If you’re wondering if RFID has any applications for your business, the recent RFID Journal Awards might be an eye-opener. RFID has moved far beyond its original use as an inventory management tool. The array of various business sectors receiving awards ranges from hospitals to mines. A few of the award winners are reviewed here:
Healthcare: Winning in the Healthcare category, Sakura City Hospital is indeed a city, with more than 2,600 beds and over 187,000 assets. Those assets are tracked with RFID, reducing loss and waste, and ensuring the availability of equipment and medicines.
Manufacturing: This year’s winner in the Manufacturing category is using RFID to produce COVID-19 test kits with fewer personnel. With manpower at a premium, diagnostic-test manufacturer Danaher-Cepheid is helping save lives by maintaining high levels of production during the pandemic staffing crisis.
Implementation: This category awards innovative uses of RFID. Mining ranks in the top 25 most dangerous jobs; locating miners in a disaster reduces the chance of injury or death. Turkish industrial conglomerate Eczacibasi has implemented an active RFID system to monitor the location of miners and equipment with pinpoint accuracy.
Retail: RFID has been well-known in the retail world for several decades, but it has really come into its own in creating operational efficiencies. This year’s Retail award went to Havan Labs, a premiere retailer in Brazil. With more than 200,000 items, Havan Labs’ store inventories used to take 15 employees working over 5 nights. After implementing RFID throughout its operations, inventories take 1 employee, and 1 hour.
Even more important, RFID’s real-time data has enabled Havan Labs to reduce its in-store stock by 30 percent. Storage space has been converted to retail space, increasing sales without the risk of out-of-stocks.
Congratulations to all the winners and to all the businesses who have discovered the benefits of RFID for themselves. The above industry sectors are only the tip of the RFID iceberg – automobile parts, legal documents, antiquities, rental cars, historical archives, Army boot manufacturers…the list of RFID applications goes on and on. There’s an application for your organization, too. Who knows, it might win you an award.
Shortages and hoarding were two of the many unwelcome side effects of the pandemic. Remember the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020? A similar effect was felt in many business sectors. Manufacturers experienced shortages of parts or materials. Hospitals ran short of PPE and other supplies. Out-of-stocks cost retailers billions in a year.
Businesses responded to shortages by overstocking inventory. But overstocking is costly. Buying excess inventory is expensive; storing the excess adds additional costs. And if demand suddenly drops, your business is left holding the bag.
The just in time (JIT) production and distribution chain has been the enterprise holy grail for more than 3 decades. It only works if every segment of the supply chain communicates with every other segment in a timely manner. Any lapse or slow-down of communication means potential or actual shortages, with a ripple effect that is felt all up and down the line. Time is indeed of the essence.
And timely communication is where RFID shines. Not only does it track your inventory coming in the door, it tracks it as it leaves. And it communicates that information to your ERP system, in real time. At any given moment, managers can know exactly what they have on hand, and they can re-order at the right time to avoid a shortage, or an excess.
Moreover, this close monitoring of inventory doesn’t add to labor costs. Door-mounted RFID readers collect information automatically as inventory moves in and out. There’s no need to wait for a manual check-out, or even slow down for a bar code reader. RFID wins the inventory race every time, as this video shows.
Fast, accurate tracking of inventory is the key to keeping the supply chain moving smoothly and profitably. The data collected from RFID lets businesses confidently predict supply and demand throughout the supply chain. RFID is your ally in the battle for profitability.
Businesses everywhere are looking for ways to operate more sustainably. It’s not just good for the planet, it’s good for business. More and more these days, customers consider sustainability when making a purchasing decision.
But sustainability is more than a good marketing decision; it’s a money-saver too, especially in the manufacturing and supply-chain sectors. Less waste and lower energy use mean lower production costs. And RFID-informed processes excel at reducing waste and energy use.
The right amount in the right place at the right time– throughout the manufacturing and distribution chain, RFID tracks components and finished products, reducing waste in every sector of the supply chain.
Manufacturers aren’t blind-sided by sudden shortages of essential parts.
Retailers aren’t burdened with excess inventory, as they know what’s in the supply pipeline.
Warehouse operations aren’t caught between manufacturers demanding more storage space and retailers accepting less product.
Transportation providers don’t waste fuel and carbon credits on partial loads. The entire supply chain, start to finish, is streamlined to respond to demand.
Real-time information, 100% accurate – RFID tracking data is sent and received in real time, with completely accurate reports. Supply chain sectors are able to respond without delay, and the supply predictability supports energy conservation.
Information lets manufacturers adjust their operations’ energy usage to match demand.
Retailers update manufacturers immediately as inventory is sold, making demand predictable.
Warehouse operations monitor inventory movement to predict future storage needs.
Transportation providers anticipate inventory shipments, taking advantage of fuel values based on future needs in the short term.
An extra bonus: faster invoicing. With RFID tracking all product components and finished products throughout the supply chain, each sector is assured that delivery is complete. Invoice data is pulled from the RFID report and sellers can invoice immediately and accurately.
