Guest Post: Q&A with Anush Kumar of S3Edge

November 7, 2012 Impinj

Operator using S3Edge software and rfid in warehouse

S3Edge is a software product company focused on delivering mission-critical process automation solutions with Auto-ID technology. The company provides packaged software licenses, professional services, annual support, and Auto-ID hardware including Impinj RFID products. S3Edge delivers industry solutions for Healthcare (transfusion medicine supply chain monitoring), Energy (power plant asset tracking and foreign material exclusion tracking) and Manufacturing (error-proofing plant floor operations, automated shipping and receiving, and warehouse operations). Anush Kumar, S3Edge’s CTO & Vice President of Business Development shares insights from new enterprise-ready RFID solutions developed this year based on S3Edge’s Spotlight suite of software applications (mobile and web-based) and Impinj hardware.

When we talk about mission-critical, the classic definition (from my Microsoft server software background) goes something like this “Mission-critical applications are business applications, excluding email, that would bring your company to a stop if they were not running. Mission-critical applications are typically supported and managed by a central IT staff. Examples of such applications are airline reservation systems and order processing for a retail store chain.”

Now, when you combine the above software application taxonomy with RFID technology, you combine this nature of software with hardware and tags in a seamless manner to achieve a unique class of enterprise-ready solutions that are ‘Always On By Design’ – or in other words: the failure of a solution of this nature, will result in the failure of a business’s mission-critical operations which is never a good thing

It is very important to note that this mission-critical class of solutions is very different from the majority of solutions we see today with RFID technology (i.e. applications that find a niche and fill it are not required to be mission-critical, and usually adapt the business to the process) because they represent the ‘primary’ process and are designed from the ground up to be 24×7, high-availability solutions in production. We believe the continued adoption of mission-critical solutions will be the catalyst for the broader adoption of RFID technology for enterprise-wide process automation and tracking. I’ve written more about this topic here.

There is no question in my mind that the future is extremely bright for UHF technology in the healthcare field both from a value and a needs perspective.  Whether it is high-value asset tracking, tracking blood and other biologic products, or in enabling a better healthcare experience for patients with more efficient processes, UHF technology is slowly gaining momentum.

To expand on this a bit, based on our experiences using HF technology in tracking and error-proofing operations across the transfusion medicine industry, we absolutely see how UHF can not only ‘speed-up’ some of the bulk-check-in, movement tracking, and reconciliation operations, it is also very clear that longer term this would be a preferable approach for blood centers and hospitals to cost-justify a solution of this nature.

Healthcare is a highly regulated industry (rightfully so as human lives are at stake), and it will take ‘approved’ mission-critical solutions before UHF takes off as a standard across the board. In other word it’s not necessarily a technology barrier that we need to break through, but rather a confidence barrier to bust this vertical open. We believe S3Edge is in a unique position, along with Impinj, to enable this class of applications for the transfusion medicine industry that include the right set of regulatory approvals to achieve scale.

Compliance, in the applications we’ve deployed, is mainly driven by strict regulation requirements. For example, Auto-ID technology can very clearly help blood centers and hospitals prevent errors by tracking the movement of physical assets across their transfusion operations in addition to helping improve efficiency of operations (helping them do more with less). This in turn directly impacts compliance readiness as compared to relying completely on paper-based processes. The electronic audit trails combined with the real-time error-proofing of operations that Auto-ID technology enables provides a high confidence tool that natively safeguards against potential audit violations by a regulatory authority.

Another great example is the FME (Foreign Materials Exclusion) services our software enables in nuclear power plants. As you can imagine these are extremely highly-regulated environments where every single asset (from tools to personnel) need to be accounted for every day at the beginning and end of a maintenance job cycle. Compliance errors usually have an extremely high price tag—not only from money and time to bring operations back into compliance but also with fines and reputation loss for audit failures.

In summary, a well-designed, mission-critical Auto-ID solution can not only help automate and improve the efficiency of ‘as-is’ paper-based processes, but the electronic tracking of asset movements that a solution of this nature enables out of the box goes a long way in ensuring that highly regulated environments stay in compliance with standard operation procedures (SoPs).

To read more about how Turkey Point, a nuclear reactor facility in Florida is using Auto-ID technology to achieve this, and why it’s important to them, visit my blog.

Discrete manufacturing and warehousing operations by definition contain a lot of material movement that is performed during (and which is critical to) their day-day business operations – this in turn represents a unique opportunity for Auto-ID based solutions to mistake-proof and automate paper-based operations. This slide encapsulates some of the areas where RFID can add a tremendous amount of value.

To share an example, Carrier Corp, a Fortune-50 company, a UTC company and the largest HVAC manufacturer in the world is using our software and Impinj readers + tags for a high-availability solution which achieves the following:

And I am proud to say that roughly half a million units later, Carrier, S3Edge & Impinj have achieved something that’s arguably not been witnessed in our industry yet – a mission-critical solution of scale that is the primary automation system of record, running in a high-available, highly dynamic, fast paced environment which also happens to be Industry Week’s #1 Manufacturing plant in America.

Some of the benefits Carrier is reaping include:

  1. What do you mean by mission-critical tracking solutions in the context of RFID?
  2. We’ve been seeing more movement towards UHF in healthcare. What are your expectations for the future of UHF in this industry?
  3. How is RFID technology being used for compliance? What does it mean and why is it important?
  4. Why is RFID a good fit for distributor manufacturing and warehouse applications?
    1. Improved efficiency of the trailer load process
    2. Streamlined pack-out
    3. Reduced errors
  • A tremendous amount of financial savings from improved efficiency and productivity at shipping, mistake proofing (reduced warranty, repair, and logistics costs), and reduced expenses
  • 33% improvement in shipping productivity
  • 80% reduction in shipping errors
  • Increased safety of personnel in shipping zones
  • Innovation and productivity increase of manufacturing here in the US

I hope to be able to share more about how we went about achieving this at Carrier in a case study and a webinar in the coming months. Carrier Corp will also give a keynote at RFID Journal Live! in May.

If you are a discrete manufacturer who has been waiting for this proof-point before moving ahead with a similar objective, please drop us a line. We’d love to share more about this (and similar mission-critical deployments at large enterprises) with you as you begin your initiatives.

 
Anush Kumar of S3Edge

 

Anush Kumar is CTO & VP Business Development at S3Edge where he oversees S3Edge’s product and solutions strategy, partner management, marketing, and business development. Anush comes to S3Edge following a distinguished career at Microsoft, where he worked on multiple incubations from concept to shipping, most recently as the company’s RFID business leader responsible for the creation, strategy and execution of the Microsoft RFID vision world-wide. Anush has been BizTalk RFID’s leading light from early incubation of the project to productization efforts, with multiple patents to his name and he is a sought after speaker and thought-leader in this space.

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