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More than 60 Percent of Manufacturers to Use RTLS, RFID or Bar-Code Tracking By 2022, Says Zebra Technologies

The company's "2017 Manufacturing Vision Study" found that more than half of all manufacturers plan to implement automated location-tracking systems during the next five years, and that the use of passive RFID will reach nearly half.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 31, 2017

Industrial Internet of Things technology use—including radio frequency identification or real-time location-based systems (RTLS)—is expected to grow beyond the halfway point throughout the next five years, according to a study conducted by technology company Zebra Technologies. The manufacturing survey was intended to forecast connected-factory deployments during that span of time. Approximately 64 percent of manufacturers participating in the study said they expect to be connected via RTLS, RFID or bar codes by 2022—up 20 percent from the 43 percent currently using technology in this way.

The study, known as the "2017 Manufacturing Vision Study," focused on a five-year outlook for the manufacturing industry as a whole. Respondents were asked about their potential and existing uses of mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, voice directions and recognition, wearable technologies, and s location tracking via RFID and RTLS—the latter category including active RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

The survey respondents included 1,100 North American, Latin American, European and Asia-Pacific managers who authorize or influence the purchase of relevant manufacturing technologies. The interviews were conducted by Peerless Insights. The online study spanned the first quarter of 2017, across a wide range of business segments, including automotive, high-tech, food and beverage, tobacco and pharmaceuticals, says Jim Hilton, Zebra's global principal for manufacturing, transportation and logistics.

Of those participating in the study, 64 percent said location tracking was a core focus for their business, with plans to use RFID and real-time location systems or bar codes. By 2022, 54 percent of surveyed European manufacturers plan to use RTLS technology alone to collect critical data regarding assets, including location, stage and condition. Additionally, 51 percent of surveyed Latin American manufacturers and 48 percent of Asia-Pacific manufacturers plan to use passive RFID to optimize production of work in progress (WIP) by 2022.

Another key finding from the survey was that manufacturers across all sectors and geographical regions appear to have some faith that the technology will provide them with greater quality assurance. That, Hilton says, can be surmised from the responses to several questions. The majority of those surveyed indicated quality assurance as their highest current concern, while looking ahead to 2022, only 34 percent expected quality assurance to be their greatest priority. The implication, he adds, is that they expect technology to properly address quality concerns for their finished products by that time.

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