The Untapped Potential Of RFID Technology For Accurate Inventory Visibility

How to use RFID to reduce inventory management time and expense


Containing costs. Improving operating efficiencies. Gaining visibility to inventory and assets. That’s the power of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. While implementations proliferate across industries, owners and operators of vehicle fleets have only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with solutions powered by RFID. With enhanced visibility across the spectrum of fleet management and maintenance operations, today’s RFID systems provide new approaches to solving old challenges - and deliver real, measurable results.

Simply put, RFID systems enable automatic identification and data capture from a distance, without a line of sight requirement. They consist of a reader (sometimes called an interrogator) and a tag (sometimes called a transponder). Typically, the reader sends out electromagnetic waves with a signal the RFID tag is designed to respond to.

RFID tags can be either active or passive. Passive tags have no power source. They draw power from the field created by the reader. Active tags have a battery power source and broadcast their signal at regular intervals like a beacon.

ACCURATE INFORMATION

In many respects, fleet and maintenance managers may be blind to the critical inventory and assets they manage. And you can’t impact or improve what you can’t see or don’t know.

While existing in-vehicle technologies such as trip monitors report some details like mileage, oil pressure, telemetry and fuel utilization, they can’t tell you everything. RFID solutions provide different and complementary information, providing a more complete view around critical fleet management assets. Available technologies make it easy to accurately track parts, tools, repairs, maintenance histories and business processes.

Fleet and maintenance managers can also use RFID to increase efficiencies by streamlining data capture procedures and minimizing or eliminating error-prone, time-intensive manual processes.

While every fleet’s needs and challenges are unique, RFID tags, readers and software can transform how companies work, by facilitating:

  • Automated inventory control and procurement of spare parts.
  • Improved equipment and personnel utilization.
  • Better use of labor pool.
  • Minimization of errors and equipment loss.
  • Fast and accurate vehicle check-in, fueling and weighing.
  • Instant access to vehicle maintenance and repair histories.
  • Locating and monitoring vehicles on the road or at company yards.
  • Enhanced visibility to driver behavior to increase safety and reduce risks.

By capturing, moving and managing vehicle data across the enterprise, managers can reduce maintenance costs and optimize fleet utilization.

RECORD KEEPING PROCESSES

In many respects, vehicle fleets are only as effective as their fleet operations. The time, resources and expenses required to keep that fleet operating at peak performance are considerable.

RFID solutions make it easy to capture, store and analyze vehicle and parts performance data, maintenance records and even warranty information. This arms technicians with valuable information at the point of work and allows for the initiation of a wide variety of back-end processes.

Boeing, as an example, is putting RFID tags with complete maintenance histories on critical airplane parts. If a component fails while a plane is in transit, the pilot or crew can read the data stored on the tag to get the part number and warranty information, and then radio ahead to have the part waiting at their next destination. This allows maintenance crews to address the issue quickly and efficiently once the plane lands with minimal business disruption.

AVOIDABLE LOSSES

Loss is an ongoing business challenge associated with fleet management. Replacement costs of lost or unaccounted tools, parts and fuel rob operations of critical profits and drive up the overall cost of doing business. RFID can greatly minimize these losses by tracking all critical assets.

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