, help is at hand.

Recently, a long-standing customer of Waer’s, who has SAP as their ERP was looking for a VMI solution.  The natural choice would be to go to SAP – they have a warehouse management provision after all – however, the obvious solution is not always the best one.

For this customer’s needs, the SAP solution fell short, and the table below shows just how many advantages our VMI offering has, over SAP’s for this customer: 

Consignment / VMI Using SAP Consignment / VMI Using WAERlinx
Customer and supplier would not be able to use one system. They would each use their own, separate ERP systems, requiring EDI or XML data transfer between the two. Customer and supplier will be using one system, making things far simpler for training and for everyday use.
SAP ideally requires the customer and supplier to be using the same Material Master records. The customer and supplier don’tneed to use the same Material Master records; the Alias feature provides the cross-reference.
The forecast that is output for the supplier is based on customer sales. Usage data is based on manufacturing consumption.
Supplier and customer both need to be using SAP. (Otherwise, the data exchange becomes a lot more complex.) There are no prerequisites over which ERP system is used.
Significant manual input to record material movements. Barcode scanning is used to record material movements.
The concept of ownership does not seem to exist. Ownership  is clearly tracked, at all times.
Uses stock and sales data as the raw planning data. Uses stock and actual consumption in manufacturing.
Stock visibility is not real time. (Needs a scheduled data transfer.) Real time visibility.

In short, SAP Consignment/VMI doesn’t exist as a single, modular entity in the way that it does on WAERlinx.  Rather, SAP requires the customer to go through a convoluted process of using pieces of functionality that are distributed across several SAP modules, before they can say that they are doing Consignment/VMI on SAP.

For a refreshingly different approach to supply chain software, ring David Snelson on 01293 768036 or email dsnelson@waersystems.com.

www.waersystems.com

 

WAERlinx introduces Carrier Integration functionality

Category : WMS · No Comments · by Nov 27th, 2015

WAERlinx  – our fully integrated WMS suiteapp for NetSuite now interfaces to a wide variety of third-party courier systems using the NetDespatch portal. We recommend this approach because it is a lot more cost-effective than building bespoke interfaces to individual couriers.

The way it works
At the point when a despatch is processed, WAERlinx makes a call to the courier system, transmitting the relevant details. Typically, this includes (but is certainly not limited to) product code, ship-to address, number of packages, package weight(s), tariff code and special instructions. There are a great many other data elements that can be included and these can be set up according to the needs of the customer.

The tariff code and any special delivery instructions can either be specified on the NetSuite sales order or manually input at the point of despatch. If the tariff code and delivery instructions are specified on the NetSuite sales order, then this is included with the sales order information that is interfaced to WAERlinx, and no operator input is needed at the point of despatch.

In all cases, the courier system responds with the additional information required by the courier in order to execute the collection and delivery. This includes information to be output on courier-specific labels, which can be printed locally in the despatch area of the supplying warehouse, as well as a tracking reference number. The courier’s printed labels are then fixed to the relevant packages, prior to physical collection by the courier.

For the purposes of customer service, the tracking reference number mentioned above can, via WAERlinx, be optionally interfaced back to its corresponding NetSuite sales order and in all cases, a full audit trail of courier collection and delivery status is maintained.

Waer Systems WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite Achieves ‘Built for NetSuite’ Verification

Category : General · No Comments · by Mar 16th, 2015

 

BFN_logo_final

Here is our latest bit of news on our NetSuite partnership – the official NetSuite press release on our verification as a “Built For NetSuite” partner solution.

Great news and we are busy delivering new WMS solutions right now for businesses that run NetSuite as their ERP. 

Press Release:

Lancing, Sussex, UK – February, 2015 – Waer Systems, aleading provider of flexible software solutions for organisations with complex supply chain and reporting needs, todayannounced that its WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite has achieved ‘Built for NetSuite’ verification. The new SuiteApp is a warehouse management system (WMS) that enables users to manage all inbound, storage and outbound processes.

‘Built for NetSuite’ is a program for NetSuite SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN) partners that provides them with information, resources, and a method to verify that their applications and integrations, built using the NetSuite SuiteCloud Computing Platform, meet NetSuite standards and best practices. The Built for NetSuite program is designed to give NetSuite customers additional confidence that third-party SuiteApps have been built to meet these standards.

