RFID Applications in the Supply Chain
Before we talk about the benefits of RFID systems, here’s a very brief intro. into how the technology can work. The solution combines software with hardware and it enables radio waves to read and capture data. This information can then be wirelessly transferred to other devices, so that there is real time visibility on what’s happening “on the ground” at any one time. The hardware that captures the information can be a small tag at a station, it can be “smart label” attached to each stock item or component and it can be incorporated into a handheld device.
One of the main advantages of RFID systems is the fact that they are non-contact and do not require “line-of-sight” e.g. one simple scan can capture all the information required from all the tags (which are attached to each stock item/component etc. So while a barcode scanner would have to scan each code, RFID systems can sweep over shelves of items and automatically collect all relevant data; without needing to scan each item.
There are significant advantages in using radio waves to read and capture data stored on a tag. Firstly, you can track your assets effectively. If goods are arriving into storage or parts are being delivered, for example; where a RFID system is in-situ; there’s no need to manually review the deliveries or to use a bar code scanner on each item; stationary tags at set stations through the handling process can be used to monitor the goods – if there’s a discrepancy in volume from one station to another; this will immediately be highlighted on the monitors/screens visible to the monitoring staff.
Secondly, you can reduce the time spent holding onto stock. Firstly because you will have full visibility on stock more quickly, you can manage stock-holding more effectively. Also the difference between using RFID and barcode systems to scan stock is significant; because with RFID one scan can take in all products tagged; with barcode, each individual barcode on stock has to be scanned – this takes time and costs money – not only is it quicker via RFID, it’s also going to be a cheaper process in the long term.
A third advantage is that you can easily and automatically monitor the status and condition of a product in the supply chain.
Once the product passes the RFID tag at each stage; real-time information is accessible online and where the product is not complete e.g. a component is missing; the system identifies this -in simple terms, if there should be four components in a box and the tag counts three; you’ll be notified immediately and the issue can be dealt with instantly.
RFID Integration into the Supply Chain
By integrating RFID into your supply chain, you can see the status of stock throughout the entire chain; from delivery, through each handling or production process and finally through to departure from the facility.
This comprehensive, birds-eye view of the status of each item throughout the process facilitates better management information and consequently quicker tactical actions can be taken when required and more informed strategic decisions can be made.
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