T.L. Ashford Rolls Out New RFID Software for OS/400
by Alex Woodie
T.L. Ashford & Associates is now shipping a new module that allows its Barcode400 software and OS/400 applications to generate "smart labels" encoded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Manufacturers and distributors in the retail, consumer processed goods, and hardline goods supply chains are under pressure to include RFID tags on shipments and to meet the RFID deadlines set by Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, the Department of Defense, and other supply chain leaders.
Barcode400 is a native OS/400 label-generation application that integrates with users' RPG, COBOL, and CL applications. The software works by merging product data from the core OS/400 application onto a barcode template (created with a Windows label design component that's included), and then sending the label to the printer. Barcode400 supports all the major barcode standards and symbologies and can generate compliance labels for a variety of industries.
RFID tags are gaining popularity as a possible replacement, or at least a complementary technology, for the ubiquitous UPC barcode. RFID tags allow product data to be captured automatically by a series of RFID readers located in the immediate premises, or included on new barcode guns, instead of requiring a person to scan each barcode individually. Passive tags will work within a 10-foot radius, while active tags will work from up to 100 feet from a reader. Since Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense announced in 2003 that their biggest suppliers will need to start including passive tags on shipments in January 2005, several major retailers, including Target, the Home Depot, Albertson's, and Kroger's, have announced RFID mandates of their own, affecting thousands of OS/400 shops around the world.
The RFID add-on for Barcode400 will allow RFID-based "smart labels" to be encoded with data directly from an OS/400 server and to be printed to RFID-enabled thermal printers. "In terms of generating the smart labels, current users of Barcode400 will find the implementation of RFID technology as simple as adding new fields to an existing label format," says Keith Suedkamp, technical support manager at the Lexington, Kentucky, company.
T.L. Ashford's new RFID module supports the Class 0 and Class 1 (write once, read many) RFID label standards, defined by the EPCglobal organization, which is charged with developing the Electronic Product Code (EPC) and associated RFID standards and interfaces. T.L. Ashford says that its RFID module is ready to support the Class 1, Generation 2 EPC tags when the EPC publishes the specification and Class 1, Gen 2 printers become available. Wal-Mart wants it suppliers to use Class 1, Gen 2, which have the advantage that they can be re-written in the field.
T.L. Ashford's RFID module started shipping on April 15 and costs $1,500. Licenses for Barcode400 range between $1,495 and $4,495, depending on the number of printers connected to the OS/400 server. For more information, go to www.tlashford.com.