“The support given by the NetSuite SDN team and the SuiteAnswers self-help portal really helped to steer our development plan and project approach to ensure that the customer experience when using the WAERlinx WMS SuiteApp is seamless,” said Rod Scott, CEO at Waer Systems.

Key Features and Benefits of the WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp include:

  • Powerful warehouse management system with inventory optimisation.
  • Automatic updates and optimisation to entire supply chain – with no manual intervention, as stock is scanned in or out.
  • Real-time visibility into all stock, from warehouse to zone, rack and shelf at any location in the world, through storage management functionality, providing accurate stock count and perpetual inventory as standard.
  • Pick sequences are set up for maximum efficiency and can be driven by many factors in line with business needs, keeping disruption to a minimum and providing organisations with exactly what they need.
  • Simple deployment of new remote warehouse or forward stocking location – all you need is a scanner, printer and an internet connection.
  • Mobile scanning functions maximise operator mobility and efficiency.
  • Fast ROI with low installation costs and scalable licence fees.

Through the new WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp, Scott hopes to bring his team’s strong technical capability and extensive experience in inventory management to NetSuite’s large, diverse and ever-growing customer base. “We are really energised by this partnership and the vision NetSuite outlined around the collision of product and services in businesses during its recent SuiteConnect event in London,” Scott said. “The fit between the product sets of our organisations seems pretty perfect right now and we are looking to build on our successes and become a key partner for NetSuite on WMS.”

“Waer made big promises and have delivered on all of them,” said customer Tim Wilkinson, Director at Wine Box Company, a UK-based wholesale trade supplier of retail display and gift packaging for the specialist food and drinks market. “In fact, Waer has gone beyond what was promised. A very thorough project was put together and delivered on time – we now have a great WMS solution that works seamlessly with NetSuite.”

“The scope of the WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp’s capability presents an opportunity for customers looking to extend NetSuite’s award-winning ERP solution with warehouse management,” said Guido Haarmans, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Technology Partners at NetSuite. “And by achieving ‘Built for NetSuite’ status, Waer is showing a commitment to our customers by providing a quality SuiteApp.”

For information about ‘Built for NetSuite’ SuiteApps, please visit www.netsuite.com/BuiltforNetSuite.

For more information about the WAERlinx WMS SuiteApp, please visit www.suiteapp.com.

 

About SuiteCloud

NetSuite’s SuiteCloud is a comprehensive offering of cloud-based products, development tools and services designed to help customers and commercial software developers take advantage of the significant economic benefits of cloud computing. Based on NetSuite, the industry’s leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP software suites, SuiteCloud enables customers markets quickly with newly-created mission-critical applications built on top of mature and proven business processes.

The SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN) is a comprehensive developer program for independent software vendors (ISVs) who build apps for SuiteCloud. All available SuiteApps are listed on SuiteApp.com, a single-source online marketplace where NetSuite customers can find applications to meet specific business process or industry-specific needs. For more information on SuiteCloud and the SDN program, please visit www.netsuite.com/developers

 

Improve agility and cut costs in manufacturing with enhanced supply chain visibility and control.

It’s a challenging time for manufacturers and yet an exciting one too. Rarely have there been greater opportunities for global trading than there are today, and there is huge potential for growth. In developing markets especially, however, unless these opportunities are managed efficiently, increasing costs – of inventory in particular – make it ever more difficult to protect gross margins.

The never-ending quest for progress demands continuous innovation, yet many of the systems that are in place to support manufacturing operations today are deeply embedded, legacy applications that are difficult either to replace, or to improve in any way that adds real value.

So how do manufacturers gain a competitive advantage under these conditions?

One proven method is to take control of manufacturing by means of improved supply chain visibility, so that human ingenuity and common sense can regain control.

There is a clear and direct link between improving the flow of information and improving the flow of materials. In other words, by keeping your finger on the pulse of change, manufacturers remain agile and in control, and able to manage ever-increasing levels of complexity and variety.

So how do you find a solution provider that will be flexible enough for your manufacturing business’ needs, and what are your constraints?

Cost is often the first consideration and there are many all-singing, all-dancing solutions that would be ideal but unfortunately cost a small fortune.

On the other end of the scale, many of the lower cost options are pretty inflexible and while they may help solve some issues, there’s more often than not, a compromise in terms of functionality.

WAERlinx is a purpose-built suite of applications (Kitting, Kanban, RFID, WMS, VMI, Capacity Management) with a background in the demanding field of Aerospace supply chain management that is flexible by design. Customers can choose the applications that meet their requirements, with no need to change their existing ERP and MES systems in order to get there. WAERlinx simply bolts on, to enhance and improve what already exists.

