RFID: An Upgrade to Barcode Technology
Industries and retail businesses are facing difficult challenges caused by the competition of similar products in global purchasing, the continuous rise of labor and production costs, and the ever-increasing flexibility requirements of the market. All facts and figures have been leading to tighter profit margins and the necessity of more efficient industrial processes.
The most successful business owners were mindful of an innovative solution to improve inventory control, asset tracking, and supply chain management: RFID technology.
With over two decades of experience in the global Auto-ID industry, Huayuan believes that radio frequency identification technology is without a doubt an upgrade to barcode technology. It is already widely applied in all industries, including production management, supply chain, and logistics management.
Written by Huayuan.
Barcode as a Foundation Technology
Barcode has been a universally fundamental element of all industrial products since the 1970s. It remains so and should last for the next 1-2 decades in global industries. Although new technologies like RFID are emerging, retailers still benefit from the following significant features of barcode technology:
- Low costs due to the foundation of an already well-built barcode infrastructure at international standards
- Fast one-by-one reading of products scanned at the checkout counter
- An easily accessible cyber-physical data connection plays a crucial role in collaborating with the back-end IT management system
- Barcodes are easily attachable on any product
The Characteristics of RFID
Over the past 5 years, billions of item-level RFID tags have been used on products that require value-added, accurate, and efficient logistics. These products include clothing, cosmetics, medicine, alcohol, fresh foods, and military products. Here are seven characteristics of RFID in comparison to barcode technology:
- Multiple group readings (bulk reading) possible, rather than single readings by barcode
- Omni-direction and penetrative reading - the RFID tag can be read even from inside a container
- RFID has a data collection process that is 50 to 70 times faster than that of a barcode
- Data capacity is several times larger compared to a barcode and also has secure data protection
- RFID data can be deleted after the entire process cycle
- Significant savings in manual effort needed to move packages thanks to a specially designed auto data collection system with an array of RFID antennas and readers - there is no need to open the package for checking
- Integrating RFID data algorithms in inventory management systems result in accurate retail warehouse inventory realized with RFID handhelds, or via fixed RFID on-site readers - this has already been approved in many apparel/retail management systems
The Main Advantages of RFID at the Item Level
- Through an RFID tunnel or an RFID chamber, RFID item tags in a container can be read at high speeds without having to open the package. A sophisticatedly tagged package can ensure transparent and efficient operation.
- Securely encrypted RFID data protects private information and prohibits counterfeit products in the supplier chain.
- A tamper-evident RFID seal tag detects fake products via an authorization app operated by end-users or distributors.
- Apps created by brand owners provide end-consumers with direct online support via operation videos and instructions on NFC-enabled mobile devices. All tracking information is found via these mobile phones. After-sales services, re-ordering, quality feedback, and tracing becomes much more straightforward.
- RFID technology can be used in complex management to avoid complications that can be caused by barcode systems, like cross-boundary selling, lack of stock or overstock, vicarious inventory, and overdue orders.
- Brand owners have expressed increasing interest in Dual-Frequency RFID (where both UHF and NFC work on the same microchip) for expensive alcohol and pharmaceutical products. Dual-Frequency RFID has a long reading range of around 8 meters and can simultaneously be read by NFC mobile phones, enabling fast logistical processes and efficient supply chains.
- Processes management with RFID can cover the entire history of product life, from production management, supply chain, distribution, verification before purchase, to a customer’s after-sales service and AX re-ordering.
Additional Advice on RFID Application
- If you have had successful experiences with barcode-based management systems, RFID offers a smooth transition from existing data-based systems while achieving the targeted performance. In other words, it is easier to establish an RFID system based on the industry-standard 3.0 that can communicate with the RFID middleware and hardware to achieve the desired goal.
- In order to fulfill an efficient inventory of mass produced products with an accuracy rate of up to 100% on-site with RFID, the client needs to provide the details of the product with the package (especially in cases of high humidity or metal components), and describe the way the products are stacked on the pallet. Huayuan designs and develops customized RFID tags and readers that work together to get rid of interference caused by the environment.
- RFID applications must work with regulated policies in standardized operations towards automatic data collection.
- RFID project investments are still relatively expensive, even though RFID tags and readers are now 10-times cheaper compared to prices 10 years ago. An excellent ROI (Return On Investment) can achieve long-term usability and security as opposed to risks caused by cheap parts.