In the warehousing industry, anything that facilitates the organization and management of your inventory is a huge advantage. Things have come a long way since the pen and paper days, but maintaining an accurate and up-to-date picture of your entire operation can still be a challenge. (Remember, we have millions of square feet of storage to keep tabs on.) Luckily, RFID technology has entered the scene. With its power to decrease human error and streamline warehouse operations, RFID has become one of the most important implements the supply chain manager’s toolbox.
What is RFID?
RFID stands for radio frequency identification. It’s a form of wireless technology that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data. Today, RFID technology is found in a wide variety of industries and is used to monitor everything from your family pet to your passport. With its ability to track and identify in real time, it’s no surprise that RFID technology has become an invaluable tool for warehouse management and inventory control as well.
How it works:
A shipment arrives. An RFID tag (or chip) is attached to the items in that shipment – either to individual boxes or an entire pallet. Each tag features an internal memory to store the item’s information, which can be modified as it moves through different processes in the warehouse. Using an electromagnetic signal, the RFID tag transmits that information to a central database where a warehouse management system can analyze the data.
Why not barcodes?
Unlike barcodes, RFID tags are don’t require a reader that’s in the same line of sight. Not only does this eliminate the need for someone to manually scan each box, but it also means that an item can be scanned and catalogued even when it’s hidden behind other goods.
- Accuracy: Because RFID tags transmit data “on their own,” human error is largely eliminated from the inventory process.
- Immediacy: Warehouse management software is updated in real time, which means we know where an item is from the time it arrives on the dock, leaves the warehouse and every moment in between.
- Efficiency: RFID technology boosts efficiency in two ways: by automating processes that used to involve human intervention and streamlining those that still do. For instance, RFID-tagged items can communicate with warehouse software and automatically document their own arrival and exit from the warehouse. And for services that require human touch, such as pick-and-pack, employees save countless hours using RFID readers to immediately determine the exact location of any item.
Overall, the integration of RFID technology with sophisticated warehouse management systems lowers operating costs and increases the speed and accuracy that we’re able to promise our customers every day.