Keeping manufacturing and distribution on track
By David Coghlan, Business Development Manager – RFID and IoT, Turck Australia
Friday, 20 October, 2023
No matter what industry you are in, effective supply chain management is critical to achieving optimal supply chain flow. In the past few years, businesses have struggled to overcome significant operational and material sourcing delays. This has highlighted the importance of flexible, but also thorough and effective, product and process tracking.
Of course, you can’t have tracking without identification. An efficient identification and tracking system will enable many benefits right across the supply chain. These may include:
- Real-time inventory tracking
- Material consumption tracking and shortage notification
- Shipment verification
- Monitoring of returnable transport item (RTI) pools.
There are two main industrial identification technologies that are currently utilised: barcodes and RFID. Barcodes have been in widespread use for a long time now, and barcode labels are very cheap to produce, but they fall short in many industrial applications.
Barcodes are problematic in dirty environments, the reader must have a direct line of sight to each individual label to operate, they are read only and are normally single use only.
In contrast, RFID can provide benefits across all industries. Let’s face it, most businesses have something they should track, from making sure the correct products are being loaded (shipment verification) to tracking their RTIs. In manufacturing, mining or the process industry a supply chain is always there; the question is how well is it working?
Sure, RFID solutions can represent a significant investment, but the return on investment is usually obvious and immediate. RFID can allow a company to track all materials within a facility, meaning less likelihood of items being lost and then reordered at a cost. Real-time asset tracking gives companies full visibility of where things are across the entire supply chain: data is key and good data allows people to make informed decisions and prevent potential shortages and bottlenecks.
Another significant cost reduction is in manual labour. Using RFID throughout the supply chain creates more visibility, reducing the need for human input to seek and provide status and location information.
There are many applications where RFID can be used, but viable solutions need more than just readers and tags. Sure, this hardware is important, but the software that captures this data and interfaces to a company’s own WMS, ERP or other systems is also critical to the system. This must be taken into consideration when you are looking for an RFID solution for your supply chain, and it is recommended to partner with a company that can not only supply the hardware, but which also has software and integration capabilities and expertise for larger projects. Software is also critical when configuring, optimising and deploying your readers and tags. Without it, applications like asset management, data consolidation and mining, integration to the higher-level ERP or WMS, and system health, maintenance and support would be just about impossible.
RFID systems can help revolutionise the way your business tracks goods and manages inventory. If you are reading this article and questioning the health of your supply chain, I encourage you to reach out to a reputable supplier and start the conversation. Don’t treat RFID as something that is too complicated and daunting: treat it as a wealth of data ready to optimise your business and waiting to give you significant cost savings.
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