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Using RFID to Direct Employees

The technology alerts unskilled workers when routine tasks need to be performed, and also enables managers to confirm they've been completed properly.
By Mark Roberti
In a factory, systems can be set up to alert workers when a sequence of tasks needs to be performed. Let's say parts need to go to one workshop for an acid bath, and then another for final milling. Software can be set up to alert a worker to bring an item to the first shop when the unit arrives at the facility. Once the process is done, the shop laborer might place the part on a shelf to dry. There, the tag is read. This confirms the process was completed, and an alert is sent for someone to pick up the part and take it to the next shop.

Software systems could also be set up to send an alert to a manager that a part has not completed a process within a specified period of time. The manager can investigate and, if necessary, intervene. It's this ability to confirm tasks have been completed and alert a manager when they aren't that is crucial. Think about it: One of the big problems with inventory accuracy in stores is that store associates say they replenished an item when they didn't. Now managers can confirm whether they did or did not do what they were supposed to, because a tag is read when the item is replenished or not read if it isn't.

Some people will say this is Big Brother watching workers' every move (the Big Brother label is getting so overused), but the fact is, the technology ensures only that tasks are completed in a timely manner. And folks I've talked to say workers actually like having clear guidance on what to do, and feedback on when it's done. "Kids working part-time to pay for college don't necessarily want to think a lot," says one manager of a facility at which RFID monitors employee tasks. "They like that our system is dead-simple—they can listen to their iPods while they work—and it lets them know when they've made a mistake so they can correct it and not have me come down on them for screwing up."

If you're having trouble getting unskilled workers to follow instructions, consider whether RFID can make life easier for you—and for them.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.

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