SMART ASSET TRACKING

BLOG | Welcome Back RFID… We never knew you had left…

Recently there has been many articles written about the ‘return’ of UHF RFID technology in the world of logistics. Much of this discussion is centered around the reported news of the global retailer Walmart mandating the use of RFID tags from suppliers of certain product lines. It is good news for supporters of the technology, but it obviously a story that we have heard before.

As many of the articles point out, there is a definite echo of a similar mandate almost 20 years earlier. Unless you are paying attention, it is difficult to discern a recent article on the subject from one written before 2005. The promise and benefits of RFID pertaining to inventory accuracy and return on investment (ROI) have not changed much since then. Experts and analysts now point to standardization, lower costs, and improved performance as the catalysts to the resurgence of the technology in the supply chain. For certain, there has been improvements in all those areas. But what has not changed much, is the population of technology skeptics adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude regarding investment in RFID. As in 2005, the popular sentiment is that it will take a market leader mandating the use of the technology to force adoption and jumpstart the market. Except this time, the companies watching on the sidelines have been burned before.

So, the question being asked is whether or not now is the proper time for RFID to come ‘back’. But for many of us in the industry, it has never gone away. The team at Coppernic has been deploying UHF RFID solutions and mobile handheld readers since well before the hype. By focusing on deployment scenarios that are well suited to the technology, we have deployed a number of successful RFID systems, both UHF & HF, with long life spans and positive ROI. The things we have learned could fill a couple volumes of books, but we can quickly summarize it in 3 themes:

Return on Accuracy

From antenna design to tag selection and placement, RFID has many parameters to be considered during implementation. The technology accuracy and read rates are one thing, but the process accuracy will define the success of the system. At this stage it is helpful to consider multiple RFID technology suppliers to find the best solution fit for the process.

Return on EFFICIENCY

Process design is aimed at accuracy, but also needs to consider efficiency. Additional steps or processing may be necessary but should not impede the overall process functions. This includes the steps involved in managing, processing, and maintaining the data.

Return on EXPERIENCE

There are many horror stories of RFID systems implemented in either a ‘DIY’ fashion or by companies with limited expertise. From our experience, there are very few instances where RFID can be ‘plug-and-play’. Make sure your suppliers and partners can speak to you on a detailed level about the functions and limitations of any type of RFID in your environment. A detailed process design and technology study is required for any commercial RFID project, including pilot or prototype phases to test results.

RFID is a well-established, proven technology, especially for asset tracking or closed-loop systems. As new IOT technologies appear on the market, they broaden the range of possible solutions and applications and can provide new Return on Investment. For certain these technologies will see the same curve of ‘standardization’ and experience cycles as UHF RFID has. But it helps to look back with the experience of 2 decades of RFID lessons learned, to prepare for the future.

Those who do not remember their past are doomed to repeat it – George Santayana.

Contact Coppernic to learn more…

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