The craft beer business is booming. Small regional brewers and local micro-breweries supply unique local beers to nearby bars and restaurants, accounting for nearly 24% of beer consumption in 2020. Post-covid, many bars and restaurants have been short-staffed and patrons have stayed away rather than endure long waits for service. In response, some creative pub owners have turned to RFID technology to help get beer into patrons’ glasses.
The use of RFID in self-serve beer pubs is not entirely new, but it’s expanding rapidly as a way to help with hospitality staffing challenges. Patrons are issued an RFID wristband that records their driver’s license information and payment card, and the self-serve “beer wall” records their purchases. The benefits include:
- Reduced liability – The system places automatic limits on patrons’ consumption and prevents underage self-service.
- Better marketing management – Buying habits are tracked based on age group, day of the week, etc., to match popular products with outreach efforts.
- Improved inventory management – Real-time inventory reports help avoid shortages and lost sales.
It should be noted that these RFID benefits are not limited to the hospitality industry. Inventory management has been a strength of RFID for decades, but inventive users keep coming up with new ways to use RFID as an operational solution:
- Life Sciences – Researchers identify and track samples throughout the testing process, preventing errors that could skew results.
- Healthcare – Equipment and drug inventories are continuously monitored, and personnel are tracked throughout hospital complexes, ensuring adequate numbers of staff and materials.
- Administrative Offices – Paper documents are tracked as they move from desk to desk, avoiding misplacement or erroneous deliveries.
At its most basic, RFID may be thought of as an inventory management tool, but as these applications show, it is really much more. It frees employees to focus on their primary tasks as it automatically tracks and counts operational items of all kinds. It saves the hours that would otherwise go to correcting errors. And it will even dispense a beer for you at the end of a long workday. Cheers to that!
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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.
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Counterfeits are big business. A global analysis estimated lost sales of $1.82 trillion in 2020. And it’s not just the sales lost to counterfeits. Jobs are lost. Even lives are lost. And brand trust – intangible and invaluable – is damaged, perhaps forever.
Fake products aren’t confined to luxury goods like handbags and watches. They include:
- Pharmaceuticals – Whether they are ineffective sugar pills, or contain dangerous toxins, counterfeit medications have been estimated to kill as many as 1 million people annually.
- Art and Antiquities – Reputable museums and private collectors paid a grand total of $80 million for counterfeit works from one New York forger, as documented in the film “Made You Look.”
- Consumer goods – From consumer electronics to vintage wines, fake labels and fake contents cost the U.S. $600 billion per year.
- Manufacturing components – Falsely labeled components and materials were reported to cost the automotive industry alone $3 billion per year.
Adding insult to injury, counterfeits destroy brand trust. A Harris Poll of 2018 found that if Americans learned that they had purchased a fake product, 73% would stop buying from the company that sold it.
Technology comes to the rescue in the form of RFID. RFID assigns a unique identifier to every element of a product. It starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process and continues through product completion, shipping, warehousing, and retail sale. The authenticity of each finished product can be certified. Its RFID-managed and controlled “history” is unimpeachable. Your brand’s reputation is enhanced though the use of anti-counterfeit technology, and customers trust your brand more than ever.
RFID has many benefits, from inventory management to operational security and more. But perhaps none is more valuable, in the long run, than protecting your brand.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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