RFID . . . How to Stop the "Got it" Bandits


By John McBride, Sales Executive - Adaptive Data Inc.

What if crucial inventory items for maintenance, testing, or quality were constantly exiting the shelves without being accounted for? The only way you may know that the items left your parts cage might be from hearing the exclamation, “Got it!” ringing through the plant by one of those trying to handle a particular issue or task taking place at the moment. This may be a part that makes the difference between a crucial piece of production machinery working or not, so every moment counts when solving the problem.

Yet, too often the byproduct of solving such problems may be that the parts or assets used for such projects are taken from the shelves without checking them out of inventory. You may already have the tools in place to accurately check out such inventory items, but if they go unused, particularly during less supervised shifts, then problems will arise downstream. Without the inventory properly adjusted, long delays may be on the horizon when waiting to receive expedited parts from overseas due to your inventory spreadsheets showing that you had inventory that is no longer actually there.

In some cases, the solution has been found in the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. RFID tags emit radio frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer unique data through RFID readers using pickup antennas. For you automobile drivers, a familiar example of this technology would be the I-Pass, or Quick-Pass toll units you may have in your car or truck. Instead of stopping to pay tolls, the users of these units get to pass under readers full speed ahead, while the toll system automatically takes their toll and adjusts their account for remaining credits.

Likewise, inventory or assets with RFID labels or tags passing through a gate or portal covered by RFID readers with strategically placed antenna will be automatically read. Additionally, employees wearing RFID identification (ID) tags will be simultaneously scanned, so they will be associated with the transaction of that inventory movement. Specific transaction data may then be sent to the system to account for the removal of all parts being removed, while also tracking the individual removing them. Handheld RFID scanners may also be used to trace the final destination of the parts. The key is that the inventory levels remain accurate, so reorder of crucial parts may take place without paying exorbitant expediting and shipping fees for parts you thought you had in stock.

“Got it!” with RFID means the crucial parts or assets are on the way for their intended use, and that the transactions were automatically handled. Whether or not RFID has a place in the accounting of your product inventory, it has proven very beneficial for internal use for strategic maintenance, testing, and quality parts and asset tracking. Inventories are accurate and expediting fees and unnecessary downtime due to waiting for missing parts will become little more than a faded memory. Got it?

How are you using RFID?  We welcome your comments.