Which is the better option for an inventory-management system that would track each item from a warehouse to different hospital departments, and view usage in real time?
Bar codes do not provide real-time data, so they are not an option if you want to view usage in real time. RFID might be an option, but it really depends on what you are trying to track and manage. If you wish to monitor shipments of high-value items, such as stents, pacemakers and other implantable devices, then a passive RFID system would likely be the best option. You can read tags on items leaving a warehouse, arriving at a hospital and being stored in a particular department. A smart cabinet would provide real-time inventory visibility.
If you are tracking bandages, gauze and other low-value items, it is unlikely that RFID would give you a good return on investment. The cost of the RFID transponders would outweigh the savings on these items. But Cardinal Health and others offer a two-bin kanban system that uses either RFID or bar codes (see Cardinal Health Aims to Bring Visibility to All Medical Products). The first bin has an RFID or bar code card in it. A worker scans each item’s bar code or reads its RFID tag, and then places the object in the other bin. This signals that the first bin is empty and a new bin is sent out. It’s not real-time, but it is a more effective means of tracking inventory of low-level items and replenishing them in a systematic way.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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