What’s the cost range (training, maintenance, etc.) for a medium-size manufacturing business that sells products made by people in third-world countries, by shipping them to and from the Western world?
It’s difficult to say, because there are so many variables involved. Are you tagging 10,000 units per month, or 100,000? The cost for tags in these scenarios would differ by a factor of 10. Are you just receiving the goods into inventory when they arrive, or are you tracking their precise locations within your warehouse? But let me give you a rough idea of costs, and you can e-mail me directly if you want more detail.
Assuming your product is RF-friendly and doesn’t require a specialized tag, figure that you’d spend roughly 10 cents per RFID label. The labels would be added to the cartons of product before shipment, and would be in addition to whatever bar-code labels you are using today. You could also purchase an RFID-enabled printer, if your suppliers are printing bar codes onsite. Figure it’ll cost about $5,000 per printer, in addition to the 10 cents per label.
You will need to create a portal at the facility from which your products are shipped so that you can read the tags as they are put on a truck for shipping, so you’d have an advance shipping notice (ASN) with the RFID serial numbers and information about the products shipped. Figure about $10,000 per portal, fully installed.
You will also need a portal at your location to receive the tagged goods, and another at your shipping dock if you want to confirm that you are shipping the right products to your customers. Expect to spend another $10,000 per portal, fully installed. And you might want to purchase a handheld reader for spot inventory checks at the warehouse, or to locate specific cartons. That will be about $4,000 with cradle and backup batteries.
Lastly, you will need some software to associate serial numbers with specific products and shipments, for generating the ASNs, tracking what has arrived and ensuring that shipping accuracy is 100 percent. It is difficult to estimate software costs, because there are many options available and many different pricing models. If you budget $25,000, that should be sufficient.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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