5 Benefits of Using RFID in Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management

RFID: A Growing Trend

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), in particular passive RFID, has become increasingly common in industrial environments as a way to track and trace products, assets, and material flow. Although the technology has been around for decades, recent advances in tag design have driven the cost down to levels that are helping fuel its acceptance in a wide variety of industries.

RFID interrogators, which capture and transfer information to and from tags (transponders) via radio waves, are ideal for the most challenging industrial environments. RFID, in contrast to traditional vision-based bar code reading systems, doesn’t require a direct line of sight to object identifiers.

As a result, High Frequency (HF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID systems have made it possible to track a wide range of products through the entire supply chain with more accuracy and timeliness. Yet, despite the advantages, many industrial facilities are still hesitant to incorporate RFID into their mix of automation solutions.

If you’re one of these individuals still on the fence about RFID, below are five benefits that result from using this technology.

1) Improve the quality and transparency of data across the supply chain

Illustration of automotive supply chainAccurate data that is easily accessed makes it possible to solve a multitude of process inefficiencies. The best way to implement a system that results in the highest reliability and availability is by using the concept of “distributed data.” In this context, distributed data refers to live data that is attached directly to the object and can be modified automatically at process checkpoints. When data is read from a tag, answers are provided to the questions: What? Why? Where? and When? This is the very essence of RFID applications in industry.

Photo of RFID in automotive2) Make it easier to implement flexible manufacturing processes

Staying competitive often means producing more from the same production line. In order to make production processes more flexible, there must also be flexibility in the content and delivery of data to the various manufacturing cells. The ability to accommodate and respond to a higher influx of constantly changing data is necessary. RFID is used to reliably read and write data directly to a tag on an object in real-time. This capability can be leveraged to make flexible manufacturing a reality.
5 Benefits of Using RFID in Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management

3) Increase the accuracy of and reduce the time spent taking inventories

Manually counting inventory is an extremely tedious, time consuming, inefficient, and inaccurate method. RFID can be used to reduce or eliminate the need for “hand-scanning,” resulting in immediate and significant improvements in inventory tracking. These results directly impact the customer experience and lead to increased sales.

Illustration of RFID4) Reliable track and trace in challenging physical environments

Since RFID does away with the requirement that there be a direct line of sight to the object’s identifier, standard barcode labels (that can be ruined by extreme environmental conditions) can be replaced with encapsulated RFID tags. The need for reading and/or writing data to an object, when process conditions are extreme, can be handled by attaching these durable RFID tags.

Conditions such as high humidity, drastic temperature swings, exposure to chemicals and paints, extremely high temperatures, rough handling, and dirt wreak havoc on conventional paper barcode labels. Specially encapsulated RFID tags are designed to survive and perform reliably in even the most challenging of environments.

5) Increase efficiency and cut down on rework

RFID can be particularly advantageous in closed loop systems where reusable transport mechanisms are used. Real-time visibility allows the observation and close monitoring of products and processes so that quick action can be taken and process improvements that have a major impact on quality can be made in a timely manner with laser point precision — potentially saving millions.

Jerry Finley

Jerry was recently a speaker at the IEEE RFID convention in Orlando, Florida where he discussed UHF RFID in Automotive Manufacturing. He enjoys biking around the lakes in Minneapolis and traveling. Jerry grew up in Arizona where he owned and trained horses as a teenager.

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