Radio Frequency identification technology has become increasingly popular. Many have been using it in various environments, professional and otherwise, for many years. However, this cutting-edge technology can be especially beneficial for warehouse management. Managers can easily utilize RFID for better product tracking, automation, and inventory issues.
Here, we’ll examine the key points of RFID technology in warehouse management.
- Basics of RFID and How It Works in Warehouse Management
- Types of RFID Technology According to Frequency and Activity
- RFID Technology and Warehouse Management Integration
- The Advantages of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
- The Drawbacks of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
- How RFID Technology Compares to Barcode Scanners
- A Shipment Example of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
- How to Choose an RFID for Your Company
The Basics of RFID and How It Works in Warehouse Management
Many might find the term “Radio Frequency identification technology” daunting. However, the core concept is simple. RFID technology uses electromagnetic and radio waves to identify and track objects and, in some cases, people. This makes it especially useful for multiple industries, streamlining logistical issues, and locating products faster and more efficiently.
But how does this incredibly useful technology work? To understand the concept better, we need to break it down into three essential components:
- RFID reader (or receiver): This component works by picking up signals from an RFID tag located elsewhere. It works much like a radio and picks up relevant information regarding the tag.
- The Antenna: An RFID tag has a single antenna that amplifies the signal, making it easier to pick up for the RFID reader. Likewise, the reader has an antenna to ensure it receives the information. Antennas guide signals back and forth between the reader and the tag to ensure proper information is exchanged.
- The RFID Tag: Users place the RFID tag on the object they need to track or locate later. It emits stored information for the reader to pick up. Once the reader receives the signal, it returns it to the tag.
Together, these three components create a tracking system, bouncing signals back and forth between the tag and the receiver. Users then interpret the information from the reader to locate the tag.
Types of RFID Technology According to Frequency and Activity
Most Radio Frequency Identification technology works roughly the same way, using a reader, antennas, and a receiver to transmit signals over distances and effectively communicate relevant information.
However, some types of RFID might be especially useful in warehouse management:
- Low-frequency RFID technology: These devices use lower frequencies, generally around 125 kHz. This makes them efficient for locating any item in close proximity. For open spaces, managers might want a farther-reaching device.
- High-frequency RFID technology: Devices at 3 to 30 MHZ transfer more information faster and locate items at a longer distance.
- Ultra-high-frequency RFID technology: At 300 to 960 MZ, ultra-frequency RFID technology easily allows users to receive large amounts of data up to 25 feet away.
Microwave RFID technology: Systems like these operate at 2.5GHZ and can transmit enormous amounts of data from tags up to thirty feet away.
While frequency levels can categorize RFID technology, it can also be categorized into two distinct groups:
- Passive RFID Technology: In active RFID, batteries will power tags. This makes them especially effective at longer distances.
- Active RFID Technology: Instead of batteries, the reader uses electromagnetic fields to transmit signals and information to the receiver. While it’s less powerful than active variants, they’re cheaper.
Just knowing the types of RFID technologies isn’t enough to make the right choice for warehouse management. Individual products can differ widely, and users must consider their specific environment. That’s why it’s best to contact Energy Electronics. You’ll receive an in-depth understanding of the technology you need for all warehouse management systems.
RFID Technology and Warehouse Management Integration
Now that we’ve established the basics of RFID technology, it’s time to see how you can use it for warehouse management.
RFID technology can be especially useful for the following processes:
- Effective and efficient inventory management: With RFID technology, workers can use readers to check their inventory without seeing the items. However, each item would need a tag attached upon arrival. This makes inventory counting accurate, convenient, and less time-consuming.
- Tracking individual items: The signals between tags and readers contain identification numbers. If a certain product is lost or misplaced, workers can easily find it using the RFID receiver.
- Security measures: Once an item is tagged, those with access to the receiver can easily monitor it. Users can also trigger alarm systems if products leave the warehouse without authorization.
- Real-time tracking during shipments: Effective tracking can become especially complicated when shipments come and go. By attaching an RFID tag to every warehouse product, systems can update automatically while minimizing the chances of mistakes in stock numbers.
These are just some ways RFID technology can help effectively streamline warehouse workflow. It can also aid in automated sorting, racking containers and pallets, and quality control.
The Advantages of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
Implementing effective RFID technology in warehouse management benefits overall workflow, processes, and effectiveness:
- Streamlining otherwise complicated tasks: Integrating RFID in a warehouse makes tasks like inventory counting and shipping more convenient. It saves time, effort, and resources. Unlike other tracking systems like barcode technology, RFID doesn’t require a line of sight for scanning.
- Durable and long-lasting tracking systems: RFID components are relatively robust, making them a beneficial choice for warehouse environments. They’re especially durable systems that can withstand harsher environments.
- Automation: RFID technology allows for otherwise manual processes to be automated. This is because radio signals automatically pass from the tag to the reader once the item is in range. Automation is especially useful for shipments, inventory counting, and quality control.
