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By: Rafael Franco – Tracking Solutions Engineer
RFID technology has been described in previous articles; this time, the intention is to provide a case study on the applicability of this technology.
There is a wide range of uses for RFID and while it can be found in all different applications, its most common use is for remotely identifying and accounting for products, without the need for visual contact.
Note that each industry has several internal sectors where it is possible to use the technology. One example is the tracking of production in the pharmaceutical industry; in this case, we may have RFID tags to identify medicine bottles so that each stage of the packaging, labeling, and handling processes can be monitored. Another example is in the tracking process of the logistics chain, via the capture of data in the shipping and receiving processes, up to delivery to the end client.
To better illustrate this process, let’s analyze the basic logistical operation of a company from the clothing industry.
Let’s say that a business owner has several stores spread out over different cities, which are supplied by different distribution centers, and that different manufacturing companies make the final products.
For the products in the store, the business owner needs to issue a purchase order (or a production order) to the partner manufacturers (if the business owner does not have in-house manufacturing), which will then produce the order and send the garments to the distribution centers.
In an automated process without the use of RFID, a set of manufactured garments is identified through a barcode containing the size, color, and model.
The first disadvantage of the use of barcodes can be seen when, for example, a medium-sized producer needs to ship around 10,000 garments per day to different cities; in this case, the process of separation by barcode requires the operator to scan the tag with the barcode reader. This process becomes slow and susceptible to human error in comparison with the same operation using RFID technology; in addition, it is very difficult to know whether the garments are exactly those that are to be sent out in a particular shipment, since control using barcodes is done by sizes, and not by serialized items – another advantage we can attribute to RFID.
With RFID, the counting of garments can be automated, with no need for a barcode reader. A passive UHF RFID chip may be read within up to 11 yards, making reading much faster and much more efficient.
So, RFID technology allows the identification of garments to be done per unit, with a tag to identify each item. This way, it is possible to account for each item shipped, thus avoiding shipping errors and drastically enhancing tracking from end to end.
Along with operational flow, software packages are built to capture and manage the readings, which, in turn, allow the data to be processed such that the information can be used to address different business rules, such as checking a production order, or verifying that an invoice matches the products that are physically contained in the shipment.
A single ID is assigned to a set of items, making it impossible to identify each unit within the set. In this case, the specific production and shipping information is not known for each garment.
With the use of RFID tags, the identification of each unit is possible, making the efficiency and tracking of the productivity and logistics much more reliable and dynamic.
At the distribution center, the same reading process can be carried out using RFID portals installed at the receiving dock; an automatic check is done at the time of unloading from the truck and the merchandise is ready to be stored, since all of the information from the readings taken on receipt are entered into the entire inventory management and tracking system.
In the same way as the process is carried out during the garment production chain, it is possible to execute the same cycle for the garments that are sent out to the stores; that is, counting, tracking, and issuance of documentation for shipping to the distribution center and then to the store, using RFID readers and portals.
The logistical cycle ends at the store, where the receiving can also be done with the aid of an RFID reader. Then, once the entire chain is covered, we can use the benefits of RFID at the point of sale.
Inside the store, it is possible to manage tools that assist with the sale, such as smart portals in the fitting rooms that read the information from the garment’s RFID tag, and that generate management reports for the garments that are scanned most. There are also the so-called smart fitting rooms, that give customers the primary features of the selected garment and offer other complementary products.
The self-check-out is another concept used to make the customer’s purchasing experience totally automatic, without the use of check-out desks; that is, the customer scans the garments they wish to purchase using a computer that is connected to an antenna and an RFID reader and makes the payment using a credit and debit card reader, which is also connected to this computer.
Valid provides solutions and services for Tracking, IoT, Data, and more, which can be applied to your business. For more information regarding RFID technology, please visit https://valid.com/what-we-do/iot-and-track-trace/.