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Know Your Inventory in Real Time with RFID RTLS

Every warehouse wants to improve efficiency and accuracy, and it’s an achievable goal, but the first step is identifying exactly where the bottlenecks are. We recently ran into a situation like this with a customer and we worked with them to improve the overall process with RFID and RTLS (real-time location system) technology.  

With many rows of pallets on its warehouse floor, stacked multiple pallets deep, it often created a situation that required the forklift driver to move pallets out of the way in order to access the ones they needed. The driver would move the unneeded pallets to an open spot nearby, then grab the pallet that was needed and drive away. If the driver got distracted with another task and didn’t come back to return the other pallets right away, there were suddenly three unidentified pallets sitting randomly on the warehouse floor. And, predictably, no one would know exactly what was on them or where they belonged.

Due to a number of reasons (space constraints, categorization of materials, etc.), it was difficult to coordinate the organization of these pallets so it would be easier to access them.  A situation would often occur where they needed to access pallets that might be at the bottom of stacks or deeper in a row. Their goal was to be able to access in real-time where every pallet was located in the warehouse and what each pallet contained. If they had this kind of information about their inventory and other assets at their fingertips, then they would be more easily able to identify the contents and correct location of random pallets on the floor. 

Fortunately, we were able to deliver an ideal solution using a RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS). The system uses RFID readers suspended from the warehouse ceiling to track pallets in real time, showing when the pallet is moved and where it is currently. RFID tags attached to each pallet contain identifying information about it and the items it contains.

As pallets are moved, the RTLS automatically detects movement and updates the status of the pallets, as well as the items on the pallets, in a database that allows them to store and access the information. The whole process happens wirelessly, using RFID tags encoded with unique identifiers and equipped with tiny wireless transmitters that send and receive data.

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.

One such solution example is Zebra’s ATR7000. This RTLS reader, when combined with software, automatically collects tag data, calculates real-time asset locations, and streams this data to the appropriate business systems. All that is needed is to place the reader in a fixed location, such as a doorway or entrance to an area where materials are stored, and hundreds of wireless “beams” will automatically read tags in a large coverage area.  This technology is reliable and proven because it provides 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.  That is largely due to the fact that you can use the resulting real-time location data to improve inventory accuracy and business processes as your business grows and evolves — even if your business is cyclical or if items are located in various areas on the property. 

We have customers using RTLS technology in many different applications, including traceability, tracking moving items, work-in-process tracking, chain-of-custody tracking, shipment validation, and much more.

For these and other applications, we often recommend Zebra’s ATR 7000 RFID and RTLS solution.  Add even more power to the application with Barcom’s transaction™ software.  Transaction integrates with your ERP system and allows you to create a detail-level database to track inventory and manage transactions more efficiently. We work closely with Zebra because it provides the most comprehensive portfolio of RFID and RTLS solutions that deliver the highest return on investment, and Zebra partners with us to offer unrivaled support and guidance to help us design and implement successful solutions for our customers.

To learn more about RFID and RTLS solutions, and to find out if these technologies are a good fit for your business needs, contact us to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call.




4136B Jersey Pike, Chattanooga, TN 37421

Phone (423) 855-1822 | Fax (423) 499-6317



BARCOM, INC.  •  •  423-855-1822