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RFID & Warehouse Management: Pros & Cons To Consider

RFID & Warehouse Management: Pros & Cons To Consider

If you’ve wondered whether or not RFID is right for your warehouse, we’ve got answers for you. Radiofrequency Identification has been a growing technology year over year that continues to become one of the top technologies in warehousing.

For many warehouse managers, you can determine whether or not it’s right for your warehouse by clearly understanding both the benefits and drawbacks of implementing the technology throughout your processes.

What Is RFID?

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) seems like an incredibly complex system when in reality, it’s much more simple than most people realize. Through the use of wireless communication and electromagnetic and electrostatic coupling, the RFID system allows systems to easily and quickly identify different items, objects, animals, and sometimes people.

RFID flow chart

How Does RFID Work?

RDIF uses wireless communication, but how? It’s important to get somewhat granular. An RFID system consists of three main parts that work together to provide the information needed:

  • A single antenna
  • A transceiver
  • A transponder

These three pieces of equipment are used together to create the scanning system. When the scanning antenna and transceiver are combined, they’re referred to as an RFID reader or interrogator. There are fixed readers and mobile readers. These readers can transmit signals back and forth using radio waves, allowing the system to decode and determine what’s being scanned.

Within the RFID tag itself is the transponder. Some RFID tags can be scanned from greater distances than others. The type of tag, reader, and interference around the reader help to determine how far away you can be to still receive accurate data. Different types of information can be stored, scanned, and updated in real-time.

For a deeper look, check out this video link.

Active RFID vs. Passive RFID

Within the realm of RFID, there are a few different types of tags and technologies you’ll come across. The two most popular are active RFID and passive RFID.

Active RFID is a system that uses battery-powered tags to send signals to the reader. These tags can be read from greater distances and can transmit data much faster than their passive counterparts.

Passive RFID is a system that doesn’t require a battery to power the tag. The tag is powered by the electromagnetic field emitted from the reader. These tags are much less expensive than active RFID tags but have shorter read ranges and can take longer to receive data back.

Depending primarily on how much information you’ll need to transfer and at how great of a distance can determine which you choose for your system and process.

The Different Types of RFID Systems

Beyond passive and active systems, there are three main types of RFID systems: Low-Frequency (LF), High-Frequency (HF), and Ultra High-Frequency (UHF). Microwave RFID is another option that isn’t quite as common but is also available to the industry. The country or region often dictates the frequency ranges used by these systems that they’re being used within.

  • Low-frequency RFID systems can range from 30 to 500KHz but often sit around 125kHZ. These systems often have the shortest transmission ranges making them ideal for uses where it’s not difficult to get close to the item that you need to scan.
  • High-frequency RFID systems range from 3 to 30MHz. These systems offer higher transfer speeds for more data.
  • Ultra high-frequency systems range from 300 to 960MHz. The higher frequency rate can easily transfer large amounts of data from up to 25 feet away.
  • Microwave RFID systems are intense, to say the least. However, these systems do serve a purpose and can be used in specific applications. Because they often run at 2.45GHz, receivers can read tags from more than 30 feet away.

What’s best for your business and warehouse will determine the system you use and the frequency at which it scans and transmits data.

RFID & Warehouse Management: Pros & Cons To Consider 1

Common Uses for RFID Outside of a Warehouse

This technology has slowly been implemented for decades and has continued to grow in use. But it was not until recently that it became more widespread due to the decrease in cost. Here are many of the uses that you’ll find for these systems today

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  • Pet and livestock tracking
  • Inventory management
  • Asset and equipment tracking
  • Inventory control
  • Cargo and supply chain logistics
  • Vehicle tracking
  • Customer service and loss control
  • Improved visibility and distribution in the supply chain
  • Access control in security situations
  • Shipping
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail sales
  • Tap-and-go payment systems

RFID Warehouse Tracking System and Process

If the benefits and design of RFID are starting to grab your attention, you’re in luck because there are many ways that you can use this technology to provide your warehouse with a number of benefits.

An RFID system can be used for a number of tasks in your warehouse, including:

  • Automated receiving and put-away
  • Stock location
  • Inventory management
  • Cycle counting
  • Order picking and packing

Some of the RFID systems we’ve discussed may do more than is necessary for your inventory items, but for businesses that are working with more expensive inventory, then RFID may be the perfect technology for you.

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Pros and Cons of Using RFID In a Warehouse Setting

Like anything, there are advantages and disadvantages alike for using and implementing these systems. Here are some of the ways we’ve seen it play out for warehouse managers and those who use these systems.

Benefits of Using RFID in Your Warehouse

  • Eliminate manual processes: One of the most significant advantages of using RFID in your warehouse is that it can automate many tasks and processes currently being completed manually.
  • Increased accuracy: With these systems, there’s no more need to rely on human error for things like data entry. This can play a significant role in reducing errors throughout your warehouse.
  • Improved efficiency: By automating tasks and increasing accuracy, you can see a drastic improvement in the overall efficiency of your warehouse, which can lead to increased profits.
  • Reduced labor costs: As we mentioned, you’ll need fewer employees to complete these tasks manually by automating tasks.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: By increasing the efficiency of your warehouse, you can also improve customer satisfaction by getting orders out the door quicker and reducing errors.

Drawbacks of Using RFID Throughout Your Warehouse

  • High initial cost: One of the biggest disadvantages to using RFID is the high initial cost. These systems can be expensive to implement and get up and running.
  • Lack of understanding: There’s still a lack of understanding when it comes to RFID technology which can lead to hesitancy from employees, customers, and shareholders alike.
  • Privacy concerns: With the increased use of this technology, there have been some privacy concerns that have arisen. Some people are worried about being tracked by these systems.
  • Interference: One of the issues that can occur with RFID is interference. If you have a lot of metal or water in your warehouse, it can interfere with the signals and cause problems.

Smart Labels and Warehousing Efficiency

If you own, work in, or manage a warehouse, then you’ve likely already seen how RFID smart labels may be able to benefit your warehouse. But, if you’re still on the fence about RFID vs. Smart Labels, here’s the difference.

Smart labels are simply labels that can provide similar information as RFID scanners and tags. But, the main difference is that you’ll need to physically scan a smart label with a smartphone or barcode scanner. RFID, as we mentioned, works to read and scan from several feet away.

So, depending on the type of inventory and volume that you’re working with, RFID can be a resource that serves you and your warehouse well.

Choose Scout for Your Smart Warehouse Needs

At Scout, we offer a number of products that can help your warehouse reach a greater level of efficiency and clarity for you and the employees. We embrace new technologies and help you implement them to ensure you get the most out of your business.

Our flagship product, topShelf comes as a customizable warehouse and inventory management product that you can use within your warehouse for increased productivity, workflow, and order flow.

Get your free demo today!