RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology is fast replacing ScanCode technology for asset tracking and inventory management. Traditionally, asset tracking and inventory management in retail supply chain or manufacturing/service units depended heavily on manual scanning of bar code printed on each item at every strategic point.
Though manual bar code scanning has been there in the market for quite some time, the focus is shifting fast towards RFID based solutions since they have a number of advantages over traditional bar-code based solutions. RFID tracking is fast, secure and reliable. RFID based tracking solutions can be tailored to the needs of your enterprise. The most compelling advantage is the tremendous gain in ROI (Return on Investment) by replacing all manual components for asset tracking and inventory management. In areas requiring the valuable inventory items to be handled many times during its life-cycle (or transitions from location to location) the ROI is appreciably high. What is more, RFID technology does not require a line-of-sight for detection by the system. So, you can still have valuable inventory stocked up in the racks or wrapped up and yet the system can read the item identification. An asset tracking and inventory management system can be extended to provide you additional functionalities such as automatic reorder of low-stock items, sending email notifications to concerned person when something moves in or out of a section within your enterprise and lot more.
If you are worried about not knowing where your valuable inventory is, or tired of having a lot of people to scan bar-codes at every point within your enterprise, it is time you start thinking to take advantage of RFID based asset tracking and inventory management.
This white paper focuses on details of RFID technology and how you can automate asset tracking and inventory management of your enterprise using it. The white paper takes aid of a case study on how FicusSoft has developed and successfully implemented RFID integrated Asset Tracking and Inventory Management solutions for a reputed manufacturer of ultra-sensitive instruments used in the field of biotechnology and pharmaceutical research.
A reputed company manufactures ultra-sensitive equipment used in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research. Each of the equipment consists of several components and costs several hundred thousand dollars. Every constituent component is identified with a unique serial number. The whole equipment is also given a unique serial number. Each component is manufactured in its own department and then sent to the next department for mounting. When the equipment is ready, it has to pass through multiple quality checks including a decontamination/sterilization section. Finally they are packed in shipping crates and moved to the shipping department.
When a customer experiences a defect or has a complain about something not working properly, they would call up the service department and lodge a service ticket. Faults can occur in any component, so a Service Engineer for that component needs to be intimated. The components are ultra-sensitive and cannot be generally repaired at the customer’s site. So the service engineer carries a replacement while visiting the customer. He replaces the faulty component with the good one and carries it back for repair. When the component is repaired, it is kept ready to be used as a replacement with another equipment which might be with some other customer. In this way, the constituent components not only keep moving from department to department during the manufacturing process, but also from equipment to equipment during service and repairs. As such, the managers, service engineers and sales force of the company need to know exactly what is lying where at any moment. The service engineers need to be notified when a component arrives or moves out of the premises. In addition they need to know the complete history of each component since it was first manufactured.
In such a scenario where a huge number of components are continuously on the move, it is not difficult to imagine the effort required to track the valuable inventory using manual bar- code scanning. FicusSoft developed a complete solution for asset tracking and inventory management using RFID technology for the company. As of writing this white paper, the net ROI was calculated to be more than $54,000 in the first three months of operation.
In traditional bar-code systems, the unique item identification number is printed on an adhesive sticker and pasted on to the items. At every strategic point where the tracking system needs to be posted with a movement, a person scans the bar-code with an infra-red or laser based bar-code scanner. The data from the bar-code scanner is fed into the system which then processes the information to record the locational information of the items.
In RFID based system, each item is fitted with a RFID tag. The RFID tag is basically an electronic radio transmitter comprising of a micro-chip and an antenna and a tiny battery, everything fabricated on a thin plastic sheet. It can be easily attached to a variety of items directly. They can also be fitted inside identity cards and put on people (such as employees) or animals in a farm. Each RFID tag has a few bytes of memory built on to it which contains its unique identification number and it periodically sends out a radio signal carrying the same. A receiver device, called the RFID reader detects the signal emitted by each tag as soon as it enters into its radio range and interprets the identification number. The RFID tags that are powered with a tiny battery are known as
Active RFID tags and can be read from a distance as high as 100 feet. The detection range of a RFID reader can be adjusted so that it defines an area in the enterprise. Simply put, when a RFID tag is detected by a particular RFID reader, you know that the item that the tag is put on is present in the area where the reader is sitting.
Areas of application of RFID technology
The major application area of RFID tracking is in manufacturing, service and retail
chains. However it can be applied in many other ways . Theoretically speaking, RFID tracking can be
used in any area where some kind of tracking is necessary. Some interesting application areas have
been discussed here, but it can be applied to many more.