Microsoft Business Solutions Expands Efforts to Deliver RFID Solutions For Small and Midmarket Segment Businesses

BALTIMORE, Sept. 28, 2004 — Today at the EPCglobal US Conference 2004, Microsoft Business Solutions announced that it is expanding the scope of its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) initiative to help small and midmarket segment businesses meet RFID technology compliance mandates from large trading partners and drive efficiencies in internal operations.

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, a U.S.-based, midmarket segment international snack manufacturer whose customer roster includes Wal-Mart and other large retailers, has been working with Microsoft Corp. and partners ABC Computers Inc., Avery Dennison Corp., SAMSys Technologies Inc. and SATO America Inc. to implement RFID. The RFID data will be integrated into Microsoft® Business Solutions–Navision®
, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, to increase visibility and control across its receiving, manufacturing and distribution processes, as well as to largely automate associated transactions.

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky is working with an early version of Microsoft Business Solutions’ forthcoming RFID solution. Microsoft Business Solutions plans to incorporate this RFID functionality as part of upcoming ERP product releases.

Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, said these efforts are further evidence of the business group’s ongoing commitment to helping small and midmarket segment customers respond to new challenges in managing their manufacturing and distribution processes across their supply chains.

“We continue to strive to make complex things simple for our small- and midsize-business customers, building solutions that meet their unique requirements and enable small and midsize businesses to function more like large enterprise companies,” Nadella said. “This RFID project with Jack Link’s Beef Jerky is an excellent example of this work in action.”

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky: A Phased Approach

The Jack Link’s Beef Jerky project will be implemented in four phases, with the support and involvement of several Microsoft partners. ABC Computers is working with Microsoft and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky’s IT department, managed by John Ericson, IT director, to integrate RFID data with the customer’s existing Microsoft Navision 3.7 application, leveraging an early version of the business group’s RFID solution that will make RFID support an integral part of its future ERP offerings. Avery Dennison is providing smart labels and RFID compliance testing services. SATO America is providing RFID label printers that have encoding and tag verification capabilities, and SAMSys Technologies is delivering readers and antennas.

The first phase, which was completed in less than three weeks, involved tagging cases and pallets for select SKUs of beef jerky destined for the Wal-Mart distribution center in North Texas. Even though Jack Link’s Beef Jerky will not be impacted by trading partner mandates until at least 2006, the company decided to be proactive regarding RFID requirements. “We know RFID is coming sooner or later, and we wanted to ensure we are ready to continue to better serve our customers,” said Karl Paepke, vice president of operations at Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.

Although the initial phase focused on achieving low-cost trading partner compliance, the upcoming phases will focus on driving internal business benefits for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.

The second phase will leverage RFID in connection with Microsoft Navision for manufacturing tracking. RFID tags will be attached to totes and racks in a closed-loop system and will replace the existing manual auditing process with automated recording of ingredient lot and finished products tracking.

“Given the large number of production steps and speed of operations, it would be uneconomical if not impossible to perform the required auditing steps using manual intervention,” said Donavan Lane, president of ABC Computers. “With RFID readers automatically feeding data into Microsoft Navision, we believe Jack Link’s Beef Jerky will not only realize greater operational visibility and control, it will also be able to pinpoint efficiencies in the manufacturing process through better control of yield at each production step.”

The third phase of the project will extend the process to raw-material supplies, to record lot information as part of the receiving and picking processes. It will enable Jack Link’s Beef Jerky to generate an automatic record of all raw materials going into a specific batch of product.

The fourth and final phase will leverage RFID in the distribution process to automate internal stock transfers from the company’s manufacturing sites to its central distribution center. By leveraging the increased visibility and inventory accuracy across its supply chain from end to end, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky expects to shorten cycle times, improve delivery performance and increase inventory turns.

Paepke said Jack Link’s Beef Jerky expects to realize considerable benefits from the project. Like many other midsize businesses, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky has thus far not made extensive use of automated data capture and has relied heavily on manual processes. In many cases, this means that data is simply not captured or is prone to errors. “By applying RFID across our entire supply chain, we hope to not only increase visibility and accuracy to a level we never thought possible, but also to largely automate all associated business processes,” Paepke said. “Although RFID is a key enabler, the integration into the business processes in Microsoft Navision is the driver of the business benefits we expect to realize. We want to leapfrog the bar-code era and go straight to the finish line with RFID.”

Microsoft Business Solutions and RFID for Small and Midmarket Businesses

Nadella says although the current driver of RFID adoption is a business’s desire to be compliant with trading partners, the example of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky shows that innovative midmarket segment companies understand the technology as a potential source of competitive advantage. “Furthermore, this project is evidence of our mandate to democratize RFID by bringing it to small and midsize companies,” Nadella said.

Microsoft Business Solutions plans to include RFID technology as part of its ERP solutions, enabling small and midsize customers to fully leverage the technology while retaining a familiar, easy-to-manage IT environment. “We’re approaching RFID as a natural extension to existing and future business logic and processes represented in our ERP products, working to ensure a deeper level of process integration as the key driver of business value while reducing the need for training and minimizing the complexity of the IT landscape for our customers,” Nadella said.

