What is RFID Asset Tracking?Matt Slutz
The Traceability problem arises with the need to know “Where’s my stuff?” Traceability is the ability to trace or track the movements and processes through which a particular product has traveled. It is the ability to track an asset and all the progressions that the asset goes through, from the acquisition of raw materials through production to consumption. In other words, traceability allows us to have knowledge and control at all times of when and where a product was manufactured, what phases or places it has traveled in the distribution process, and finally by whom and where it is purchased, utilized, or consumed.
The identification systems of products, merchandise, packages, etc., allows the manufacturer to give a unique ‘registration’ to each item, box, or pallet to initiate its traceability, establishing a system that allows us to recognize each piece individually and thus build their traceability along the chain.
Barcoding has been the system of choice in the industry for many years but is not always effective because many times it relies on a human interaction to scan an item, while RFID tags allow automatic readings of items in motion without the need for physical touch or even eye contact. In addition, it can record simultaneous readings on an assembly or shipping line at distances up to 10 meters.
Since its inception, RFID technology has been providing manufacturers with high-quality, reliable, product track-and-trace functionality throughout their supply chains. Today’s RFID platforms automate the product identification process during shipping, receiving, packing, and storage operations. Inventory counts are performed smoothly with fixed and mobile readers for greater visibility, efficiency, and safety.
Thanks to RFID systems we can now not only follow the product throughout the supply chain but also learn about its interaction with the customer or consumer. Thus, it is a technology that offers strategic advantages to the manufacturing industry, since it can be used in the tracking of inventories more efficiently while providing visibility of real-time inventory traffic. Manufacturers need this real-time visibility for things like work in process (WIP), raw materials tracking, supply chain processes, inbound and outbound shipments, returnable racking, metrics and analytics, and process traceability.
RFID Tracking systems are increasingly gaining more popularity in the manufacturing industry. The technology has many benefits in the manufacturing industry including:
- Tracking of items, containers, and pallets from production to supplier and final destination in real time,
- Returnable and reusable rack tracking, (Supplier sends parts to the manufacturer in returnable, reusable crates. These crates are tracked in real time to ensure they are returned from manufacturer to supplier.)
- Record keeping of the journey products,
- Detection of errors and problems,
- Notifications and alerts in real time if articles leave the warehouse without authorization,
- Control of the location of products within the warehouse,
- Visibility of work in process and traceability of production workflow in real time,
- Validation and verification that right parts and right counts are being used in the manufacturing process and right products are being shipped, and
- Quality control tracking.
The path that the product follows, from production to retail, provides valuable information in times of Big Data. As a result of this new available information and with the help of business intelligence or data mining applications, manufacturers can now handle alternative and variable solutions for just-in-time and just-in-sequence production processes. With RFID, today the manufacturer can obtain and utilize deeper knowledge of production control, process optimization, and quality control.