Why RFID Labeling Improves Processes
Barcoding has long been the standard for labeling items to automate inventory control and track items as they move through business processes. However, barcoding has given way to RFID in certain applications due to several unique advantages that RFID provides. In this article, we explore RFID’s major advantages and a great example of how it can completely revolutionize inventory and business processes.
Major RFID Advantages
RFID automates identification and tracking processes and dramatically improves inventory accuracy by replacing line-of-sight barcode scanning with an almost entirely automated process. It not only identifies labeled items, but it can also determine their location to within a few feet. Simply put, an RFID label contains an identification chip and two tiny micro transmitters for communicating with RFID readers, which use wireless signals to remotely read and detect label information. It all works much like Wi-Fi, where everything is wireless and can be transmitted from afar.
For example, workers can simply walk through a warehouse or distribution center with a handheld device, such as a Zebra MC9190-Z RFID reader, and read multiple tags wirelessly from up to 30 feet away.
A large number of labeled items can be scanned and identified nearly instantaneously, with no line-of-site to the label or barcode required. Using RFID, an entire rooms worth of inventory can be taken in minutes, and you can use RFID labels for pallet-level and case-level tracking too.
As an alternative, you can install Zebra fixed RFID readers and antennas at strategic locations such as doorways or warehouse aisles, where products can be scanned and identified automatically as they pass by the reader. Using this approach, you can automatically know when inventory enters or leaves a given location or reaches a particular stage in your processes.
RFID saves a tremendous amount of labor, while it also ensures accuracy and helps eliminate errors by further automating scanning and identification. Inventory counts can be performed in seconds or minutes, all with automation that ensures flawless accuracy and efficiency. Work-in-process tracking becomes more accurate and efficient as well, with truly automated visibility into everything moving into and out of your processes and individual stages.
A Quick RFID Case Study
Another way to understand RFID process improvement is to consider an example from one of our customers. They conduct chemical research, and needed to take inventory of its chemicals every 6 months, across dozens of labs. Each lab has 3 to 5 cabinets, each with 4 to 6 shelves of chemicals in pill-bottle-like containers.
Prior to implementing and RFID solution, in order to conduct inventory the customer had to remove each bottle, place it on a cart, then scan the barcode with a handheld scanner and return everything to the cabinet on the correct shelf. This labor-intensive process took 1 hour per cabinet. An hour may not sound like much, but multiply it by 3-5 cabinets and you quickly realize that it takes the better part of a day to complete the process; and that’s if the employee is never getting interrupted by co-workers and doesn’t have other existing daily responsibilities. What could take minutes with RFID took hours and hours to complete.
Once RFID was tested and implemented, the customer saw immediate benefits from both a labor optimization and accuracy standpoint. With an RFID printer, RFID labels, and mobile RFID readers and Barcom’s transaction™ software to label and track all existing and incoming chemicals, the whole process became 99.7% more efficient. What took 60 minutes now takes 10 seconds to take inventory of an entire cabinet, compared to 1 full hour under the previous method. Workers spend less time on the task, keeping them safe and productive.
Learning More and Getting Started with RFID
To learn more about how RFID works and how you can use it for inventory and process improvement, visit our website.
To find out if RFID is a potentially good fit for your business, contact our RFID experts at Barcom. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you evaluate this technology for your needs.
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