RFID provides you with the tools to improve productivity and processes. Being able to identify assets in groups from scanning multiple tabs or locating missing pallets or tools using Geiger counter functionality or RTLS solutions decreases time spent searching or taking inventory, and instead offers the ability for those workers to do other, more important things.
What RFID Is and What It Is Not
There may be some misconceptions about what RFID is and what it can do. Our experience tells us:
RFID is not just “better barcoding”
RFID is an automated data collection technology (so is barcoding)
RFID is a technology that works ”one-to-many” (barcoding works one-to-one)
RFID is a technology that does not require ”line of sight” (barcoding does)
RFID is a technology that can work side-by-side with barcoding
Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS)
Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) are precise positioning systems that not only enable a user to identify and track many different types of key objects; such as assets, tools, equipment, containers, Work-in Process items, people and/or animals, but also provides this information in real-time through automatic and continuous feedback. - From Zebra Technologies white paper, “Understanding RTLS”
Simply put, real-time locating systems are used for the following:
Identify the location of an asset
Track the movement of an asset
Varying degrees of locating can be accomplished and your application and goals will dictate the type of locating technology that is best for you.
Point-in-time locating – Indicates the location of an asset at a specific point-in-time
Persistent locating – Provides continuous notification of an asset at user-defined intervals
Presence locating – Indicates a tagged asset is within range of something that can “hear” it
Proximity locating – Indicates a tagged asset is in proximity of a transmitter or receiver at a known location
Position locating – Indicates the exact position of a tagged asset on a continuous basis independent of other technology
For industrial application in manufacturing and distribution centers, RTLS can provide solutions for asset tracking, supply chain management, tool tracking, WIP, compliance and safety applications to name a few.
Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) Beacons
BLE beaconing technology is used for locating or tracking an object’s location and/or movements. Basically, a BLE beacon is a type of Active RFID, transmitting a unique ID (or signal) at regular intervals. For the most part, BLE beacons are one-way communication devices; from the beacon out to Bluetooth enabled devices that are "listening" for the signal.
While other technologies such as Wi-Fi and NFC perform similarly, BLE beaconing technology is a good choice for a number of reasons:
Power Consumption – Bluetooth LE, as the name hints, has low energy requirements. (It can last up to 3 years on a single coin cell battery).
Low Cost – BLE is 60-80% cheaper than traditional Bluetooth.
Application – BLE is ideal for simple applications requiring small periodic transfers of data. Classic Bluetooth is preferred for more complex applications requiring consistent communication and more data throughput. Source: iBeacon.com
Primarily beaconing technology has been used in retail, and still is, customizing shopping experiences with in-store promotions, product information and the like. However, in these instances consumers must "opt-in" to receive the benefits of the technology.
So what are the possibilities for using beaconing technology in manufacturing? Just about everyone these days has a Bluetooth enabled device in form of a cell phone. Beyond that, many organizations have already invested in enterprise grade Bluetooth devices for data collection, meaning the "receiving device' is already in place . . . no opt-in required. We see great potential!
Using RFID for asset tracking is one of the most common uses of the technology. In the past, tagging only the most valuable assets was feasible. These days however, the types of RFID available have increased, but costs have significantly decreased, making RFID technology an affordable method to track a wider range of assets.
Bluetooth beacons are commonly used for locating assets. As a form of active RFID, bluetooth beacons are always on, broadcasting a signal either continuously or at pre-set intervals. Assets tagged with bluetooth beaconing technology can quickly and easily be located, regardless of their position, with bluetooth.
These systems are typically easy to install and either have their own infrastructure (so as not to affect the existing wireless or other infrastructure) or in some cases can be used with existing wireless infrastructure.
Hospitals are expanding rollouts of RTLS to locate patients, specimens, medical devices, equipment and staff.
Order Fulfillment - Case Study
For a manufacturer of commercial retail furniture, project management was challenging. In addition to manufacturing modular and stand-alone furniture, the manufacturer also produces décor and coordinates the assembly and on-site installation of every order/project. With numerous projects in production at any given time, validating that each order shipped with all the right components was a manual time-consuming process that was error prone and often resulted in expedited orders and overnight shipping charges. RFID provided the solution.
Understanding where a part is in a process, ensuring that the part made it through every step in a process and understanding throughput is key in understanding how to better your business. From quality assurance to production stats, RFID can help you have better visibility and help you increase your product quality.
Using RFID, you are able to monitor how long a part is at a certain station, if it misses a station, and how long it takes between stations (I.e. Travel time). You can also see if parts show up at a station that they shouldn’t be at.
Widely used in the automotive industry, tagging returnable containers with RFID has increased supply chain visibility immensely.
Dock Doors are an integral part of every manufacturing and warehouse environment. From the incoming materials to the outgoing finished product, a company needs to know what is coming in and what is going out. By using door portals, tags, and software, we help you ensure that the right things are coming in and that the right things are going out at the right times on the right trucks. Ensuring your customer is the happiest they can be and making you the happiest you can be.