Why Now is the Time for RFID in Manufacturing

June 17, 2022 | by Paul Stubbs (Zebra Product Manager)


It was over 20 years ago that I was first introduced to a new technology called RFID.

For those just joining the world of data capture, RFID stands for radio frequency identification, and it simply involves a label or tag that is applied to a thing, yes “thing” is a certified technical term that covers things such as products, components, assets and the like, to give it an identity. The label or tag can then be read in various ways by fixed radio frequency readers or mobile devices that are RFID enabled.

Way back when, one of the challenges with RFID technology was the cost of the labels or tags. The high cost compared to traditional barcode labels and technology was large and though many industries thought it could be very useful technology, the costs prevented them from investing in the technology.

Fast forward to today and the story is very different. The cost barriers to entry have substantially reduced making RFID a viable technology for all. Many enterprises around the world have implemented RFID solutions, but I want to focus on one industry that I believe needs to seriously consider RFID technology. That industry is Manufacturing.

The sheer nature of manufacturing makes management of processes a challenge. Many products need to combine at the right time, in the right place to achieve the final result. Customers demand visibility as to when their products will be made. Workers need visibility of the location of products, while managers need visibility of the status of the products being made to better manage the manufacturing process.

I think you can see the trend here. Visibility. The challenge is how can you effectively achieve the visibility needed?

That is where RFID technology can assist.

By giving a product an identity via an RFID label or tag, you can easily track the location and movements of components and products throughout a manufacturing facility. Using fixed or mobile RFID readers, manufacturers can manage the movement of components within their facility in real time and make sure the right components, are in the right place, at the right time.

An RFID tag can be placed on a product that is being manufactured, As it passes through fixed readers, you will be able to have real-time visibility as to what stage products are at in the manufacturing process. Managers now have complete visibility of the status of each product being manufactured, it’s location, the time in which it is moving through the process and can therefore determine it’s expected completion date and time. They can also better understand the processes involved and determine any roadblocks that need to be overcome to improve output. Customers can be better informed as to the expected delivery dates as now the business knows where every product is at in the manufacturing process in real-time.

Real-time is another word that begins to occur when you start looking at RFID technology.

It could be argued that barcode technology can also achieve a similar result, but it is the accuracy needed to scan a barcode and it being a more laborious task that creates inefficiencies in the process when compared to RFID technology. Reading a radio frequency tag is much easier than making sure a barcode is visible to a scanner.

The use case for RFID in manufacturing covers all areas from the warehouse to the loading dock and, best of all, it is a simple technology to implement.

If you cannot already tell, I think that now is the time for manufacturing enterprises to seriously evaluate and consider RFID technology for the simple fact is that it will give you real-time visibility of the status of your business.

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