For years, RFID technology has been a promising solution for streamlining warehouse operations and improving supply chain management. But it’s only recently that the full potential of this technology has been realised. Radio waves transmit unique serial numbers wirelessly, so RFID allows for automatic product identification, reducing labour and increasing real-time data accuracy.
As warehouse management becomes increasingly complex, with various logistics operations, including stock storage, order status, paper processes, sorting, cycle counts, loading and unloading, and customer service, technology is crucial to optimise these processes. Poor utilisation of costly warehouse space, manual errors, incorrect identification of products, and difficulty locating items can impact productivity and profitability, leading to losses and damaging an organisation’s reputation.
That’s where RFID comes in. In this article, we will look at how using RFID technology in conjunction with a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can help improve efficiency and increase profit.
What is RFID Technology?
RFID technology has revolutionised how businesses track their products and manage their supply chain. With RFID tags, made up of a microchip and a radio antenna on a substrate, businesses can easily connect their products to the internet and gain real-time visibility into their location.
Two types of RFID tags are available in the market – active and passive. Active RFID tags come with their power source and transmitter, making them ideal for tracking valuable assets over long distances. These tags can operate up to a range of 100 meters and transmit data at a rate of 1-2 seconds. On the other hand, passive RFID tags rely on the radio waves emitted by the reader antenna and do not have a power source. They are less expensive and require no maintenance, making them popular for tracking low-value products.
By combining active and passive RFID systems, businesses can achieve complete visibility over their products throughout the supply chain. For instance, retailers can use active RFID tags to track high-value items like jewellery or electronics while using passive tags for low-value items like clothing or accessories. Additionally, businesses can use GPS technology to track goods in transit, reducing the risk of theft or loss.
According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the RFID market size is expected to grow from USD 17.4 billion in 2021 to USD 40.5 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 18.0% during the forecast period. The report attributes the growth of the RFID market to factors such as increasing government initiatives for inventory management and the need for real-time asset tracking.
The Benefits of Using RFID with a WMS
Integrating RFID technology with a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can bring about significant improvements in the management of products. It allows for real-time tracking and precise handling of products in the warehouse. This enables easy location of products as all product movements are tracked and registered automatically in the system. Accurate stock tracking also facilitates recording of valuable information about losses.
Apart from these, the use of RFID technology in warehouse management can offer several other benefits to businesses, such as:
Improved Accuracy in Inventory Tracking and Management
Integrating RFID technology with a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can significantly improve the accuracy of inventory tracking and management. This can help reduce instances of out-of-stock items and improve overall efficiency.
Reduced Labour Costs
The use of RFID technology in warehouse management can reduce labour costs as fewer staff are needed for tracking and management tasks.
Fewer Errors and Increased Productivity
By reducing manual intervention, RFID technology can help minimize errors in order entry, resulting in increased productivity.
Implementing FIFO or LIFO Inventory Management
The ability to implement first-in-first-out (FIFO) or last-in-first-out (LIFO) inventory management can have a positive impact on profitability and tax liabilities.
Quick Access to Order Databases
RFID technology can facilitate quick access to order databases, enabling immediate shipping to fulfill customer orders and cross-dock incoming material.
Real-Time Information for Correct Shipments
The integration of RFID technology with a WMS can provide real-time information to ensure that the correct shipment is delivered to the right dock and loaded onto the right truck.
Advanced Data Capture Capabilities
Advanced data capture capabilities, such as imaging, can provide proof of condition for returns records and resolve potential customer disputes.
Instant Verification of Picked Items
With the quick scan of an RFID tag, a WMS based on RFID can provide instant verification that the correct item has been picked and immediately deduct it from inventory.
Enhancing Logistics with RFID: Tips and Strategies
To ensure the successful implementation and operation of an RFID system in your warehouse, consider the following steps:
- Choose the correct RFID tags for your needs: Consider factors such as size, type, range, and the environment in which the tags will be used.
- Install the tags correctly: This includes placing them in the appropriate location, securing them properly, and testing them to ensure they function correctly.
- Invest in a high-quality RFID reader: This device is responsible for reading the tags and transmitting the data to the warehouse management system, so choosing one compatible with your system and performing well is essential.
