Tracking their inventory effectively is one of the major challenges faced by businesses around the world. After they are acquired, assets keep on moving from one location to another. In the absence of a proper inventory tracking system, mixups soon become the norm, resulting in chaos and pandemonium. Earlier, businesses used to rely on manual methods for asset tracking. Manual asset tracking is not only effort-intensive and time-consuming but also error-prone. As businesses realized the problems with manual tracking, they started shifted to automated methods. One of the most popular asset tracking methods used by businesses around the world today is RFID tagging.
RFID technology: An introduction
Radio frequency identification or RFID technology involves the use of electromagnetic fields to identify RFID tags attached to an item. These asset identification tags contain electronically stored information. RFID tags, just like barcodes and magnetic strips, provide a unique identifier to an item. A device is used to capture information that is stored in the database of the asset management tracking system used by the business.
Typically, RFID systems use three components- a scanning antenna and transceiver that, in most cases, are combined into a reader, known as an interrogator, and an RFID tag (or asset tag). RFID tags contain a circuit and an antenna that transmits data to the reader, which converts it into a readable format before transmitting it to the database of the asset tracking system.
RFID tags can store up to 2,000 KB of data. The read range for an asset identification tag depends on several factors, including RFID frequency, reader type, tag type, and disturbances in the environment. RFID is used extensively in various industries, including travel, automobile, healthcare, and banking.
Types of RFID tags
There are two types of asset identification tags, Active RFID and passive RFID. While active RFIDs have their own power source (in most cases, a battery), passive RFID tags derive their power from the reading antenna. Lately, many companies have started using semi-passive RFID tags that use a battery to run the circuitry, while communication is taken care of by the RFID reader. Because active RFID tags have their own power source, they have a superior read range than passive tags.
Types of RFID systems
Based on their frequency, RFID systems can be classified into three groups; low-frequency RFID systems, high-frequency RFID systems, and ultra-high-frequency RFID systems.
- Low-frequency RFID systems range from 30 KHz-500 KHz. Most systems have a frequency of 125 KHz. The transmission range of most low-frequency RFID systems ranges from a few inches to less than six feet.
- High-frequency RFID systems range from 3 MHz-30 MHz. The typical frequency of these systems is 13.56 MHz.
- Ultra-high-frequency RFID systems range from 300 MHz-960 MHz. Signals can be typically read from more than 25 feet away.
Some amazing facts about RFID technology
- Designed by Hitachi, the smallest RFID measures .01 inches square.
- RFID tags were first used by a Soviet spy.
- Some RFIDs can be read from up to 300 feet away.
- The read speed of an average RFID is ten times higher than a standard barcode.
- Some RFIDs include an extra sensor that can perform different jobs such as measuring temperature.
Benefits of RFID for businesses
1. Optimum asset utilization
Tracking their assets is an overwhelming task for most businesses, especially small companies with limited resources. RFID technology can help manage assets effectively. Data stored using RFID technology can be used to perform various tasks such as monitoring maintenance cycles, review asset availability, and analyze different costs associated with acquiring, maintaining, and disposing of assets.
Your managers can analyze data stored in your asset management tracking system to identify assets that are nearing the end of their service life and should be replaced. Based on their analysis, they can find out which assets need maintenance. Optimum asset utilization not only holds the key to improving ROI but can also help avoid safety issues and decrease downtime.
2. Error prevention
The major drawback of manual asset tracking systems is that they are heavily reliant on human beings. Unlike manual asset management tracking systems, RFID systems do not need any human intervention to function. Because everything is automated, your workflow drastically improves, helping avoid errors and confusion. As an item moves along your supply chain, your teams won’t have to track it manually during each stage, which helps save time.
In an environment that involves several people performing the same task, RFID technology can help avoid errors and confusion due to duplication. A manual asset tracking management system may fail to record information related to a task performed by each person. RFID technology helps address this limitation by allowing the person who is performing the task to update the record. In a hospital, for instance, RFID tags can be used by different teams to update their patient’s history.
3. Availability of real-time data
In today’s data-driven world, data is money. To help your managers take swift and effective decisions, RFID systems track and provide real-time data. One look at the dashboard is all it takes to know where a particular item is located currently. Every time a product is removed from the warehouse, the system automatically updates its records, ensuring that your managers get accurate data that they can use to take key decisions. Your managers can use data from your RFID system to improve inventory accuracy, which holds the key to controlling costs.
4. Promote a culture of accountability
With your RFID system by your side, your managers will always be in the know about people who last used the asset. If an asset is misplaced or damaged, data from your RFID system can help fix accountability. When your employees know that their actions can be tracked, they are more likely to behave in a responsible manner, which can help control costs.
5. Enhanced employee productivity
Because an RFID system automates different processes, employees don’t have to perform labor-intensive tasks such as counting and tallying inventory and searching for misplaced tools. When they have enough time on their hands, your employees can focus on more important tasks, which helps improve productivity.