Microsoft Business Solutions will provide a full range of RFID capabilities, from RFID reader management to the functionality needed to translate reader events into information relevant to business processes. “The power of RFID to automatically capture the physical movement of an item and have its electronic shadow follow it in real time is something that, in time, will help address many of our customers’ business challenges,” Nadella said.

Microsoft Business Solutions plans to include RFID technology in upcoming ERP releases including Microsoft Business Solutions–Axapta® 4.0, Microsoft Navision 5.0 and the next major release of Microsoft Business Solutions–Great Plains®
. The offerings will provide out-of-the-box integration of RFID data with core business processes as well as a flexible and extensible framework on which partners can implement customer-specific processes. In developing these solutions, Nadella said that Microsoft will leverage key lessons from the project with Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, as well as a similar effort conducted with KiMs A/S, a Danish midmarket snack manufacturer that deployed an RFID solution integrated with its Microsoft Axapta installation in December 2003.

About Microsoft Business Solutions

Microsoft Business Solutions offers integrated business applications and services that allow small and midsize organizations and divisions of large enterprises to connect employees, customers and suppliers for improved efficiency. The financial management, customer relationship management, supply chain management and analytics applications work with Microsoft products such as Office and Windows®
to streamline processes across an entire organization, giving businesses insight to respond rapidly, plan strategically and execute quickly. Microsoft Business Solutions applications are delivered through a worldwide network of channel partners that provide specialized services and local support tailored to a company’s needs.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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Microsoft Business Solutions and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky ProjectPartner Quotes

ABC Computers

“We are passionate about leveraging RFID technology within clients’ business applications because it is simple and easily adapted to manufacturing and distribution processes, while capturing transactions in environments never before practical. We are very pleased to provide Jack Link’s Beef Jerky with an RFID-enabled enterprise solution. With the RFID technology built into Microsoft Navision, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky can instantly record inventory movement, measure manufacturing yield and efficiency, improve lot tracking, and improve its delivery performance.”

— Donavan Lane
President
ABC Computers

ABC Computers is a leading midmarket systems integrator specializing in the deployment of Microsoft Business Solutions–Navision, network engineering, hardware and business consulting services.

Founded in 1984, the company has built its reputation on managing customer expectations and became an industry-recognized provider of information technology systems. With three offices, the company has grown to manage over 850 clients in 18 states, leveraging state-of-the-art technologies such as RFID, global connectivity and advanced applications that improve business efficiencies.

The company attained Microsoft Certified Partner status since 1999 and has earned the high-level satisfaction rating and global recognition for long-term relationships with clients.

ABC Computers is a privately held company. For more information, please contact info@abc-computers.com or visit http://www.abc-computers.com .

Avery Dennison

“Avery Dennison is enthusiastic about the excellent opportunities RFID provides customers like Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. We believe that the development of low-cost, high-performance RFID inlays and labels will enable small and midmarket segment businesses to streamline their supply chain processes and reap all the benefits of this exciting new technology.”

— Andy Holman
Director of Business Development
Avery Dennison

Avery Dennison provides pressure-sensitive technology and innovative self-adhesive solutions for consumer products and label materials. Avery Dennison recently introduced a business unit dedicated to the manufacturing and marketing of low-cost RFID inlays and tags. This leverages the company’s existing distribution system by marketing RFID inlays and tags to its label converter customers, which supply pressure-sensitive labels to diverse end-user markets.

SAMSys Technologies

“The Microsoft RFID project at Jack Link’s Beef Jerky is proof that RFID technology will be as important for small and midmarket segment businesses as it is for larger enterprises. At the same time it demonstrates the importance of selecting components that are capable of supporting evolving RFID protocols. With SAMSys’ multiprotocol readers as part of its infrastructure, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky will be able to change RFID tags at any time to take advantage of new standards as they emerge without being forced to change its reader hardware. This flexibility will play a critical role in future-proofing Jack Link’s Beef Jerky’s investment, and it is an important factor to consider for any company launching an RFID program.”

— Cliff Horwitz
CEO
SAMSys Technologies

SAMSys, founded in 1995, is a world-leading provider of RFID hardware solutions. In addition to producing RFID reader hardware, SAMSys offers a family of products to simplify the installation and integration of application solutions, and ensure the ongoing performance of the overall RFID hardware infrastructure.

SATO America

“SATO is excited to participate in the Microsoft RFID project at Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. Our team is providing RFID printers, consumables, and expertise in AutoID and RFID technologies to enable Jack Link’s Beef Jerky to be not only compliant with certain RFID retail supply chain mandates, but — more important — to be able to take full advantage of this new technology internally in Jack Link’s Beef Jerky’s operations. SATO RFID printers and smart media provide Jack Link’s Beef Jerky with a one-step solution for encoding, reading, verifying and printing RFID tags. Having these capabilities as part of its business solution will enable Jack Link’s Beef Jerky to increase visibility, traceability, control and efficiencies across its supply chain and operations.”

— Jan Svoboda
RFID Business Unit Manager
SATO America

SATO America Inc. was formed in 1987 as a subsidiary of SATO Corp., Japan. During that period, SATO developed the world’s first thermal transfer barcode printers and became the leader in applying the technology to the market. SATO has developed RFID printers that can read, write and print smart labels and tags with embedded RFID transponders. Transponders include integrated circuitry with an antenna and are designed to be programmed and reprogrammed using radio waves.

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