The positive impact of RFID technology on logistics
Logistics broadly refers to the process of coordinating and moving resources from one location to another. Resources are anything of value including materials, inventory, equipment and even people. The term logistics originated in the military, and was used to describe the movement of equipment and supplies to troops in the field.
In the military, getting logistics wrong was a matter of life and death, or winning and losing battles in war and other conflicts. While the stakes are not nearly as high in modern retail and inventory management, logistics has emerged as a key battleground for success for businesses in a wide range of industries.
Modern business is fast-moving and complex, and occurs in a global context. Raw materials and products can be sourced and manufactured anywhere in the world, before being moved for further production, or end consumption, potentially thousands of kilometres away by sea, land, air or some combination of these.
Intense global competition means that logistics has become a key differentiator for businesses to enable them to get goods and products quickly to wherever they are needed anywhere in the world. Keeping track of these valuable assets while they move rapidly through complex supply chains has become much easier with the adoption of Radio Frequency Identification technology, known widely as RFID.
The emergence of RFID technology for logistics tracking
RFID technology has had a profound impact on logistics tracking for many different industries and businesses all over the world. Coincidentally, the technology that evolved into RFID first emerged in World War II, to create a listening device used to spy on the Soviet Union – you can read more about the origins of RFID here.
These days, RFID technology is a key weapon in the battle for business supremacy. It has become a critical tool in the tracking and management of all kinds of assets and inventory to increase the visibility of these valuable items.
RFID inventory solutions in supply chain management help keep track of valuable stock and inventory in fast-moving supply chains to item, carton or pallet level, maintaining a real-time, accurate stock count at every stage from point of manufacture to point of sale.
And it is not only supply chain management where RFID has proven to be a valuable business tool. RFID asset tracking solutions help keep track of valuable business assets including vehicles, equipment, tools and technology in offices, warehouses, yards and work sites to improve operational efficiency, reduce losses and avoid expensive replacement costs.
How does RFID technology work?
RFID technology uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to items, objects and people.
A ‘smart’ RFID tag is affixed to an item needing to be tracked. RFID tags come in a variety of shapes, sizes and capabilities, but common to them all is the ability to store information and communicate data such as movement and location back to a central database via an RFID reader.
RFID readers are used to ‘read’ tags from a distance, often with the simple wave of a hand in a packed storeroom full of tagged products using a handheld reader or App-enabled smartphone. In addition, fixed RFID readers or stations are strategically located in say a warehouse or workplace to track the movement of items, vehicles and people in and out.
All the information fed from tags to readers is then relayed to a central location where custom RFID software such as RAMP’s Loca.fi stores and analyses a huge amount of data to identify the precise location of valuable items in real-time, as well as providing useful insights to help make more informed business decisions.
How RFID improves logistics
Two words sum up the benefits that RFID technology brings to inventory and asset management and global supply chains – speed and simplicity. The ability to track valuable assets accurately and with little to no human intervention has revolutionised inventory and asset management.
Faster and more accurate stock counts saves valuable time and money, and helps businesses redirect resources (such as staff time and cash) from searching for and/or replacing lost or stolen inventory into far more productive endeavours.
Let’s consider in more detail exactly how RFID improves logistics tracking.
Increased accuracy of information: The ability to track to item level without direct line of site can increase inventory count accuracy from 65% to 95%, according to RFID Journal. Accurate stock counts means business know exactly where all their products are, and they can move them as required to get them quickly into the hands of customers through distributors, retail stores or online stores.
Streamline warehouse processes: Less manual counting and human intervention means stock can move in and out of warehouses faster than ever before. The ability to ‘sweep’ an RFID reader around a stock room or warehouse shelving means a process that previously took hours can now be done in minutes. Faster, and more accurate, stock take processes enable businesses to deploy staff members to more valuable, revenue-generating tasks.
Lots of data: RFID tags have the capacity to carry far more information-rich than traditional barcodes. For example, they can hold information including order ID, product bin location, order status and location logs. As products and components move through various parts of the supply chain, links to powerful software provide real time database updates.
RFID technology is improving logistics tracking and management in many different industries. Here are some of the industries benefitting from an investment in RFID technology, and how it helps them move items faster and more easily.
- Retail: complete visibility of inventory from source to sale makes sure products get to customers when and where they want to buy. Used by single and multi-store retailers, online retailers and wholesale distributors for product categories including apparel, eyewear, cosmetics and beauty products.
- Transport & logistics: with just-in-time delivery pressures and complex supply chains, RFID solutions increase visibility and control of all processes in the supply chain from source to distribution to end customer. Applications include weighbridge automation, traffic and queue management and gate automation.
- Mining & construction: automated materials handling, vehicle tracking, equipment monitoring and creating a safe working environment for personnel (even underground) in even the most harsh conditions increases safety and efficiency, and reduces theft and losses.
- Food & beverage: agriculture, food, beverage and hospitality service providers can manage provenance and proof of compliance to confirm ethical sourcing and sustainability across the entire supply chain, with reduced wastage, simplified stock rotation, fast recall management and reduced labour costs.
- Automotive: RFID vehicle tracking helps track fleets and vehicles in real-time to increase control, efficiency, safety and compliance. Automation of manual processes improves efficiency, reduces costs, improves customer satisfaction and ensures compliance with laws and regulations.
- Arts: museums, galleries and performing arts companies can get complete visibility of valuable artefacts and items such as costumes and other equipment by automating manual processes to reduce errors, and save the large cost of time and human resources of manual tracking.
Choose Australia’s leading RFID specialists
If your business could benefit from simpler and faster logistics management, or a better way to track valuable inventory and assets, talk to RAMP, Australia’s leading RFID specialist.
We’ve been working with Australian businesses for over a decade to design and implement customised RFID solutions for supply chain, inventory and vehicle tracking, retail and a range of other applications across many industries.
RAMP can help you automate and streamline processes to improve efficiency, minimise losses and increase visibility with our locally-based consultants, engineers and software developers.