What is the initial challenge for a company to move from a conventional apparel production system to an RFID system?
I don’t think there are many production challenges. The challenge is in designing an RFID system that lets workers continue to do their job as they always have, without a lot of new requirements, and that captures information regarding work-in-process that you wish to capture. In most cases, companies tag bundles of parts. A tag is used on the bundle as it is passed in front of a reader. The time, date and station are written to the tag, along with a description of the parts. This can be read further down the line, and the system can warn if the wrong bundle is being used for a given production item.
But where is the reader installed? What do the workers need to do to make sure data about each bundle is written to the tag? What visual or audio cues are workers given so they know that the data has been written correctly?
Companies will likely want to tag the finished product for inventory-management purposes, and perhaps to fulfill customer requirements. One challenge can be encoding information to a carton of, say, 100 shirts. The system must be designed so that all 100 transponders can be encoded simultaneously. This isn’t always easy, because one tag can block energy from reaching a second tag. But good system design can ensure that information is captured on work-in-process and finished inventory, without workers’ jobs’ changing.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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