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Reaping Returns on RFID Investments

Before applying the technology to comply with your customers' supply chain requirements, first analyze your company's own business processes.
By Jason Acidre
RFID, with its ability to update product information throughout its lifecycle, makes it ideal for all types of traceability applications. Read-write tags can store product codes and ID numbers permanently, leaving the remainder of available memory space for information to be added later. Product tags can continuously add information like service codes, inspection dates and sensor readings in such applications as maintenance, warranty and asset management. This function extends beyond the identification and tracking role of RFID.

Service, recall and return exercises required in certain industries would get a major boost if accurate product genealogy data were available. This would root out false claims and fraudulent practices, since each part would have a unique ID number that can not be copied by identical duplicates, thereby helping to identify registered users and their transactions, while also easing product or part recalls in the event that a manufacturing defect is discovered. Servicing, maintenance and performance thus all become easier to track.

WIP Tracking
To reap the entire range of RFID's benefits, it makes sense to employ the technology at the outset of a product's manufacturing process. Goods and their components can have all of relevant information stored on tags for genealogy and tracking in all types of applications. Item-level identification is also necessary in sequenced production operations along an assembly line. RFID hastens product identification, and enables its integration into other systems without any wasted time. Automakers are able to ensure that the proper parts are matched to the specific chassis to which they are assigned. Loading and sequencing without any errors saves both time and money.

RFID makes it possible to track materials used to manufacture products, and when the quantity of a particular part is exhausted, the next lot is already in place. This proves to be a big time saver, and enables a company to enforce Kanban or just-in-time processes for replenishment, enhancing overall efficiency with lower inventories needing to be maintained, and lower operating expenses, without any risk of side effects, such as running out of materials.

Unlocking Value
Another use of the RFID tag is that it is utilized in many places to retrieve all information about a particular product from a company's back-end database. But the technology's real value extends beyond the tag—the whole RFID system can transform an organization and result in reduced operational costs.

Tags are just one component of an RFID system, which is just one component of a larger enterprise-information system. The technology's impact is maximized with the proper software and processes, and the whole supply chain and other applications become equipped for the future.

Jason Acidre works as a Web-marketing consultant for eMobileScan, one of the United Kingdom's leading online retailers of wireless bar-code scanners, and a provider of RFID readers and printer-encoders.

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