Even the RFID tags themselves are moving in the direction of sustainability. The earliest RFID tags contained plastic – not a choice favored by sustainability experts. Recently, however, some tag manufacturers have developed paper tags that are recyclable and compostable. Moreover, the tag manufacturing process itself benefits from RFID tracking, just like other manufacturing processes.
With RFID, everyone benefits – supply chain organizations, consumers, and Planet Earth.
Asset management system RFID (radio frequency identification) keeps expanding its usefulness. Well established for inventory management, RFID is proving itself to be adaptable for an array of other applications, including document management, process supply management, healthcare equipment and personnel tracking, enterprise resource planning, and physical asset management.
Even workplace social distancing is now being supported by RFID wearable technology. Wristbands or badges equipped with RFID sensors warn wearers when they are standing too close to one another.
Now Cellr, an inventive Australian startup, is creating an RFID-based system that will prevent intellectual-property fraud in the wine industry. Like any brand identification, wine labels are considered intellectual property. Consumers expect that the wine is exactly what the label states. However, it’s all too easy for fraudsters to print counterfeit labels and apply them to bottles of inferior wine, essentially stealing the winery’s intellectual property and damaging its brand. Wine fraud is estimated to cost the industry some $7 billion annually.
The new fraud-prevention system utilizes NFC (near-field-communication) and RFID tags embedded in corks at the winery – a kind of “digital birth certificate.” Buyers use a cell phone app to check the provenance of the wine, verifying that the wine inside the bottle matches the label on the outside. (Marketers, take note: As an extra bonus, the combined NFC/RFID tags allow wineries to deliver promotional messages to buyers.)
And of course the RFID-tagged corks simplify wineries’ and retailers’ inventory management, just like RFID inventory systems in other industries.
It’s easy to see how this fraud-prevention technique can extend into other areas. Works of art with embedded RFID can be easily identified as the one-and-only original. Legal documents become tamper-proof if they are printed on paper with embedded RFID fibers. Designer apparel and accessories with embedded RFID tags can be quickly authenticated.
With RFID, questionable provenance is no longer an issue. The chain-of-custody is unbroken. Supply chain reliability improves. Brand trust is reinforced. Manufacturers and retailers are confident that brand integrity is protected, and consumers are confident that they’re getting what they pay for.
Deterring fraud is just one of the numerous applications of RFID. If your business has assets (and what business doesn’t?) there’s an RFID application that fits your asset management needs.
Now that businesses are cautiously reopening, RFID is being deployed in the form of wearables that help employees maintain social distancing and stay safe in reopened workplaces.
In the U.S. and Europe, RFID suppliers are creating bracelets and smart watches with embedded RFID chips that alert users when they are too close to one another. Ford Motor Company, for example, has been testing an RFID wearable in the factories where it produces ventilators and respirators. Workers wear an RFID-enabled smart watch that vibrates and issues a color-coded warning whenever they move too near.
The watches also send social-distancing data to supervisors so they can modify workflows for better distancing. Further, the data provides supervisors with workplace contact tracing. If an employee becomes infected, other employees who have been in contact with that person can be identified for testing.
A spokesman for Italian RFID tech company Engineering points out that RFID’s proximity and contract tracing technology lets businesses isolate only the infected workers and their contacts, rather than all the employees. If only a small percentage of employees have to be pulled off the line, production can continue with little or no interruption.
Employees at many companies are teleworking to reduce their risk of infection. But even when telework is enabled by document imaging and digital asset management, it isn’t practical for every type of enterprise. Manufacturing, scientific research, logistics – these all require workers to be in the same place at the same time. The “new normal” is going to call for new ways of doing business and new applications of existing technology.
RFID is a mature, robust technology, a proven risk reduction tool for asset management and security. This same technology can be applied to a different kind of business risk: an infected workplace. RFID is easy to adapt for the socially-distanced workplace. As RFID is protecting your staff, it’s also protecting your business from additional production slowdowns. RFID is part of the solution for a safer workplace during reopening, and into the future.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to inventory and asset management, and RFID delivers the data faster than any other technology.
RFID is everywhere. Those plastic tags you’ve seen in retail stores; the small square metallic stickers on packaged goods; even your pet’s ID chip – those are all RFID tags. They store information about the item they’re attached to, and they deliver that information to an RFID reader’s screen.
Don’t bar codes manage information the same way? Not exactly. The key difference is in the way an RFID tag communicates with the reader. Bar code readers must “see” each bar code to collect the data. There has to be a clear sight line between the bar code and the reader. RFID readers, in contrast, don’t “see” the tag. They “hear” it, via radio waves sent by the tag. RF = radio frequency, ID = identification.
RFID readers can “hear” the signals from all the RFID tags in an area, all at the same time. Bar code readers, because they rely on “seeing,” can record only one bar code at a time. This video shows a bar code reader and an RFID reader in a head-to-head race.
Spoiler alert: The bar code reader is not going to be invited to the Kentucky Derby.
RFID technology has an application for every business sector.
Every business has a need for speed, because time is money. The less time it takes to collect information about assets, the more time you have to spend on your organization’s primary mission. RFID streamlines your workflow, improves inventory accountability, and monitors assets. Turbocharge your business with RFID.