We are enjoying many things right now, thanks to logistics. Without logistics, many products or services will not be sold or provided to consumers or customers. Government and private enterprises cannot function efficiently without logistics. Products or services will not be delivered on time without logistics. Businesses will go down without logistics. The supply chain will not function without one of its important links, which is logistics. Part of a successful logistics operation is product or service visibility. This type of visibility is provided by special labels which we are very familiar with – visibility through bar codes and RFIDs.

Almost everything you buy from stores and retailers are using bar codes. These labels help the producers, manufacturers and retailers keep track of their inventory. It also provides valuable information and serves as product fingerprints that can be read by scanners and computers. Barcodes were introduced in the 70s to speed up the checking process in groceries and retail stores. Although it proved to be a useful tool, it still presented disadvantages. Bar codes are a read only technology which means it cannot send out any information. Businesses must scan each barcode on every box of a particular product to keep track of inventories and going through the checkout counter will have the same process of scanning each item.

An infographic history of RFID. Image courtesy of msdn.microsoft.com

An infographic history of RFID. Image courtesy of msdn.microsoft.com

The modern supply chain has benefited from these technologies. Although the supply chain survived using manual processes, the efficiency of the supply chain has greatly improved due to these special labels. The modern supply chain will not be able to check itself without this modern technology. There is no question about human efficiency, but human effectiveness is doubled when strict laws are followed and industry standards are well implemented. Product traceability and visibility have been enhanced using computers and the appropriate software that comes with. Without an RFID or a barcode, you will not be enjoying your Lazy Boy today. RFIDs and other special labels have helped in making shopping easy. No more very long queues, product inquiry or availability information can be relayed quickly and inventories are constantly checked in real time.

Because of the mentioned limitations of barcodes, RFIDs were introduced. RFIDs are improvements over the traditional barcodes since it has read and write capabilities and can store more information as compared to barcodes. The data stored of the ids can be updated, changed or locked. RFIDs are also weather proof and more durable than barcodes. Many retailers and businesses believe that RFIDs will not replace bar codes in the near future because there are still many retailers and producers using barcode scanners. But the trend towards RFIDs is going up. Credit card payments, DVDs, CDs, computers,  and smartphones purchases are already using RFIDs

What Are RFIDs?

Radio frequency identification has been around since the 70s. Production of the tags were quite expensive then thus it was just recently that the smart tags were en masse. It was used for large  items before, but with the advancement in technology, the use of RFID has applied to many processes.  These tags belong to a group of technologies knows as AIDC or Automatic identification and data Capture.  The AIDC methods are used in identifying objects, collecting, storing data and process the stored data on a computer with little or no human intervention. RFIDs are suing radio signals to run the process. Common RFIDs consists of

The RFID tag – it contains an integrated circuit and an antenna that is used in sending and transmitting data to the RFID reader.

The antenna – the antenna sends and transmits radio waves to the reader to be processed

 The RFID reader – this hardware converts the radio waves to a readable form of information. The collected information in then transferred and processed using a host database where the data are stored and analysed.

How an RFID works. Image courtesy of www.epc-rfid.info

How an RFID works. Image courtesy of www.epc-rfid.info

Radio Frequency Identification And The Supply Chain

The supply chain covers all the possible processes that are involved in the flow of consumer goods from manufacturing or producing up to the customer. This also includes, the manufacturing, distribution and the transportation of goods. Supply chain management covers all these processes with marketing decisions and the demand of the customers in alignment to the overall corporate strategy and business goals. Managing a supply chain is complex but can be managed efficiently thru RFID technology. The technology ensures that the right products or goods are available in the right place with no errors or discrepancies. It makes the supply chain more efficient, precise and reliable.

In general, companies are working hard on reducing cost, improve their service and increase their ROI all throughout the supply chain. Automation-based solution has been proven to work and with the use of RFID, it is transforming how the supply chain is being used worldwide.

A Motorola MC9190-Z Handheld RFID Reader. Image courtesy of http://www.motorolasolutions.com/

A Motorola MC9190-Z Handheld RFID Reader. Image courtesy of http://www.motorolasolutions.com/

The Advantages Of RFID In Manufacturing

The industry of fast moving consumer goods is considered one of the fastest markets in the world. In this industry, products have to be counted repeatedly during manufacturing, at the stages of production, washing and then packing. Traditionally, these processes are done by hand, but by using RFID tags and readers, counting products will only take seconds. The tags can be scanned even if the scanner is not in the line of sight, plus multiple tags can scan simultaneously. This in turn lower production cost for the job can be carried out quickly and more accurately. Since the tags can store more information as compared to regular barcodes, the information can be used in optimising production processes. The information gathered from real-time movements of the raw materials and the time required for a specific production stage can be used in formulating efficient production plans. It can also be applied in machine and equipment maintenance. This will allow the producer to have visibility on which machine is up and running which needed repair. This helps greatly in production planning and prevent costly production halts.  RFID in manufacturing equates to less manual work, improved visibility, enhanced planning and less capital expense.

 The Advantages Of RFID In Warehouse Management

When production and manufacturing have been completed, the producers will pack the products into cartons and the cartons are delivered to the warehouse of the buying company. Once the cargo reaches its destination, it will end up first in the warehouse.  Tracking large numbers, numbers of cartons are a work intensive, time consuming  and complex process. Once the RFID is implemented and used, it will greatly improve the cargo workflow. In general, read-write hardware are installed  at the entries in warehouses. Every cargo is equipped with the RFID tags and the information that relates to the tag is stored in the central computer in the warehouse. All cargo that goes in and out are read by the read-write hardware and then relayed the data to the central computer in real time. This will allow the management in tracking what product is going out or going in the storage. It will also help what cargo it is and helps in the placement of the said cargo within the warehouse. It will provide product placement accuracy, product movements are tracked and losses are also recorded. RFIDs in warehouses provides visibility of accurate real-time data, records possible losses, fast location of products and the ability to plan strategic product locations.

Advantages of RFID In Shipping Container Management

Shipping containers are the most popular way of transporting cargo around the world. Containers ensures low cost, high transport density, standard packaging, secure and safe product transportation. RFID allows companies in real-time tracking and managing containers in the docks, yards and each link of the supply chain. High frequency RFIDs and readers are useful for containers will be stacked up high which also speeds up identification. RFID in container management provides enhanced visibility of real-time cargo movement, increase accuracy and improved efficiency.

RFID in the supply chain. Image courtesy of www.satcomlimited.com

RFID in the supply chain. Image courtesy of www.satcomlimited.com

 

RFID In The Distribution Process

RFIDs will lower distribution cost, enhance the speed of deliveries, increase accuracy and improve efficiency in the selection and distribution process. The information stored on the tags are sent to the central computer in the distribution center and the data can be used in putting the cartons in the proper places, making sorting fast and efficient. RFID will also ensure accurate control over the inventory. RFID in distribution provides efficiency, increased accuracy, reduced distribution cost and accelerates the speed of product delivery.

RFID In The Supply Chain

More and more companies and enterprises are using RFID in the strategic planning because it provides significant advantages in the supply chain. Over the last few years, the implementation of RFIDs improved the supply chain, the logistical operations, product identification, shipments and asset tracking.

The system works and will continue to improve in the coming years. RFIDs are not the mark of the devil people. Don’t be afraid of it. You will not be eating your candy bar and drinking your scotch without these smart labels.

 

 

 

 

 

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.