Here at RFIDdirect, we appreciate the good things in life – objects, assets and applications of quality, style and designed fit for purpose; with a beautifully hand-made bespoke shoe, the advantage versus production-line is not looks or feel but fit!
It has to be said that same can be applied regarding choosing RFID tags/ labels – or rather transponder type and subsequently antennae and readers – the choice (right or wrong) having direct and absolute influence on the success of RFID systems or applications.
RFID – Construction and Application
What is RFID? RFID is a generic term for several data exchange technologies using different radio waves (frequencies) and technologies to automatically identify objects and people. Essentially, it’s a technology that connects objects to the internet and other database systems, so they can be tracked, and individual users E.G. companies can share data about them.
An RFID system will typically comprise: an RFID device (tag); a tag reader with an antenna and transceiver and a host, computer network system or connection to an enterprise system.
The RFID tag serves as a key to unlock item information from a Data Base – RFID is no straight forward alternative for Barcode and a ‘tag first’ approach based on price is not advisable and choosing the right “fit” or type of RFID system is essential to generate a return on investment.
Additionally, you will need to look beyond the tag to understand how RFID will create value, developing a business case and providing a return of investment.
As RFID is, however, a collective name for several technologies based on the same principle of data exchange using radio waves – the RFID tag or label is only one component of a total data capture system that may combine: barcodes, mobile data collectors, wireless LAN networks, industrial controls, to manage material flow and asset control more effectively.
Characteristics such as: choice of frequency, physical packaging of the tags/labels, compliant to international standards, product certifications and, of course, cost, provide a good basis to compare tags, but not to evaluate the total value of an RFID system.
Building the Business case
- Data Capturing
Although relatively easy for a company to collect large amounts of data, it is important to instigate a long-term business ambition. Storing data and analysing it can be very costly – so it is essential to identify the company’s goals for the data and analytics ahead of instigation. Questions to pose; what to really achieve from the information? Smoother processes in manufacturing, lean production management or supply chain? More information(?) about your clients or customers? Or collect data for reverse-product development – improving quality and/or new designed products on the long term? Maybe precautionary steps to prevent fraudulent behaviour or loss? Perhaps to improve life-cycle servicing, mandatory regulatory checks? Traceability from supplies to product, encountering liability claims? Even predict trends and reduce ghost assets, drive-up customer satisfaction through understanding their needs and habits for marketing purposes. Once the purpose of your data is established, the following points highlight how the use of data might fulfil business needs.
- Knowledge extraction
Useful data is captured from various channels ― for example, order characteristics, process setup times and processing times from the production floor ready for dispatch procedures.
Patterns and disruptions in the data can be processed into knowledge that forms the input for leaner logistics and processes.
- Planning and optimization – Adding Business Value
With data that corresponds to real-time actuality; estimates used in planning become more accurate. As operational efficiency improves, management has reliable decision-making support available, customer satisfaction improves, the use of assets, resources and personnel is optimized and profitability increases.
Questions to ask about a potential application/infrastructure
What is the material/composite of the assets to be identified? What is the required read range and speed required – multiple reads in a single process or single read per operation?
What kind of environment (possible interferences and interruptions) houses operations?
What are the available technologies? How are realistic field tests set-up to gather know-how and discover the do’s and don’ts of an RFID application?
What kind of reports do you want to generate, where and when? For whom to access the data?
What is the infrastructure needed to handle the data processing?
The Tags (Chip and Antenna) and Readers
RFID tags allow data to be “read” in multiples and not always in line of sight (unlike barcode). Initially RFID tags were created to track large assets, then, smaller tags were created to fit on each product. However, the golden rule is the following; the smaller the tag, the less is the read range performance.
There are many factors that determine choosing a transponder or tag (a tag houses the minute chip and the antenna). The price alone cannot dictate the selection, rather it is the purpose of what is being read and how – the reason for the data transmitted and how it will be received by the reader; already mentioned, smaller antenna in a tag will only read at a shorter range. Tags are hugely diverse in shapes, sizes and protective settings – from encapsulation in robust covering for tough environments to tiny devices as thin as paper. Tags, as the shoes in our title suggest, can also be designed as bespoke, experimental or “off the shelf”, tried and tested; most meet global standardisation and regulations.
The readers – also containing one or multiple antenna(s) – can be stand-alone – desk top or hand held or fixed as in a portal; the data transmitted can then be interpreted/digitised by a computer network and ERP management system on a PC/ smart device. The number of assets and their tags to be read (in multiples or individually) in addition to their physical orientation to the reader clearly inform the best system to be established – with greatest coverage and read accuracy.
Getting Started to “Wear it Well”!
Successful and valuable implementation of RFID requires more than the right transponder- that would only be the start. Assistance from a solutions optimiser – who has the technology, insider know-how and expertise – meets the challenge to deliver customised, worthwhile tracking data, always with an eye on the future. RFIDdirect’s dependable and realistic scoping studies (consultancy) are designed to scale according to requirements, large or small – whether you are in need of an Active RFID solution for high value assets or Passive RFID for multiple assets or advice on tracking and tracing for leaner manufacturing procedures and supply chain. RFIDdirect can help inform and enable the right system choice by analysing strengths and weaknesses and how better data analysis can provide the best ROI possible – conclusion maybe that no one system will meet all your needs;
- Analyse what the business requires of the data gathered, What? Why? When?
- Run a scoping / test pilot to test potential / conduct a proof of concept
- Conclude whether you want RFID deployed as a one-point solution or as part in total infrastructure
- develop your business case to determine ROI for your application/multiple applications
RFIDdirect wholeheartedly endorses that the most essential first step to take is to Develop a Business Case to see if the “shoe” or RFID application really fits and it wasn’t just an impulse buy on a one-stop shop visit – and one that a customer might regret later when the shoes starts to pinch! RFIDdirect can design a scoping or pilot according to your specific business requirements – high value monitoring or multiple tracking can be easily achieved as best fit with a careful, individual attention.