Supply chains all over the world use RFID (radio frequency identification) to save time, decrease error rates, and keep an eye on inventory.
RFID can transform your business into a well-oiled, efficient machine. To understand how, let’s discuss what RFID is, how to apply it to your supply chain, its shortcomings, and its future.
What is RFID?
Invented in 1970, RFID uses radio technology to identify objects by assigning serial numbers to them using ‘tags.’ In the ecosystem, there is also a ‘reader’ that continually scans the environment for tags. When a tag gets close, the reader detects it because the tag has a microchip with an antenna.
A reader’s information is sent to a database that records time, location, and proximity of the tag. Using this data, you can optimize your warehouse floor plan, employee shift schedule, inventory layout, and much more. RFID is a flexible and seamless solution; its benefits cascade down to your customers and up the executive chain of your company.
RFID utilizes three different tag types: passive, active, and semi-passive. Passive tags get power from the reader, while active tags have a battery inside. Semi-passive tags use batteries but talk to the reader using the reader’s power.
Here at SK&T, we can implement all of these together throughout different parts of your supply chains. For example, active and semi-passive tags work well for high-value goods that are traveling over long ranges while passive tags work well for cheaper items, like clothing.
RFID’s Limitless Applications
Combine RFID technology with sensors, and you’ve got a whole world of possibilities. Sensors that detect temperature, humidity, movement, and more can keep you on top of potential issues before they happen.
SK&T partners with manufacturers across several industries to provide a comprehensive suite of solutions to improve your supply chains. One of our biggest partners, Zebra Technologies, is the leading supplier of RFID solutions. Their products have superb quality and last our clients through many years of business.
Some of our cross-vertical clients that benefit from our partnerships are New Belgium, Rampart Supply, and Brannan Sand and Gravel. No matter your industry, we’ve got over 20 years of experience to help drive down costs, improve efficiency, decrease label waste, and much more.
RFID’s (Few) Shortcomings
We’d be remiss to skip over RFID’s shortcomings. The good news is, with some ingenuity, it’s possible to circumvent the majority of issues.
Reader collision is one of the most common problems. Signals from other, nearby readers can disrupt a reader’s ability to work correctly. Using TDMA (time division multiple access), we can avoid this problem; TDMA cleverly shifts readers’ signals to avoid interference.
On the other hand, tags can collide too—a reader reading two tags at the same time gets confused. As a result, most companies have their tags respond to readers with millisecond delays.
Lastly, if you’ve been holding off on implementing RFID because you have an open-loop system, wait no longer. SK&T can create a customized solution that never misses a beat and keeps your customers updated from the warehouse all the way to their mailbox.
A Foundation for the Future
RFID has a big, bright future. It isn’t going anywhere; it’s embedded itself as a major technology of efficiency in supply chains. We look forward to new major RFID applications, like tags harvesting energy from readers, automating tasks and alerts, and the continued update from barcodes and labels to tags.
Our industry partners Zebra, Honeywell, and Seagull (among others) are innovators that have transformed RFID into a major utilitarian technology. And as RFID keeps advancing, devices will eventually have to be replaced and repaired. With our Trade-In program, we can ensure your technology is cutting-edge. You can get up to $650 back for each old device when you trade them in for new ones.
As one of the largest barcode system integration firms in the Rocky Mountains, SK&T is a total solution provider that can address any problem you may be facing. Reach out today and get a consultation with our engineers to boost your supply chain’s efficiency.