Features

Improve visibility…

WAERlinx’ purpose-built console of operational and management information, presented using information gathered from multiple systems and facilities within the organisation, helps to:

  • Eliminate spreadsheet dependency
  • Provide clear insight into manufacturing capacity (demonstrated vs. available), sales orders and a consensus forecast, for planning purposes
  • Make use of event-based alerts – for example, production order completions, backflush events, demand shortages, changes to order dates, high-cost transactions etc. – to trigger immediate response actions
  • Highlight material consumption patterns, exposing problems that may have remained hidden. For example, highlight the use of material that may not be on the manufacturing BOM, or which has a lower-cost alternative
  • Keep track of high-value reusable containers, either using RFID or barcode scanning
  • Keep track of quality-related information, for example by integration with an SPC tool
  • Integrate new manufacturing operations and supporting facilities quickly and without risk – In an M&A scenario this is, of course, vital
  • Provide visibility of material in transit using dedicated functions within the application, or by seamless integration with an external transport management system
  • Provide accurate costing of material usage, with a fully-auditable transaction history.


… and reduce costs

  • Take control of complex and dynamic shop floor inventory by means of barcode scanning to track actual consumption, eliminating waste of over- or under-utilised material
  • Kanban replenishment of manufacturing work centres, even in complex multi-site scenarios; the application helps to eliminate the barriers (including inventory ‘buffers’) that can sometimes be caused by physical distance between a point of need and its source of supply
  • Control the flow of inbound material by using proven warehouse management functions, fully integrated with existing ERP or MES systems
  • Make the most of opportunities to utilise existing owned inventory, instead of buying new
  • Highlight the use of expensive, non-standard items when less expensive standard items may be used instead
  • Manage spare parts or aftermarket inventory that may be stored in dedicated locations with different processing rules
  • Provide suppliers with the means to deploy consigned material , and to manage the replenishment of it based on forecast, actual consumption, firm demands, or any combination thereof. Proven features help to ensure stronger long-term relationships with trading partners, by allowing them to act like extended factories within your own organisation
  • Perform light assembly operations, either in the supplying warehouse or another location away from the main production line, and deliver these to their actual point of need on a just-in-time basis, thereby improving the utilisation of skilled assemblers as well as manufacturing cycle time
  • Improve the efficiency of a single piece flow operation, by improving the availability of materials in terms of quality, quantity and time.

Find out more

Using WAERlinx for Kanban replenishment of electrical components

Category : warehouse management · No Comments · by Dec 20th, 2013

Astute, a global distributor of electrical components, is the largest nonfranchised
company of its kind in the UK, with an annual turnover of £40
million. In 2009 it won the contract to provide material management services to
a leading French defence contractor.

The contract was a complex one, with unique requirements that Astute’s
embedded ERP system (Syspro) could not fully provide the functionality and
flexibility to effectively support. What’s more, Astute had to find a solution that
would not disrupt its current operations; something with minimal
implementation and timescale implications.

That’s where WAERlinx from Waer Systems came in. This Cloud-based service is
now the primary system used by Astute for demand management, Kitting,
transaction processing, inventory management and point-of-use replenishment,
and it was this partnership that allowed them to show their customer that they
were the right choice for the contract, with the first live transactions processed
on WAERlinx at the start of August 2010.

The project

The contract between Astute and the defence contractor involves the supply of
products such as PCB boards and electrical components, and the management
of inventory between Astute’s warehouse and their customer, using a
combination of WAERlinx Kitting modules and its Kanban/Replenishment
module.

What does it do?

All master data, such as part numbers and BOMs (Bills of Material) are
interfaced from Syspro (Astute’s system) to WAERlinx, allowing vastly improved
visibility and efficiency for all parties.

How it works (in detail):

Initially, Mestec (their customer’s system) sends the MPS (Master Parts
Schedule) – a delivery schedule for Kits for the next five years – to Syspro.
Syspro then formats the MPS and it is interfaced to WAERlinx.

At this point, any changes to the delivery requirements for the next two years
(new orders, delivery date changes, quantity changes etc.) are identified and
added to WAERlinx, updating the delivery schedule.

