Businesses of all kinds are facing enormous challenges when it comes to supply chain management, cost control, labor shortages and overall efficiency. But companies can get ahead in this challenging environment by using radio frequency identification (RFID) to better manage their inventory and assets and to automate their key processes. In this blog, we’ll discuss the benefits of RFID technology, the reasons why this technology is re-emerging as a reliable solution for track and trace, and share some real-world examples of how it’s being used.
What is RFID?
RFID is a wireless technology that helps companies track and trace their inventory and assets with digital accuracy and unprecedented automation and efficiency. It not only identifies and quantifies inventory and assets, but it also provides real-time insights into their last known location or current location for traceability. With RFID, companies can achieve inventory accuracy as high as 99%, and they’re able to get true visibility into the status, location, and quantities of all their tracked inventory and assets. It happens by tracking items, cartons, pallets, packages, or shipments with RFID-enabled tags or labels.
Each RFID tag or label contains a microchip with a unique ID and tiny micro transmitters that communicate with handheld or fixed-position RFID readers. These readers detect and identify each item and transmit data about its location, which can then be matched up with other information about the same item in a database. With passive RFID, the reader sends a signal and electrical energy to the tag or label, telling it to wake up and communicate with the reader. When you use active RFID, each tag or label contains its own tiny battery, so it wakes itself up periodically to communicate with nearby fixed RFID readers, and it provides its own power.
The big advantage of RFID is that this process is completely wireless, and tags or labels can be read remotely, without needing to scan barcodes or have line-of-sight access to a label. You can read an entire pallet or even an entire room of inventory in minutes, or even seconds, saving a massive amount of time and effort. With fixed RFID readers, you can even create a fully automated system that tracks inventory or assets as they move into, out of, and through specific locations. For example, you can place fixed RFID readers above doorways, in warehouse aisles, on a production line, or even at a loading dock, and any tagged or labeled items can be identified and tracked automatically as they pass by the reader.
Real-World Examples of RFID in Action
Some major brands are requiring many of their suppliers to start using RFID to tag and label the products they ship to the company’s warehouses and stores. This way, they can improve supply chain traceability, improve inventory accuracy, and make sure customers never place an order for something that appears to be in stock, but then it’s not actually in the warehouse or on the store shelf or rack.
In a world where e-commerce, curbside pickup, and in-store pickups are increasingly important, many retailers want to eliminate manual inventory management to reduce errors and improve worker productivity. Paper-based, manual processes are too labor-intensive and don’t provide the real-time accuracy or the insights into inventory locations or movement that RFID does.
Walmart, for example, now uses RFID to automatically detect, identify and track items as they are received, displayed and sold in its stores. The company started with apparel and is now expanding the technology into a number of other product categories. Depending on how the company builds out and expands its program, Walmart associates can use handheld mobile RFID readers to track and manage inventory on the go, or the company can potentially use an automated system with fixed readers at dock doors and in warehouse and store aisles, so it always has accurate insights into the quantity, status and location of specific products.
NDX Green Laboratory, a growing network of dental laboratories and an MSM Solutions customer, relies on RFID technology to manage virtually every item it produces, such as dentures, retainers, implants and crowns. NDX Green manages hundreds of cases per day, with as many as 1,000 products in each lab at any given time. Each of the products NDX Green produces is unique, and customized to the individual; so getting it right the first time is critical.
With so many unique products moving through its processes, MSM Solutions worked with NDX Green to implement an RFID system to track each case and provide insight into its status and location. This system dramatically reduces the time technicians, expediters and managers spend searching for cases and trying to locate them. Everything is tracked digitally instead of manually, so the company can avoid bottlenecks, keep workflows moving seamlessly, and avoid lost cases.
By implementing an RFID solution, NDX Green technicians, case expediters, supervisors and team leaders can now pull up the history of every order and case and instantly know where it is. They can see where the case has been, its current location, and can find out why a case hasn’t moved or prioritize certain cases to meet scheduling requirements without delay. Using MSM Solutions’ Portal Track™ software and Zebra RFID technology, NDX Green has real-time access to all the information and tools to help them manage their cases and processes, including the ability to locate a desired case on a map of their facility.
Benefits of RFID
This kind of visibility and traceability is why so many companies are now investing in Zebra RFID solutions to track their inventory, assets and workflows more efficiently in manufacturing, warehousing, healthcare, and many other industries. The opportunities are virtually limitless, and businesses can start with RFID in specific operational areas and then scale up from there as their needs change or they want to achieve similar benefits elsewhere.
How to Learn More About RFID
To learn more about RFID and its potential for your business, including whether it’s right for your application, connect with our team at MSM Solutions. We’ll be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. Today’s technology can be a big equalizer in today’s battles against costs, labor shortages, and lack of supply chain visibility.
To get started, call us now at 800-832-3170 or visit us at https://www.msmsolutions.com/.