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The Value of Real-Time Location Solutions (RTLS)

RFID technology is not new, but the migration to an on-demand economy has driven newly found interest in real-time location services and solutions, which has pushed RFID to the top of the technology pile. This is good news for suppliers of RFID technology and RFID-related supplies and accessories who have worked to convince the market for decades that this technology is ideal for a fast-paced, high-volume environment.

In a previous blog we discussed the transformative benefits of using RFID technology in the warehouse and the differences between using RFID and bar coding. You can read the blog here.  In this blog we discuss common warehouse challenges relating to inventory and assets, how RFID works to eliminate errors and improve safety, and how the technology can cost less than you think.

Inventory Tracking & Management
From research we’ve conducted with our own customers, lost inventory is often the reason why they have chosen to move to an automated tracking solution.  Being unable to locate inventory means material that is not being utilized.  Lost inventory is often written off, when in fact, the inventory is on-site, but in the wrong location.  This costs organizations time and money; time spent looking for inventory is time that could be otherwise spent picking, packing and shipping orders out the door.  Furthermore: 

  • Studies have shown that the average employee could spend 20-35 minutes either looking for an item (inventory, equipment or other asset), or for a co-worker who can help them, in order to proceed with a task. Time spent manually searching for materials or other items means workers are not moving toward the end goal.
  • Once items are located/deemed missing, workers then need to notify colleagues and customers with information and subsequent updates; again, productivity lost.
  • Missing items are not just missing – – their absence results in dollars lost, or worse, if the asset or item belongs to a customer. Being able to effectively account for your assets across all touchpoints regardless of what the missing item might be is priceless.

Consider applications like a medical courier, for example, or law enforcement agency.  It’s critical that the location of their assets be known at all times. Although asset value is important, the safety of employees (or patients) is even more important.  In terms of safety, moving hazardous material, for example, requires an air-tight process and cautious handling.  These are the types of applications where RFID can help prevent accidents reduce the amount of handling.

The Value of Real-Time Location Solutions (RTLS)
Real-time location solutions have become popular because of the flexibility offered.  In terms of cost, a solution that utilizes passive RFID tags (limited range detection) you’ll pay pennies per tag.  For applications requiring long-range detection, active tags are recommended and are considerably more in cost (ranging from $15-$30). 

RFID tags are easy to use and can adhere to most any type of material including metal (think forklifts) plastic and wood. With this type of technology, you can essentially locate and identify items in real-time, enabling streamlined operations.  This is due to improved productivity and greater visibility of items moving in and out of the four walls. The value of this technology goes one step further by giving companies more agility in decision making with respect to managing labor and productivity and overall operational efficiency when you can see where everything is at any given time.

Examples of ideal RTLS applications include:

  • Material management to reduce instances of downtime
  • Material handling to ensure JIT (just-in-time) delivery
  • Vehicle tracking and management to keep costs under control and productivity on target
  • Tool and equipment tracking to more easily maintain and reduce instance of theft and damage

RFID technology comes in many forms and works well in combination with other technologies. Handheld and fixed RFID readers are a great complement to both RTLS solutions and bar code automation.  You can read more about the FX9600 fixed RFID reader from Zebra and the advantages of deploying this technology in a warehouse setting in our recent blog.  Combing the technologies adds another level of flexibility and accuracy to each application to ensure the highest levels of accuracy and efficiency. 

For more information on RTLS and other solutions to improve inventory tracking and management, please contact us.


4136B Jersey Pike, Chattanooga, TN 37421

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



BARCOM, INC.  •  •  423-855-1822