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How an RFID Inventory Control System Benefits Your Business

Posted: February 07, 2020 by Ly Phan

How an RFID Inventory Control System Benefits Your Business

As we enter a new decade, the “internet of things” is no longer merely a concept for the future, it’s now a reality. The push towards automation in supply chains around the world is focusing on two areas - speed and accuracy. For large warehouses and distribution centers, an RFID inventory control system is the number one option for complete inventory accuracy. Once implemented, RFID technology can be used to streamline and automate processes such as receiving and putaway, order fulfillment, and shipping.

 

What is RFID Technology?

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. It uses electromagnetic fields to scan and track tags attached to objects. A typical chip would include a transponder with a radio transmitter and receiver and can store data. Workers would then be able to use remote readers to obtain the required information on the inventory. 

To give you an idea of how small and adaptable those transmitters can be, RFID tags can be used in notes and other forms of cash for tracking purposes. This flexibility is a significant part of the appeal of RFID technology, where its market revenue is expected to reach nearly $20bn globally this year. The market is forecast to more than double its size by 2025, to over $41bn.

The level of growth is a strong indication that businesses will be looking to use RFID technology over the next decade. Many of these businesses will be warehouses and distribution centers looking to implement RFID chip inventory control systems.

 

Difference Between Barcoding and RFID

A common question is, “what’s the difference between barcodes and RFID tags?” They both serve the same purpose, which is to store information and data. However, there are a few key differences:

  1. RFID tags do not need to be in “line of sight” to be scanned: Barcodes can only work when the scanner is facing the label itself.
  2. Barcodes can only be scanned one at a time: Multiple RFID tags can be scanned at the same time.
  3. RFID tags are more durable: Paper or adhesive based barcodes are more vulnerable to adverse conditions such as wet weather or humid warehouses. In terms of product tracking, RFID chips are more reliable and accurate throughout the supply chain.
  4. RFID tags can contain more information: The extra space provides flexibility for businesses and gives workers easy access to more information than barcodes.
  5. Barcode technology is cheaper: For cost-conscious businesses, the appeal of barcodes lies in the price tag, costing just a few cents each, compared to RFID, which starts at $1 each. 

While more expensive in terms of unit price, it’s essential to look at the benefits of RFID technology.

 

Benefits of RFID Inventory Control Systems

RFID Inventory Control Systems

There’s little doubt RFID technology can boost the automation of numerous processes in warehouses and distribution centers. The ability to locate and pick items quickly is one such area that can be improved through the use of RFID tags. 

 

Line of Sight Not Required

A familiar challenge for warehouse workers is the locating and picking of items. Using mobile devices, employees will have the ability to simply turn on the tracker and locate the intended item within the vicinity. This leads to significant savings in terms of time and resources. For example, if a line of sight scans were required, staff would still need to find the item, which can take time in real-world situations. 

By cutting this time from a matter of minutes to seconds for each item, the cumulative effects would lead to a more efficient and productive business. Workers will have more time to fulfill other tasks and increase the capacity of warehouse operations.

 

Durability

Durability is an important element of RFID tags, which can withstand conditions as products move through the supply chain:

  1. Weather: Varying weather conditions such as rain, extreme heat, and cold, or wind can affect less durable tags, including barcodes. 
  2. Handling: As packages and products move through the supply chain, they may be subject to poor handling, which can damage tags.
  3. Transportation: The various methods of transport, whether it’s land, sea, or air, all pose risks to tags. For instance, non-refrigerated containers can get humid and cause adhesive-based labels to fall off.

RFID tags are designed to endure the typical conditions inventory may experience, and reduce the risk of products being lost or misplaced.

 

Data Storage

The level of information that RFID tags can contain and handle is a key strength. Not only can it help businesses track and locate inventory, but it can also allow workers easy access to all the critical details, including delivery information, orders, and stock levels - all with their remote devices. The extra level of data enables teams to work more efficiently and productively.

A good example where the enhanced level of information can make a difference is in order fulfillment. With remote devices, workers can quickly and accurately bring together the products for individual orders, saving time, and reducing the risk of errors in the process. SmartTurn’s clients have reported achieving 99% accuracy using such technology in inventory management systems.

 

Ability to Scan Multiple Products

Another way RFID technology can benefit the order fulfillment process is by providing the ability to scan multiple products at the same time. By implementing the right system, workers will be able to control the way they scan items. 

For instance, the pick and pack teams can scan items for specific orders, which can significantly speed up the process and free up time for companies to increase capacity. This can then lead directly to double-digit growth in revenue and profits.

 

RFID Tags Paves Way to Automation

A recurrent theme in this post is how RFID technology enables further automation of inventory management processes. The ability to scan items without needing to be in the line of sight and having the information to hand, in real-time provides opportunities to save time and allow workers to become more productive. 

However, the price tag of RFID technology can be expensive for some small businesses. This is where SmartTurn can help, with an affordable and robust inventory management system with support for scanners in place. Once your business has the budget, SmartTurn is ready to support RFID.

The RFID technology has proven to be durable, flexible, and a tangible asset for the right kind of business. For large distribution centers, for instance, accuracy and speed are critical, and only RFID chips can provide the all-round ability to meet ambitious targets.

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