The previous 14 months were a time for uncertainty and unprecedented challenges for many businesses, especially in manufacturing and logistics.
Demands for productivity and efficiency reached entirely new heights for many companies, especially given unprecedented e-commerce, fulfillment, and delivery demands. But even for companies that may have struggled with reduced business through lockdowns and workplace restrictions, the need for efficiency has arguably never been more important.
Many companies are now struggling to find and hire qualified workers to rebuild their production or warehousing staff. Others who benefitted from a boom in business during the COVID-19 pandemic now have more orders, SKUs, shipments, and deliveries to track and manage than ever before.
These are among the many reasons why many of our TPI clients are investing in RFID technologies. Watch how RFID can Improve Efficiencies In the Warehouse.
RFID is playing a crucial role in helping many companies automate more of their processes, reduce their reliance on human labor, improve the accuracy and quality of their production and distribution, and gain unprecedented visibility into their processes, inventory, and assets.
By now, many businesses have heard about RFID and may have explored some of the possibilities. But if you’re not familiar with the technology, the basic concept and benefits are simple:
With RFID, you can tag, identify, locate, and track materials, inventory, finished goods, packages, and virtually any asset that moves through your operations. Instead of scanning barcodes, which often requires manual scanning and line-of-sight or physical access to a barcode label, RFID works remotely through radio signals.
Since RFID also allows items to be located to within a few feet of accuracy depending on the type of RFID tag and technology you’re using, it also adds an entirely new dimension to tracking, visibility, and lean process improvement.
By knowing the identity, quantities, status, and the location of inventory, assets, tools, or other items in real time or without the time-consuming cycle counts and manual searches or scans- you can use the resulting data and insights to streamline, automate, and improve numerous manufacturing or warehousing processes.
In the warehouse, instead of conducting time-consuming cycle counts or hunting down inventory, RFID allows you to tag, track, and locate inventory at rest or on the move, with remote automation. With a fixed RFID system, you can track inventory as it moves into, through and out of your warehouse with RFID readers that read tags as they come within range. Or you can use a handheld RFID system that allows warehouse staff to read and identify an entire pallet’s worth of goods or an entire room’s worth of inventory in seconds or minutes.
In warehouse use cases, RFID often helps companies achieve remarkable reductions in human labor requirements and costs, and it often frees up warehouse associates to focus their time and energy on fulfillment and shipping tasks- rather than inventory management. It also boosts inventory accuracy to as high as 99%, with automated and remote counts that drastically reduce the possibility of human error.
In manufacturing, RFID is often used for end-to-end traceability of inventory, parts, and components, so they can be tracked automatically from the receiving dock all the way through production processes and finished goods.
Many manufacturers also use RFID to automate asset tracking, so they can track and locate required production equipment and tooling quickly, across an entire facility or even multiple buildings. They can do it without manual searches, and they can make sure the right tools and equipment are ready and in the right place and the right time to ensure continued production and avoid disruptions or slowdowns.
Many companies also use RFID for work-in-process tracking, to validate correct incoming parts and inventory at key production stages, where RFID can automatically detect which parts or components have arrived at each station and trigger exception alerts to avoid potential errors and production delays.
RFID is often used in quality assurance as well, to tag, locate and track parts and finished goods for quarantine, inspection, and quality control.
Ultimately, no matter how you apply the technology, RFID offers many ways to not only boost efficiency and streamline processes, but to also give managers unprecedented business intelligence so they can make better decisions. By being able to see the location and status of mission-critical assets, inventory, and processes at their fingertips, through RFID integration with their warehouse management, ERP or other system, managers and companies can see into their operations in entirely new ways, without the frequent blind spots or delays that often plague non-RFID-enabled systems.
At a time when so many companies are looking for ways to do more with less, deal with labor shortages, get more lean and efficient in their operations; RFID is a timely and potentially game-changing technology. And a crucial development is that the cost of implementing RFID has dramatically decreased in recent years.
With so many businesses now adopting and using RFID tags and solutions, the cost to produce them has decreased. For example, in 2003, the cost of RFID tags was 50 to 75 cents per tag, but it has plummeted to as little as 3 to 8 cents per tag today.
RFID has also become even more accurate and reliable thanks to improvements in the ability to tag items in more challenging environments, where a high number of metals or the presence of liquids once posed issues for the radio signals that RFID uses for tracking and locating.
Today, there is an entire world of RFID solutions available to manufacturers and warehouses, including a complete portfolio of affordable, high-quality and user-friendly technologies from Zebra. From RFID tags and inlays to handhelds and fixed readers as well as antennas, Zebra has evolved from a global leader in barcoding and mobile computing to one of the world’s best providers of RFID solutions.
Over the years, we’ve worked closely with Zebra to help many of our clients automate their manufacturing and warehousing processes with Zebra solutions, and now we’re working with Zebra in the realm of RFID as well.
If you’re curious about the possibilities of RFID for your business and you’d like to find out more about whether RFID could be the right fit to help you boost productivity and efficiency at this crucial time, feel free to reach out to our team at TPI for expert advice. We would be happy to provide a complementary introduction to RFID, answer any questions you have, and help you determine if RFID is right for you.