Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is revolutionizing the supply chain, making it easier for shipping and logistics professionals to get their shipments where they’re going on time and intact. It’s a huge improvement over manually, painstakingly scanning barcodes from every pallet or box in a shipment. Now, you can collect all the shipment data at once with an RFID reader, without even opening up any boxes.
Of course, switching your company over to RFID tracking to optimize logistics is going to be a big adjustment. You’ll need to start by evaluating your organization’s needs and some areas where RFID tracking technology could streamline operations. Then bring in the relevant team members, choose technology, educate the staff, and enjoy doing more with less.
Clarify Your Purpose
How exactly do you hope to improve your business by implementing RFID tracking technology. Maybe locating inventory in the warehouse has become too cumbersome. Maybe you’d like to streamline inventory processing. Maybe you’re looking to better monitor the location of shipments in transit, or the conditions they’re being subjected to on the supply chain. It can be helpful to track some of your processes now, and especially note the resources — whether human resources, tools or materials — required to compensate for an inefficient process.
Bring in Some Team Members
You may not be aware of all the processes that could be streamlined with RFID technology, and that’s why bringing some of your team members into a brainstorming session could be helpful. Procurement, logistics, and even marketing and sales leaders may be able to help you see where the biggest improvements could be made. Together, you can set some concrete goals for the implementation.
Mapping the business processes where you hope to see improvement after RFID implementation will help you get a clearer sense of what kind of technology you need. You should choose your RFID tracking tag carefully, based on what features you need. RFID tags can be active or passive, and tags can include additional sensors, like shock and impact recorders, vibration monitors, and even GPS tracking chips or temperature sensors. You can place a temperature-sensitive RFID device inside a shipment of perishables to monitor their temperature in transit, and another on the outside of the box to monitor the ambient temperature for comparison. If you need to detect RFID tags from further away, you might choose active tags that have their own power source to broadcast a signal, and can therefore be detected from a greater distance. Otherwise, passive tags will do. And when you need to monitor for possible shipping damage, shock and vibration detectors are ideal.
RFID tags come in different shapes and sizes, and with different features, and you can choose from fixed or mobile RFID readers with varying reading distances. You’ll need to think about the environment and conditions in which the technology will be used in order to make the right equipment choices.
Estimate Your Costs
Your implementation costs will depend somewhat on the cost of the equipment and the conditions in which you plan to use it — for example, the more elaborate the tracking tag, the more expensive it will likely be. Of course, you’ll also need to estimate costs for training staff and installing components. Later, this estimate will give you a clearer picture of the cost savings of implementing RFID tracking into your shipping and logistics company.
Educate Your Staff
Once they understand how RFID works and how much easier it can make daily operations, your staff will be more engaged with learning how to use the new technology. Everyone should understand how the technology works, what it’s used for, what it can and can’t do, and, of course, how to complete familiar processes using the new technology. Key team members will need more specialized training on the equipment, so they can troubleshoot if things go wrong.
Switching over to RFID tracking could be the best thing your shipping company ever does. It’s so much easier to keep track of shipments and inventory when you can easily access accurate data about the state of the shipment in just a few seconds, and without even opening the box or container. See why more than half of organizations are already using RFID technology, and why even more plan to implement it in the next few years.