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Retailers can see inventory levels and locations at all times in stores and warehouses

Retailers can see inventory levels and locations at all times in stores and warehouses



RFID should be seen as enabler of businesses

If executed properly, RFID can prevent disruption to businesses’ operations , says Jeff Schmitz, Chief Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies

October 2020

Manufacturers and warehouse operators need to track inbound and outbound shipments. Retailers need to keep tabs on inventory. Healthcare providers must be able to locate equipment and supplies stats. Radion fequency identification ttechnology (RFID) can do all that – and much more.

As part of our everyday lives, many of us dine out, shop online and watch football. But have you considered the ways that technology is involved in facilitating these activities? Did you factor in the technologies used to mark, track and trace the ingredients in your last meal as they moved from the producer, to the distributor’s warehouse and then to the restaurant? Or to notify you that a package was recently left on your doorstep?

The magnitude at which companies use technology to ensure we get exactly what we want, when and where we want it is not readily visible. Even when we see technology used right in front of us – such as the mobile device or tablet in the hands of store associates, restaurant staff or healthcare providers – it may be hard to appreciate just how dependent we’ve become on it.

 

Manufacturers can track inventory as it moves at the production line and beyond

Manufacturers can track inventory as it moves at the production line and beyond

RFID’S RISE

At the turn of the century, digitalisation was the key to business optimisation and, to a certain extent, it still is. The first step to gaining the level of agility needed to capture a performance edge in the “now economy” is to replace pen-and-paper processes with digitalised workflows and ensure data captured across the entire enterprise is readily accessible. However, it is not enough to simply create digital “systems of record.”

Greater enterprise intelligence is derived via “systems of reality” that gather detailed information such as inventory levels, work-in-progress status, equipment condition and staff locations in a near real-time manner using technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID).

Barcode-based scans can provide some visibility into this information. However, RFID can provide far superior speed, accuracy, automation and efficiency in many cases. That is why we’re seeing RFID adoption rates climb quickly in manufacturing, transportation, retail, healthcare and even sports:

Fifty-two (52) per cent of organisations surveyed for Zebra’s 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index study confirmed that they’re already using active RFID technology in some capacity. Another 34 per cent plan to implement active RFID in the next few years.

Thirty-seven (37) per cent of respondents reported that they’re currently using passive RFID, with 53 per cent planning to integrate it in the future.

But you must do your research before investing in RFID.

 

Warehouse operators need to track inbound and outbound shipments

Warehouse operators need to track inbound and outbound shipments

NEED AND READINESS

Being able to track the location, condition, timing, accuracy and speed of inventory, equipment and people in near real-time makes it easier to streamline processes and drive more efficient front-line workflows:

Retailers can see inventory levels and locations at all times in stores and warehouses to help reduce out of stock situations, improve sales and increase customer satisfaction and attach rates in omnichannel models.

Healthcare providers can find essential patient testing and care equipment within seconds.

Airlines can check life vests, meals and more to improve flight readiness and route baggage in a timely and accurate manner to its destination.

Manufacturers can track parts inventory as it moves from the loading dock to the production line and beyond, reducing delays and improving quality control.

Transportation, logistics and postal service providers can see all delivery processing and handling actions.

IT can track equipment in server vaults and system operations control rooms to eliminate lost/misplaced/stolen/breached equipment.

Automatic Vehicle Identification is also beneficial for electronic toll collection, monitoring highway use and load factors and vehicle servicing, fueling and status monitoring.

Yet, not everyone may need RFID – at least not right now. The best way to assess its potential benefit to you is to understand the business problems and issues inhibiting growth. Ask yourself:

•  Are we losing out on opportunities to improve sales or production because employees do not have visibility into stock or asset locations?

•  Are resources (employees, material, tools) fully utilised? Or are employees wasting time trying to find items/tools and reconcile erroneous statuses in the system?

•  Are we incurring higher costs for sparing of extra materials, tools, conveyance or human resources to compensate for inefficiencies?

•  Are my competitors already addressing such issues successfully and leaving us at a competitive disadvantage?

If you said yes to any of the above, it might be time to make a move to RFID.

 

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

Many industry analysts and visionaries may perceive RFID to be “disruptive.” Yet, we see it as enabling. If executed properly, RFID can prevent disruption to businesses’ operations and our way of life as consumers.

But since a well-implemented RFID solution can touch multiple parts of a business, strong internal coordination among all potential stakeholders is imperative during the planning, testing and implementation phases. For example, consulting with procurement, supply chain, store operation, store sales, promotion marketing and e-commerce functions from day one tends to bring far superior value to a retailer than when IT alone drives the RFID technology selection and deployment processes. Assigning a central coordinator and facilitator can add great value when soliciting input from all potential end-users and beneficiaries.

Change management is also critical. A lack of communications across the organisation can stifle adoption and your return on investment (ROI). A simple education of what RFID is, how it works best and what benefit the business is achieving can go a long way in helping employees embrace it wholeheartedly.

One more thing to remember: there is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single “best” RFID solution for all organisations – or even for a particular industry. Find a strategic technology partner that can help you map out an incremental innovation plan to effectively address your challenges and achieve your goals without introducing more risk into your organisation. They can also help you monitor and measure its use and effectiveness and help optimize as needed.

 

KNOW YOUR RFID OPTIONS

You can also check out the resources provided by industry consortiums such as the RAIN RFID Alliance. Founded in 2014, this global forum is driving education about and market awareness of the many benefits of passive UHF (aka RAIN) RFID solutions for specific applications and industries.

Zebra is a founding member of the RAIN RFID Alliance and Chris Schaefer, who leads RAIN RFID Market Development for Zebra, currently serves as its Board Chairman.




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