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.
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.
The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.
If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of RFID-managed security and safety?
Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout an office. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?
Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.
RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.
Congratulations to the honorees of Fast Company’s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards for retail environments. These companies are recognized for their forward-thinking designs that serve markets better and offer more productivity and profitability to their owners. From our perspective as space utilization and information management experts, two businesses in Fast Company’s 2019 class stand out for ingenious uses of commercial space and data technology:
The co-working company Spacious is built on an inventive model that takes freelancers out of their overcrowded daytime “Starbucks office” and places them in restaurants that are closed during the day, open only for dinner. These restaurants are climate-controlled, and the lights are on for the day prep crew, but the dining areas are completely empty until late afternoon; in essense, the restaurants are paying for underutilized space. Restaurants team up with Spacious to provide co-working space in the unused dining rooms, and the Spacious on-site team provides power points, wifi hookups, and user assistance. With memberships set at an affordable $95 per month, which Spacious splits with the restaurants, it’s a win for everyone.
Walmart has been a pioneer in retail technology for many years. An early adopter of supply-chain RFID, Walmart recently installed a pilot program of retail AI in the form of an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) in one of its highest-demand locations. Sensors and cameras send information to a room-size data center, which in turn generates alerts to maintain the in-store inventory. Availability of products, freshness of produce, even the number of empty grocery carts in the parking lot, all is monitored by the IRL rather than by store associates. Staff are freed up to focus on face-to-face interactions with customers. Productivity goes up, and the cost of outdated inventory and lost sales goes down.
We strongly advocate the use of asset management technology. RFIDand bar codingare proven information management systems with a positive impact on profits. Well done, Walmart!
Good design isn’t just an aesthetically-pleasing façade; it contributes to the success of a business, and enriches the community in which that business operates. Our highest compliments to these enterprises for their outstanding designs!