7 Ways RTLS Improves Warehouse Operations
Warehouses are always looking for an edge to improve efficiency, productivity, and accuracy in their operations. Real-time location systems (RTLS) are now creating major breakthroughs in these areas by giving warehouses and manufacturing facilities unprecedented, real-time visibility into all the inventory moving through their processes.
An RTLS can locate, track, and update the status of hundreds or even thousands of inventory items in real time, even if they’re moving. Moreover, it delivers these insights with pinpoint accuracy and cost-saving automation that can completely transform warehouse operations for the better.
How does RTLS work?
If you’re familiar with radio frequency identification (RFID), you already have a good sense of how an RTLS works. An RTLS uses RFID to tag and track items wirelessly and remotely, using a unique identifier encoded in each tag, along with tiny wireless transmitters that send and receive data. The big difference with an RTLS is how tags are read. Unlike most RFID systems, which rely on workers using handheld RFID readers to read tags within the reader’s range, an RTLS uses a fixed RFID reader. The fixed reader reads tags remotely and automatically across a large coverage area.
For example, Zebra’s ATR7000 RTLS reader and software automatically collect tag data, calculate real-time asset locations, and stream this data to your business systems. You simply place the reader in a fixed location, and it uses hundreds of wireless “beams” to automatically read tags in a large coverage area, providing highly accurate asset locations to within two feet (0.6 meters) or less. It’s a revolutionary way to track any asset in a warehouse and use the resulting real-time location data to improve workflow processes.
Here are a few ways RTLS technology is used in an industrial, warehouse environment:
- Traceability. RTLS can automatically trace inventory and materials from receiving and putaway to picking, packing, and shipping. It’s an ideal way to achieve true end-to-end visibility for compliance and supply chain traceability.
- Tracking Items on the Move. RTLS can also locate and track inventory as it moves through any business-critical process. For example, you can use an RTLS to know when items have moved into a staging area for the next step in a warehouse process.
- Work-in-Process Tracking. For warehouses in a manufacturing operation, an RTLS can be used to track work-in-process and related inventory to automate and error-proof production processes.
- Workflow Optimization. An RTLS can also deliver item and location data with accompanying worker instructions to direct processes and optimize workflows for maximum efficiency.
- Automated Alerts. You can use an RTLS to trigger automated alerts and ensure goods make it to the right place at the right time, error-free. An alert can notify you of a process completed correctly or any exception and potential error.
- Shipment Validation. You can also use RTLS to validate shipments against electronic manifests for greater accuracy. For example, an RTLS can verify that the correct items have made it onto a truck for eventual shipment and delivery.
- Chain-of-Custody Tracking. Since an RTLS can track and locate items as they move through processes, you can use it to create an auditable chain of custody. You can even combine it with RFID chips embedded in worker ID cards to track who handled an item and where it moved through each stage of a process before it was shipped.
To learn more about using an RTLS and find out if this technology is a good fit for your warehouse operations, contact Barcom to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call.
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