- More extensive data storage: RFID technology can store exceptional information. This allows for larger records, more accurate data tracking, and identification.
Overall, RFID technology provides streamlining for complex processes in warehouse management. For example, they’re less time-consuming and more efficient than traditional barcode scanners.
The Drawbacks of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
While RFID might be an obvious choice for some companies, it may not be the perfect fit for others. Users should have a comprehensive view of RFID technology, including associated risks and drawbacks. Some of the disadvantages of using RFID technology in warehouse management include:
- RFID technology is initially costly. While the efficiency of RFID tracking is long-lasting, the initial cost can be too high for some warehouses. In the long run, this investment results in long-term efficiency and heightened productivity. Warehouse managers will need to assess if the high initial price is worth it.
- Interference problems: Like all technology, RFID can be susceptible to certain issues. Sometimes, metal and water can interfere with signals, causing inaccuracies in tracking. For a company that fully relies on this tracking technology, interference can result in downtime and decreased productivity.
- RFID technology is still new: Although proven to be effective, many professionals are hesitant to implement RFID technology. The reason is, that the method is new, and the full benefits and drawbacks are not yet known. Some warehouses prefer older, fully predictable tracking systems.
- Privacy issues: Some have expressed concerns regarding privacy and RFID technology. Theoretically, RFID technology information can be hacked, and individuals can be tracked. However, it’s also worth pointing out that these issues can be countered through encryption systems and secure product designs.
Just knowing the benefits and drawbacks isn’t enough. Warehouse managers can contact Energy Electronics for an in-depth understanding of how RFID technology can affect their workflow. Our seasoned professionals will help identify the ideal solution. Implementing the wrong technology can result in lowered productivity, inconvenience, and wasted funds.
How RFID Technology Compares to Barcode Scanners
For many warehouse managers, the decision between using RFID technology and barcode scanners isn’t exactly clear. The two technologies are both effective for completing common warehouse tasks. However, they’re essentially different with unique benefits and drawbacks.
The first difference is that RFID tags generally don’t need any line of sight and they can scan multiple items at once. Barcodes are limited in this regard, as the code needs to be visible for successful scanning. This ultimately leads to easier, more convenient, and faster scanning.
However, that doesn’t mean that RFID technology will replace reliable barcode technology. In fact, the two systems work well together and warehouse managers integrate them successfully.
Barcodes are generally cost-effective to use, making them a plausible choice for those who want to avoid the high initial cost of RFID technology. RFID can also distort signals when using liquids or some metals while being time-consuming to implement. Some find the barcode scanner to be a more reliable and cost-effective option overall.
A Shipment Example of Using RFID Technology for Warehouse Management
When considering RFID, it helps to have a concrete example of implementation and the processes associated with this technology. For the purposes of this article, we’re using a received warehouse shipment as an example.
Here’s what the process might look like:
- Attaching the RFID Tag: When a product shipment arrives, warehouse managers attach an RFID tag to each product, container, or pallet. This tag can either be an adhesive label or a hard tracker. In some cases, it might even be embedded in the product. Once the tags are attached, workers can identify them using the receiver.
- Storing the Products: Next, workers will store products in their respective areas. They then scan the RFID tag in the storage location. Doing so will automatically update the storage database, allowing management to review the location of every item.
- Completing inventory checks on shipped items: After a certain period, workers will need to check the inventory of the items. The reader sends out radio waves that will activate the tags and products. Workers can then quickly and easily track the necessary items. Since the database has been updated, they can also review any discrepancies between the stored items and the number of products.
- Tracking outgoing shipments: Workers will receive a list of products and identification numbers that need to be shipped. As the shipments are packed, workers can scan the items, updating the inventory list in real-time. This makes it easier to maintain the list and minimize the risks associated with outgoing shipments. If a product is returned, the items can be scanned again so that the inventory lists accurately reflect product returns.
How to Choose an RFID for Your Company
Choosing an RFID technology requires a thorough, comprehensive, and expert approach. It’s impossible to choose the right model without consulting an expert. They’ll identify your needs and requirements and help you select the appropriate technology for your environment.
However, there are a few general tips to keep in mind, even when speaking to a professional:
- Be specific with your requirements: The right RFID technology depends mostly on your warehouse, product, processes, and inventory. Explain this to an expert and factor in plans so that RFID technology can be a long-term investment.
- Software integration and compatibility: Besides quality, RFID systems must be able to integrate with any warehouse management system software you regularly use. This guarantees a smooth transition and effective tracking without downtime.
- Consider your budget: RFID technology usually has a high initial cost. You’ll want to assess your budget for the system before starting the search. Likewise, you’ll also have to factor in regular maintenance and software additions.
Call Energy Electronics for the Best RFID technology Fit
RFID technology can be a practical and advantageous technology for many warehouse management processes. When implemented correctly with the right option, it can streamline complicated issues, enhancing productivity and efficiency while saving time. However, not all warehouse management should use RFID technology. If you want to choose the best system, then contact Energy Electronics. Our experts will establish your needs and find the most suitable option.