When the delivery schedule is sent from the customer it is at Kit level, and
WAERlinx explodes the Kit to the individual components and quantities
required. Once the MPS is processed to WAERlinx, a forecast file at component
level is generated and interfaced to Syspro at Astute. Astute then generates an
MRP identifying their purchasing requirements for the next five years.

As the customer’s demands become due, Astute picks, packs and ships them to
the customer and a delivery file is generated and interfaced to Mestec showing
that the inventory is in transit.

Once received by the customer, the Astute’s on-site person records receipt of
the inventory to WAERlinx, the records are interfaced to Syspro and Mestec to
confirm the stock position on site, and the transfer of ownership from Astute to
the customer is captured.

WAERlinx Kanban/Replenishment:

As the customer consumes the inventory their engineers update Mestec,
confirming quantity and traceable information used. Mestec interfaces these
records to WAERlinx, which triggers an automatic replenishment order if the
inventory levels drop below the agreed levels – ensuring a smooth
consumption pattern and crucially, no shortages.
Real-time WAERflow interfaces are in place between all key systems, meaning
that demands, shipments and receipts are immediately shown on WAERlinx.
Consequently, at any given time, all inventory can be accounted for at any
point in the supply chain, whether through Mestec on the customer’s side, or
Syspro at Astute.

The parts and components required by the customer are changing all the time –
a key requirement that has been incorporated into the solution; when each
order is received and formatted for processing, an exceptions report is
automatically generated and sent to Astute to highlight missing part numbers
and other anomalies. WAERlinx also automatically manages the transfer of
ownership from Astute to the customer.

In addition, if parts become damaged on the customer’s site, this is also
recorded so that although the part is unusable, it is still accounted for, for
billing and stock replenishment purposes.

All this requires no human input and is therefore highly effective and
accurate, and has dramatically reduced both human resources and errors.

What is particularly noteworthy with this project is that it provides Kitting and
Kanban (using WAERlinx) but also an interfacing solution (WAERflow) allowing
all parties to see real-time stock information wherever they are in the supply
chain and whatever system they are looking at.

What’s more, demand lines allow Astute to better forecast and share
information with suppliers, thereby also vastly improving procurement.
Schematic Diagram of the Astute/WAERlinx/Mestec Solution

Schematic Diagram of the Astute/WAERlinx/Mestec Solution
astutepaper

Google

Seven key considerations for RFID Implementations

Category : RFID · No Comments · by Nov 15th, 2013

Understanding and making the key decisions at the start of an RFID project makes all the difference between success and failure. These are our top 7 agenda items when discussing RFID feasibility.

Active or Passive tags?

Active tags emit a stronger signal, and do so without activation from an RFID reader. They continuously ‘chirp’ their identity. However they are battery-powered and cost more than passive tags.  Passive tags tend to be smaller than active tags, and have a longer lifespan. If a tag only needs to respond at the time when it is read, then this would be a strong point in favour of selecting passive tags. Active tags should only be selected over passive tags if there is a compelling reason for doing so. In our experience, passive tags will provide an ideal solution for automated inventory control, but without the cost of active tags.

Required read range

The distance at which tags need to be read influences not only the choice of tag, but also crucially the choice of reader too.  Some key questions to consider are: How far will the reader be from the tag that it is reading? Will tags have different orientations when they are read? What are the spatial dimensions of the area where read coverage is needed? The choice of hardware must be proven to achieve the read requirements that are set out by the answers to these questions. With RFID, there is no single ‘best’ solution, and particular care is therefore needed in choosing the right equipment.

Selection of tags

The primary consideration when selecting tags is to find the optimal balance between tag size and required read range. As a general rule, the larger the tag the greater the read range. Next, consider whether there is likely to be interference from any electromagnetic source. Today, tags are optimised to work either on metal, off metal, or near to metal. Consider also whether the tags will be subject to physical contact or impact. Are any special coatings needed for the tags?

Attaching tags to assets

Think carefully about how and where tags will be attached. Obviously a secure attachment, which does not affect the integrity of the asset to which it is attached, is essential.

Tag Commissioning

Think through how tags will be programmed with unique information, such as an identification number. Tag commissioning should ideally be done away from the final asset location, and not after the tag has been fitted to the asset itself.

Application Testing

Once the system has been designed, is it essential that it is thoroughly tested in the actual operating environment where it will eventually be used. Sources of interference in the actual operating environment can give rise to test results that are significantly different from those achieved in a different location, such as a design office for example.

