There is nothing simple about the distribution and logistics industry. While the purpose of logistics is to get items from Point A to Point B, there will always be challenges related to decreasing the margin of error, improving delivery speed, and protecting products from loss and theft. When it comes to ways to overcome obstacles in shipping, warehouses are increasingly relying on RFID technology.
What is RFID Technology?
Short for “radio frequency identification,” RFID is a technology that relies on tags containing smart labels that are digitally encoded with data via radio waves. RFID serves a similar purpose to that of a magnetic strip on an ATM card or a bard code, with some subtle differences.
ATM strips and bar codes must be directly scanned or swiped through a reader to access the data and be useful. With RFID, the “tag” doesn’t need to be placed right in front of a scanner to get the data. Also, multiple RFID tags can be read simultaneously.
How RFID Works
There are two types of RFID systems. An Active RFID system involves placing a transponder on products, which is made up of an antenna and a microchip. A computer will pull the data from the transponder automatically. This type of system is often used on larger assets such as cargo and transport containers.
The other type of RFID system is called Passive RFID, which doesn’t involve transmitters. There are simply tags on products or containers that are scanned by a reader when the items pass through an area, such as a loading dock. Because the tags don’t have a power source, they require less maintenance and are much less expensive than an active system.
Each RFID tag has its own unique identifier or tag ID. When the tag is read by the system, the data is transmitted and stored in real-time.
The Benefits of Using RFID Technology
RFID is considered an invaluable tool for warehouses in terms of streamlining the logistics process from start to finish. The benefits of RFID for warehouses generally fall into three categories:
1. Improved Asset Visibility
RFID tags allow your business to immediately determine the location of any asset, inside or outside the warehouse. Readers can interpret RFID tags located on products and containers at various points, whether they are moving or being stored in inventory, giving complete transparency in the supply chain.
2. Reduced Theft Loss
Because you know where every item is at any point in time, there are fewer opportunities for theft, counterfeiting, and maldistribution in the supply chain.
3. Improved Productivity
RFID technology allows a warehouse to find or report on inventory and equipment without having to put eyeballs on it, saving time and expense. This eliminates tasks like scanning barcodes, counting inventory, and searching for equipment, freeing up time for other necessary labor.
How RFID Technology Can Help Warehouses Overcome Shipping Obstacles
As far as the application for RFID is concerned, logistics and supply chain management are considered fertile fields. Visibility in the supply chain has become a priority for many brands and logistics companies. And RFID can play a significant role in enhancing transparency from the point of manufacturing to the warehouse and from the warehouse to the customer.
When it comes to addressing shipping obstacles, here are some of the ways RFID technology can help warehouses gain better visibility, reduce costs, and improve efficiency:
Accurate Tracking of Inventory
RFID tags can track the movement of all goods through your supply chain, as well as deliver real-time data about a product’s history, quantity, location, and destination. The solution also tells you where any reusable shipping containers are located so that they can be put back into circulation.
Better Shipping Visibility
Tags are not only added to products but also individual shipping containers. Through active RFID, you can track the real-time location of a container (and its contents) via a cellular or satellite network, providing complete visibility for those goods coming into or leaving the warehouse.
Increased Yard Productivity
RFID technology allows you to track when products or shipping containers arrive, depart, are loaded, or unloaded at your facility. This gives you the information you need to direct drivers and workers as well as improve overall yard productivity.
Fast Shipping Verification
When your warehouse management system (WMS) automatically reads RFID tags located on products, containers, or pallets, it records the information in real-time and lets you and the customer know the status of a shipment. If something is incomplete or incorrect, you will be quickly notified so that the problem can be addressed.
Reduction in Shipping Theft
Shipping theft can be a serious issue for businesses, and it often results from a lack of internal controls. By tagging individual products, cases, containers, and pallets, there are multiple controls in place to confirm that goods are accounted for throughout their journey, reducing the opportunities for theft.
Prevention of Warehouse Traffic
Warehouses can be busy and hazardous environments. The use of RFID tags allows your business to get greater visibility into warehouse traffic patterns so that it can streamline loading and unloading operations. This can reduce the need for cross-docking and incidents of serious accidents.
Addressing Last-Mile Delivery Challenges With RFID
Consumers have become accustomed to getting their “stuff” in the mail as quickly as possible and with few issues. So last-mile delivery, which refers to the last step in delivering products to a customer’s door, can be a key factor in customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, that last mile can be inefficient due to factors such as inefficient shippers and challenges related to urban and rural destinations. To diminish the anxiety of customers and provide a better customer experience, RFID tags can give them real-time data about where their products are, down to the street level. In some cases, these solutions can also reduce unnecessary delivery attempts by drivers, which can boost overall productivity.
To remain competitive, every business must consistently improve its operational efficiency. Today’s modern warehouses face a number of challenges that can be addressed through the adoption and support of various technology solutions. RFID tags not only improve warehouse efficiency but also help businesses overcome shipping obstacles that impact operations and the overall customer experience.