RFID began as an inventory management tool, but now it interfaces with every part of an organization. Today there’s an RFID application that will make your operations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, no matter what your business is.
RFID’s digital records replaced pen-and-paper recordkeeping. As Jeff Schmitz writes in Forbes, RFID began by tracking the location and number of tangible items in a company’s inventory. Its speedy information delivery gave businesses a greater degree of agility in managing the flow of goods.
Then operations managers began to realize that RFID could transform from an inventory monitor to an enterprise-wide information system. An RFID-based “enterprise intelligence” system provides real-time or near-real-time updates on:
- Levels of supplies
- Work in progress
- Staff location
- Equipment condition
In addition to inventory reports, of course.
RFID is even integrated into automated manufacturing, connecting manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the production floor.
But RFID doesn’t stop with manufacturing and warehousing. Service industries too are benefiting from the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of an RFID intelligence system. Just a few of the service sectors making use of RFID:
- Transportation, Logistics and Postal Services– Have you received a notification of a package delivery or updates on a shipment? These service companies use an RFID-to-customer-order interface to keep recipients informed.
- Law Firms and Libraries– RFID doorway readers monitor the movements of paper documents embedded or tagged with RFID. One-of-a-kind documents are no longer at risk of being lost or misplaced.
- Healthcare– Medical equipment, medications, and staff can be located without delay,
- IT– Equipment in system control rooms and server vaults is tracked to eliminate loss or theft. Company-owned electronic devices (tablets, laptops) assigned to staff are tracked throughout company facilities, and as they leave and return to the building.
The bottom line: Practically every type of business has a need for RFID in many parts of its operations. But as Schmitz points out, “There is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single ‘best’ RFID solution for all organizations — or even for a particular industry.” An experienced RFID integrator can develop a custom solution for your unique business, and you can begin accruing the benefits of expanded digitalization.
Photo © Antonioguillem / AdobeStock
Square footage is ever more precious as our urban areas grow ever more crowded. Cities with naturally occuring geographical restrictions – San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York (Manhattan) – learned long ago that when you can’t go out, you have to go up. Land is too valuable to devote to the single-level use of green space, and except for a few famous parks, the concrete canyons of the world’s major cities are almost completely lacking in greenery. That is, unless Spanish biologist/designer Ignacio Solano has been at work.
From childhood, Solano studied the symbiotic relationships among plants, fungi, and bacteria. In 2007 he developed a successful method of gardening vertically using the natural interdependence of the botanical ecosystem. Patented in 2010, Solano’s vertical gardens were immediately commissioned by forward-thinking architects in Europe and South America. One of his most notable installations covers the surface of a high-rise building in Bogota, Columbia, as seen in this photo. A model of efficiency and automation, the garden utilizes grey water from the apartments combined with a system of sensors that monitor moisture, and distribute and recycle water.
Crowded urban spaces aren’t the only beneficiaries of a vertical solution. Businesses, too, can expand into unused overhead space within their offices or warehouses by installing a vertical storage system. These ingenious automated carousel systems increase storage capacity while conserving expensive floor space. And because there are no ladders or manual overhead lifting, a vertical carousel system actually improves employee safety. All these features add up to significant savings.
By utilizing the space overhead, you’re really decreasing another kind of overhead – the kind that contributes to your bottom line. Get in touch with a storage consultant to see if vertical is the direction your business should be looking.
Photo © Vita Vilcina
From Southern California to Washington, D.C., new warehouses are springing up overnight to meet market demands. There’s one time-consuming phase of warehouse build-out, however, that shouldn’t be bypassed regardless of how much of a hurry you’re in.
As reported by Site Selection Group, the demand for new warehousing is spurred by e-commerce’s continued exponential growth, where volume and speed-to-market are critical success factors. Warehouses can be constructed relatively quickly – an average of 81 days in the U.S. – but the permitting process for racking systems can potentially slow your build-out to a crawl, extending your timeline and costs.
Of course, the short-term costs of a longer timeline are far outweighed by the long-term costs of injuries and product losses (not to mention fines) in the event of racking system failures. It’s important to work with an experienced storage consultant who will design and install safe, reliable storage racks. Their expertise could help you speed up permit sign-offs from the building department and the fire department.
Building a strictly legal environment for your employees and your products will ultimately save you big-time in terms of safety and liability. Read more here about permitting, and see a video showing what happens when unpermitted racking fails in a seismic event.
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Concerns about safety and legalities are restricting the use of drones everywhere, except in one rather surprising place: the great indoors of mega-warehouses.
It’s completely legal to fly drones inside a private space, and logistics experts are putting drones to use inside large warehouses to automate certain tasks. Warehouses are finite spaces, and they can be mapped into drones’ programming for highly accurate flights. With the added ability to read RFID tags, drones can perform the mundane labor-intensive “cycle counting” that maintains an accurate inventory.
Walmart, one of the nation’s largest warehousers, has instituted a pilot program (no pun intended) to automate inventory management with drones. They estimate that a drone will be able to accurately check as much inventory in one day as a human employee can in a month – an impressive improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. And there’s the added factor of personnel safety: warehouse employees don’t have to climb ladders or operate lifts to count inventory.
Indoor drone usage isn’t right for every warehouse and every logistics manager. Ceiling height, interior walls, and racking systems all must be considered before moving to drone automation. And drones themselves are not cheap, particularly when spatial programming and RFID readers enter the equation. But for some businesses, it could be well worth the investment. Consult with a storage professional to see if drones are right for your warehouse operations.
Photo © trekandphoto / Fotolia
Economists and logistics pundits are hailing the advent of the “always-on” supply chain – one in which information is as valuable as goods. From drones to the Internet of Things, smart technology is changing the supply chain landscape.
A recent report from MHI, the materials handling and logistics trade organization, listed eight technologies that are key to the always-on supply chain:
- Predictive analytics
- Robotics and automation
- Sensors and automatic identification
- Wearable and mobile technology
- Driverless vehicles and drones
- Inventory and network optimization tools
- Cloud computing and storage
- 3D printing
As information flows freely throughout the supply chain, shipping modes will be modified. Warehousing needs will alter. Training and staffing requirements will change. These changes will have a profound effect on the way we all do business. Ask yourself if your business is ready for the always-on supply chain, and consult with your storage professionals to make sure you’re ahead of the curve.
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When the new mega-size container ship “Benjamin Franklin” docked in the Ports of Los Angeles in late 2015, it marked the beginning of a new shipping era. The ship can carry 18,000 containers. Placed end to end, the containers would reach from Baltimore to Philadelphia, a distance of nearly 100 miles. That’s a lot of containers!
And that number of containers has logistics experts worried. Their concern: The land-side infrastructure of ports on the US west coast cannot handle such a large influx of containers at one time. Trucks will not be able to get in and out of the ports quickly enough to move all those containers off the docks and make room for the next ship waiting its turn to unload, says Jared Vineyard, blogging for Universal Cargo.
This congestion starts a domino effect that is felt all the way down the supply chain – transportation delays increase, warehouses aren’t restocked on time, and retailers will feel the squeeze. Despite the increased shipping capacity, American shoppers may actually experience shortages of their favorite consumer goods. To keep retail shelves stocked, wholesalers and warehouse managers should be looking at ways to increase their own storage capacity ahead of the bottleneck that could be building at the seaports.
Photo © Jochen Binikowski– Fotolia.com