Research new applications for RFID

RFID technology is evolving continuously at the moment. New, innovative devices and applications are being released all the time. It is very worthwhile keeping up to date with these, since any one of them could be ideally suited to the requirements of your project.

Google

WAERlinx 8 Released!

Category : WMS · No Comments · by Oct 30th, 2013

Waer Systems continues to stay ahead of the game with the release of WAERlinx8.  Enhanced features and a more intuitive new look and feel make customers’ lives even easier.

Waer Systems specialises in the design, development and implementation of flexible software solutions for organisations with complex supply chain and reporting needs.

The company was established in 2000, initially to meet the need for improved supply chain execution and warehouse management within the global aerospace industry. Today, our innovative, elegant solutions deliver increased process efficiency, optimised parts/asset management and real-time information flow to market leaders in a range of sectors.

In delivering WAERlinx8, our primary focus has been on enhancing the user experience in a number of key ways.  The product has a completely new and intuitive look & feel, building on our key concepts of core WAERlinxWAERflow and WAERconsole.

waerlinx8_screen1

WAERconsole – for use on a wide range of mobile devices

We are particularly proud of our WAERconsole module; our dedicated Mobile Business Intelligence area for gathering KPIs, reporting and management information.  This module makes use of state-of-the-art techniques to deliver graphs and reports tailored to the needs of the individual user.

waerlinx8_screen2

We have also developed it for use with as wide a range of mobile devices as possible, enabling our users to access their key data wherever they are.

waerlinx8_screen3

Google

Delivering RFID in the Cloud

Category : RFID · No Comments · by Jul 23rd, 2013

In recent years, the maturing of RFID and Cloud computing have followed a similar trajectory from niche specialism to mainstream business tools.  Their convergence forms a key part of the emerging concept of “The Internet of Things” where network enabled, geo-located objects and sensors provide the input for an array of imaginative software solutions touching all aspects of our lives.

Using web based software to track and trace RFID enabled objects around the world is an extremely powerful concept and it is one that we have sought to deliver to our customers.   Waer Systems has a long history of solving complex business problems through our Cloud based software.  Waer’s RFID architecture is a modular system that is designed to complement our core offering and it can also be deployed independently and interfaced directly to other systems.  How this is achieved, is down to the cloud based architecture of Waer’s solution.

When we designed our RFID module, we wanted to make sure that it fitted into our existing cloud architecture.  This would provide a number of key benefits for our customers:

  1. Global visibility – The primary user interface is the web browser and so the system is available to anybody anywhere with a web-enabled device.
  2. Software as a Service – Because the software engine is hosted by Waer, all updates and enhancements are managed centrally by Waer and these can be rapidly rolled out to a global user base.
  3. Reduced hardware overheads – Because the software can be purchased as a service, there are no expensive investments in Server hardware and its corresponding maintenance.
  4. Scalability – Cloud based services are inherently scalable.  Additional server power can be added and taken away with ease.  New devices can be brought into the network and physical locations brought on-line with minimal effort.
  5. Integration options – With the software being designed for operation in the cloud there are lots of options for integration using XML and other technologies.

Our approach to the architecture was therefore driven by ensuring that it was cloud based, open and extendable.

RFID Cloud Architecture

To implement our cloud based architecture we broke it down into discreet elements that would exist independently of one another:

  • RFID Tags
  • RFID Gates – Incorporating Antennas and Readers
  • RFID Gate Server
  • RFID Handheld Devices
  • WAERlinx – Incorporating core WAERlinx, WAERconsole and WAERflow

Two key considerations for exposing these elements in the cloud are security and availability.  We took steps to secure the hardware and software to make sure that information was only available to registered users within our software.  To ensure availability we have implemented monitoring software and built in redundancy and failover to the hardware platforms.

waer_rfid_architecture_diagram2 (1)

RFID Tags

A key objective in the design of our RFID solution is that it is interoperable with other systems on a global scale.  For this reason it was critical that we adopted internationally recognised RFID tag encoding standards for our application.  The obvious choice was the EPC Gen 2 standard which is the internationally recognised standard for UHF RFID item encoding.

This standard is controlled by GS1 and embodies a number of different encoding standards depending on the nature of the items being tracked.  For part number/service identification, for example there is the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) and for asset life-cycle tracking there is the Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI).

We therefore adopted this standard and based our tag and RFID hardware selection decisions on it.  A key feature of the standard is that it is specific to UHF technology.  UHF is the default choice when choosing RFID technology because of its long read range and as a result the choice of tags and hardware that support it is extensive.

