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
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.
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.
The IRS is acting like Oprah, and small businesses across the U.S. are benefiting. Thanks to Section 179, the IRS is handing out a $1,000,000 deduction to every small business that puts qualifying equipment and/or software into use before the end of the year. Rather than depreciating equipment over the course of several years, Section 179 allows businesses to deduct the full price of equipment in Year 1, up to $1,000,000. That’s an enormous tax benefit.
And it gets better: Even if you finance the equipment rather than paying for it up front, you still qualify for the deduction. Leases as well as purchases are included in this rule. You don’t have to hand over a pile of cash in order to reap the Sec. 179 benefit.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction, including:
Tangible personal property used in the business, or equipment with a partial business use
Some improvements to existing business-only buildings, including security systems, HVAC, and roofing
There’s one small but essential thing to remember: The new equipment must be placed into service by December 31.
With only a few weeks left in the year, that deadline may seem like an insurmountable scheduling problem. Luckily, many business-equipment vendors offer quick-ship programs for their clients who want to take advantage of the Sec. 179 deduction. If you’re planning an equipment acquisition in the first quarter of next year, why not buy it now, put it into use before the end of this year, and get the money the IRS put under your seat?
You may already know how RFID* works, and how it benefits businesses through accurate, time-saving asset tracking. One surprising application is within the well-know bourbon distillery Wild Turkey, which adopted RFID to track its warehoused barrels of fine spirits. As reported in RFID Journal, the company formerly stamped each barrel with information about the barrel’s contents and the date the barrel entered the warehouse for aging. Keeping track of the whereabouts of each barrel was not just good business practice, it was mandated by government regulations. But maintaining a complete, accurate inventory required Wild Turkey’s warehouse crew to “eyeball” the information stamped on each of their 650,000 barrels – a time-consuming, labor-intensive and error-prone task.
Now, their RFID system starts tracking a new barrel at the time it’s manufactured, adding information to the barrel’s record when newly distilled bourbon is added to the barrel and when a warehouse location is assigned to start the aging process. Handheld RFID readers display the location and contents of every barrel in a warehouse, without the need for a warehouse staffer’s visual confirmation.
Regulatory compliance is now a simple matter of printing a report from the RFID software. Just as important, when a barrel has aged sufficiently and is ready for market, finding its location among its 650,000 neighbors is a snap. The fully-aged barrel is moved out of the warehouse, making room for a new barrel.
Even if you’re not operating a distillery, tracking the age of an asset is something that any business needs to do, particularly when the assets are documents. Like almost every enterprise, you probably have multiple file cabinets filled with documents. Many of those documents are long past their useful life, whether they were needed for operations or to fulfill regulatory requirements.
Add RFID tags to file folders, or even individual documents, and in the future any outdated documents can be identified easily, located quickly, and disposed of properly, whether disposal means scanning into a digital archive, or shredding securely. As you go forward, your files will contain only what’s required for current operations and record-keeping. And in the process, you’ll gain quite a bit of space formerly assigned to those old unnecessary documents – space that can be converted to more productive uses.
RFID pays you back in many ways: faster inventories, accurate asset records, and less storage space. An experienced RFID provider can show you how the benefits add up, and discuss a custom solution.
Everyone knows what a bar code is – we can’t forget the commercial showing bank customers with bar codes on their foreheads – but the workflow and inventory management benefits of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology aren’t as well known. Like bar codes, RFID tags contain information about the item they’re attached to. No doubt you have seen those large plastic tags clipped on apparel in retail stores, and seen them removed by cashiers at the time of purchase – those are RFID tags, and they help the store manage inventory. But RFID tags also come in much smaller versions, like the one pictured here, and they can be affixed to everything from shipping boxes to artworks, tools, furniture, weapons, and even office file folders or individual documents. They’re inconspicuous, easy to apply, and last for 50 years.
The technological difference between RFID and bar codes is this: Like books or newspapers, bar codes are printed in ink, and must be visually read by an electronic scanner. RFID tags, by contrast, are essentially tiny radio transmitters, bouncing a signal back to an RFID reader just the way your favorite radio station relays a signal to your car radio. The RFID signal contains unique identifying information about the item the tag is attached to.
On the surface, RFID may not seem to offer any advantages over bar codes. Nevertheless, Walmart, Macy’s, and other retailers turned to RFID for a very good reason: Labor costs. Their inventory management systems were based on bar codes, and the bar code scanner had to “see” the bar code. Because it couldn’t see around corners or through walls, every item in a stockroom or warehouse had to be manually turned toward the reader – a time-consuming labor-intensive process. And labor is expensive.
The radio signals of an RFID tag, however, can be “grabbed” by an RFID reader without the reader ever having to see the tag. As long as the reader is in proximity to the tag (same room or same building), it receives the information from the RFID tag via radio waves, without any need to handle the inventory. In effect, the RFID reader can see around corners, or through a stack of boxes, or into a filing cabinet. The labor of inventory management becomes as simple as walking into a room.
Facility managers know where every desk and chair is located without doing a room-to-room count.
Automobile manufacturers streamline workflows by tracking parts as vehicles move through the assembly line.
Museum curators are certain of which storeroom contains a particular collection, without having to open drawers or rummage through shelves.
Warehouse managers know exactly what a new shipment contains without having to open the boxes.
Paralegals locate critical documents in a law office without having to search through multiple files.
Bar code technology is far from obsolete, however. Bar codes are a proven solution for an array of situations in which labor costs are not such a big part of the inventory management calculus. But for many organizations, RFID offers productivity benefits that boost the bottom line.
As every manager and owner knows, inventory and asset management is vital to any successful enterprise. RFID will streamline your workflow and improve inventory accountability. Consult with an expert in inventory management and storage who can tell you if RFID or bar coding, or both, could be the right solution for your business.