The Untapped Potential Of RFID Technology For Accurate Inventory Visibility

How to use RFID to reduce inventory management time and expense


Parts and tools can be tagged and either scanned by handheld readers or fixed readers on bins or at doorways to identify users and when they were checked out or returned. Embedded Geiger counter functionality can help handheld readers locate the precise location of tagged equipment when a general location or area is identified.

Fuel utilization is another area where RFID technology can be deployed to minimize loss. When fleets are dispersed geographically and have access to company-owned gas stations nationwide, it’s difficult to ensure gas is going into company-owned vehicles versus other uses.

Putting RFID tags on vehicle fuel doors and readers at yard entrances and on pumps allows only authorized vehicles to access the fuel. This reduces costs and minimizes the opportunity for theft to occur.

THE RIGHT SOLUTION

Today, RFID technology can solve many business challenges and value is clearly the most important metric for a successful RFID implementation. To determine your value proposition, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the performance of the RFID technology satisfy your basic asset and inventory visibility and management needs?
  • Does it provide the speed, range and reliability to track critical assets better than you can right now?
  • What reductions to fleet maintenance and management operating expenses can you realize for the capital invested in RFID?
  • What significant capital expenses for your fleet could be reduced or delayed by deploying an efficient solution based on RFID technologies?

Holistic and complete RFID solutions have three main components: tags, readers and software. The value of deploying a solution built upon each of these three pillars has evolved significantly, with substantial gains in technical performance and notably more attractive price points fueling a more compelling return on investment (ROI) model for fleet owners and operators.

PERFORMANCE FACTORS

For optimal results, you need to evaluate the available options against your core business objectives. Key factors that dictate performance of an RFID-based fleet management and maintenance solution include:

  • Tag sensitivity: This is the ability of the chip to be energized and to maximize the signal strength to send its enclosed data back to the reader. The greater the chip sensitivity, the longer the read range.
  • Tag size: Larger generally means longer range. Always look to implement the largest tag possible for the application.
  • Tag shape: Different tag antenna shapes provide remarkably different levels of performance.
  • Number and size of reader antennas: Just as tag size dictates performance, so, too, does the size and orientation of the reader antennas. Different read locations will have different requirement, so it’s important to choose a reader that can support various antenna types.
  • Speed: This is the rate at which the reader collects tag identifiers. Rapid read rates increase the reliability of tag reads and are less likely to impose burdens on business processes due to the downstream exception-based processes that occur with missed reads.
  • Type of reader: Fixed readers are ideal when tagged objects are mobile, such as vehicles, trailers, tools, parts and even workers. Handheld readers work best on stationary assets – shelves, pallets and stationary trucks, planes or tractor trailers.

SOFTWARE

The third leg of the RFID solution stool is software. Options abound here. However, most existing maintenance and inventory systems don’t support RFID data, so a separate solution that can be integrated into your back-end will likely need to be implemented.

First, determine what information you need captured and how it will be used. For example, if it’s important that you capture date and time stamps when maintenance tools are checked out or in, then look for applications that can record that.

Or, if you need to drive greater efficiencies in parts management, consider options that can trigger a restocking order when the last part is taken off a shelf and the shelf tag is scanned.

Lastly, ensure the desired application can easily be mobilized while, at the same time, integrate with existing core business systems.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

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