- Integrate the RFID system with the warehouse management system: This ensures that data is transmitted and stored correctly and that you can generate accurate inventory reports.
By following these steps, you can effectively leverage RFID technology to improve your logistics operations’ accuracy, efficiency, and security.
Overcoming Obstacles in the Implementation
While the use of RFID technology in the warehouse can bring many benefits, there are also a few challenges to consider:
- Cost: RFID tags, readers, and software can be expensive, so it’s essential to consider your budget before investing in an RFID system.
- Implementation: Ensuring RFID tags are correctly installed and appropriately integrated with the warehouse management system can be challenging.
- Data accuracy: RFID systems rely on manual data entry, so there is a risk of errors or inconsistencies if the data is incorrectly entered.
- Interference: RFID technology can be prone to interference, which can affect the accuracy of the data and make it difficult to track items. It’s essential to ensure that the warehouse is free from sources of interference, such as metal shelves and other electronic devices.
Understanding the Costs of Implementing in the Warehouse
When considering implementing RFID technology in the warehouse, it’s essential to consider the potential costs involved. Here are a few key factors that can impact the overall cost of an RFID system:
- RFID tags: The cost of RFID tags can vary depending on the type and size of the tags and the quantity needed. For example, small, disposable RFID tags may be less expensive than larger, reusable tags. RFID tags can cost anywhere from £0.10 to £1.00 each.
- RFID readers: RFID readers read RFID tags and transmit the data to the warehouse management system. The cost of RFID readers can vary based on the device’s range, speed, and other features. RFID readers can cost anywhere from £200 to £1,000 each.
- Integration: Integrating an RFID system with an existing warehouse management system can require developing custom or purchasing additional software. This can add to the overall cost of the RFID system. Depending on the system’s complexity, integration costs can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands.
- Training warehouse staff on RFID technology can also add to the cost of an RFID system.
When considering implementing RFID technology in the warehouse, weighing the potential costs against the benefits, it can provide is crucial. RFID systems can help improve the warehouse’s accuracy, visibility, and efficiency, ultimately leading to cost savings and increased profitability for the business.
However, it’s essential to know the various costs associated with implementing an RFID system, such as RFID tags, readers, integration, and training. By carefully evaluating these costs and considering the specific needs and goals of the business, warehouse managers can make an informed decision about whether RFID technology is the right choice for their operations.
Advantages of Barcode Scanning Over RFID Technology
Barcode scanning has been a widely used inventory management and tracking technology for many years. It offers several advantages over RFID technology, including:
- Cost: Barcode scanners and labels are generally less expensive than RFID tags and readers.
- Compatibility: Most barcode scanners can read various formats, making integrating with different systems and partners easier.
- Range: Barcode scanners are more extended than RFID readers, making them more suitable for scanning items from a distance or through materials that may block RFID signals.
- Ease of use: Barcode scanners are easy to use and require minimal training, making them suitable for businesses with a high turnover rate or a larger workforce.
- Data accuracy: Barcode scanners are less prone to errors than RFID systems, as they rely on a visual scan rather than radio frequency transmission. This can help improve the accuracy of inventory and tracking data.
Overall, barcode scanning is a reliable, cost-effective technology for inventory management and tracking tasks. While RFID technology may offer some benefits in certain situations, barcode scanning is often the more suitable choice for many businesses.
RFID technology can be a powerful tool for improving productivity and efficiency in the warehouse. By implementing an RFID system, warehouse managers can gain greater accuracy and visibility and reduce labour costs. However, it’s essential to know the potential challenges of implementing an RFID system, such as costs and interoperability issues.
Barcode scanning is another technology that can be used to improve warehouse operations. It offers several advantages over RFID technology, such as lower costs, excellent compatibility, extended range, and improved data accuracy.
To help overcome these challenges and take full advantage of the benefits of tracking capabilities, consider using Clarus WMS. This warehouse management system can help streamline and optimise warehouse operations.
Clarus WMS can integrate with scanners to provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, generate reports, and more. It also offers a range of features and tools to help businesses manage their warehouse operations effectively, including real-time tracking, order picking and packing, and shipping and receiving. With Clarus WMS, you can empower your business to maximise the benefits of new technology and achieve success in the warehouse.