RFID Gates

RFID Gates are made up of one or more antennas attached to an RFID reader.   RFID readers generally have 2 or more antenna ports.  As an RFID tag passes through the antenna field, it is picked up and read by the reader.  The reader can be configured for the environment in which it is working, the tag frequency for example or the read-range can all be set with the reader.  It also handles some low level issues such as read collision.

The reader will capture the scans but in order to be of use in a cloud environment, they need to be made available over the internet.  To enable this we use the Low Level Reader Protocol (LLRP).   This protocol is designed to provide a common network interface to RFID devices and as such it is ideally suited implementing cloud based solutions.  As long as the reader can be reached over the network then its captured reads can be interrogated by application software which, in the case of the Waer solution, is the RFID Gate Server.

RFID Gate Server

The RFID Gate Server is a cloud based Web application which allows the operators to use and maintain the RFID gates.  A single gate server controls all the gates in the network.  Users can log into the Gate Server application at a given location and use it to interact with an RFID gate.  If the gate is an operator driven gate, the operator can review the captured scans and then process them.

System administrators can use the gate server to create new gates and maintain existing ones.  We provide several different options for how gates can be set up:

  • Interactive – In interactive mode, an operator manages the gate, validating the scans and selecting processing options for the captured data.
  • Autonomous – In autonomous mode the gate will process all the scans received without any interaction from an operator.
  • Directional – a directional gate is like the autonomous gate except that it can detect whether the movement is inbound or outbound.  This is achieved by using multiple antennas and using the timestamps of when the tag is read by each antenna to determine direction.

To make the architecture extendable we chose to separate the RFID Gate Server from core WAERlinx and deliver it as a separate autonomous module.  This would give us the option to integrate it with other applications without needing to use our core engine.  We therefore used XML over HTTP as a standard interface mechanism for the Gate Server and built a web service in core WaerLinx to interface to it.

RFID Handheld Reader

Handheld RFID readers are necessary where the container is too large or heavy to go through the RFID gate or the environment is not suitable for a fixed gate.  This might be the case if the site in question belongs to a 3rd party that is unwilling to install a fixed gate.  A further feature of these devices is that they can be GPRS enabled so that they can be used in areas with limited access to standard wired and wireless networks.  We designed the software running on these devices to operate in store/forward mode so if there is no access to any network at a specific location, for example a difficult environment such as one might find in mining, they can still be used to perform operations and then the scans can be transmitted later once the device is back in range of a network.  They are also the preferred option when it comes to taking an RFID based stock count.

For our handheld application, we use the same XML interface as the Gate Server meaning that the handheld application is equally extendable.

WAERlinx

Once the scans are captured in WAERlinx, all the power of our core product can be brought to bear on the management of the supply chain.  As this application is delivered over the internet using the web browser, it completes the cloud solution for the RFID platform.

All of the functionality to support the movement of items and the stock-count process is found in core WaerLinx.  XML requests are received from the Gate Server and Handheld scanners; they are processed and the system returns a response back to the calling device.  This is where the more complex features like service management and alert handling are brought into play.   The bulk of system maintenance is handled within the core product.  Users can import new items into the application and create new sites and locations to move them into.

Using WAERconsole, operators can run detailed reports and enquiries on the supply chain that they are supporting.  They can run a wide range or reports including the inventory position and transaction history against the various items.  These reports can be displayed graphically as KPIs and are available on a range of devices including tablet and smart-phones.

WAERflow is our integration platform which enables information sharing between systems.  This component can be used to interface data between partner systems to further extend the reach of the system.

Summary

A successful implementation of RFID in the Cloud needs some key ingredients:

  • Internationally recognised RFID encoding standards should be adopted
  • Each individual element needs to be able to stand-alone as an independant networked device
  • Each networked device needs to be effectively secured
  • Each networked device needs to be monitored to guarantee uptime
  • Sufficient redundancy and failover needs to be built into the solution
  • RFID gate configuration needs to be flexible to allow a variety of operational options
  • GPRS and Store/Forward techniques can extend the reach of RFID to inhospitable environments
  • LLRP  can be used to communicate between RFID readers and cloud based application software
  • RFID needs to be underpinned by great application software to really deliver its benefits
  • That software needs to have good integration capabilites to extend the RFID benefit to other systems

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