What is RFID Tracking and Why Should You Use It?

Transporting stock and moving things smoothly along the supply chain are essential to successfully running most businesses. Protecting that precious cargo as it travels from warehouse to point-of-sale or vice versa is good for your organization, vendors, and consumers. Tracking cargo as it travels is an integral part of managing any business supply chain. Modern RFID tags record impact damage and other issues along the supply chain. The tags integrate with an enterprise management system a company can use to evaluate cargo status. When the RFID tag is scanned, it then displays this vital information to ensure damaged products don’t make it through the supply chain. Companies benefit significantly from deploying RFID technology, improving overall accountability, and reducing supply chain problems. Here’s a quick look at RFID and how it may be advantageous to incorporate the technology for your company’s shipments:

What is RFID and how does it work?

Before implementing RFID tracking in your organization, it’s good practice to understand it first. RFID stands for “radio frequency identification.” Various applications using RFID were explored throughout the 1950s, with many of them gaining traction throughout the following decade. The 1980s saw wider commercial use of the technology and it was commonplace by the 1990s. As this technology evolves, devices are becoming more compact with improved performance. An RFID system uses either passive (powered by the reader) or active (powered by batteries) tags and receivers to track a variety of things, including:

  • Inventory
  • Equipment
  • Merchandise
  • Personnel
  • Library books
  • Vehicles
  • Airplane passengers
  • Patients
  • Medical devices
  • Pets
  • Anti-theft protection at retail locations
  • Fall or Out-of-bed notifications

In your business, you’ll likely use tags with RFID capability on various cargo or products for tracking purposes, using a receiver to track them. Tags can come in low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF), Ultra High Frequency (UHF).

Damage reduction

Product damage is a common transport problem, with one in every ten commercial packages arriving damaged to their destination. For businesses, it can be much worse. Fortunately, proactively using RFID tags can successfully reduce damage by about 40 – 60%. While companies use numerous methods to mitigate or reduce the damage, using RFID tracking tags nearly eliminates the need for constant visual inspection between destinations. When an impact beyond a certain threshold occurs, the device turns red and logs the damage. It’s also largely automated, rendering manual scanning a relic of the past. RFID tags log and report data automatically and turn red at the first sign of damage, indicating personnel should inspect the cargo as soon as possible. Diagnosing damage in real-time allows users to maintain complete agency over their goods at every step of the ways. They’re also effective in inventory storage-and-retrieval as a way to assess and proactively prevent damage while parts/goods are in storage, helping to track possible problems before they have a chance to negatively impact the business.

They’re tamper-proof

Protecting cargo is crucial, but sometimes guarding your tags and measuring tools is just as important. Thankfully, tamper-proof RFID tracking tags exist to tackle this very problem. Early tamper-proof measures involve the device’s antenna breaking when the seal was broken on the unit. While this would alert users to tampering by way of the device no longer responding, it was far from a fool proof method. Newer devices implement more robust features to create better quality control for using the tags themselves. They also lack wires, use UHF frequency, can be armed in transit, and integrate seamlessly into existing RFID systems your organization may be using.

Reduced supply chain problems

Supply chain disruption has many causes and adverse effects from the organizational to the consumer level. Fortunately, RFID tags and tracking can attenuate the problem somewhat through automated scanning and reporting. Disruptions occur when inventory gets damaged. Because the damage isn’t readily apparent sometimes, RFID gives you the ability to reduce warranty work and improve product quality while in transit. It’s easy to reduce supply-chain interruptions when you can divert the shipment halfway through the trip once you find damage. Then, it’s simply a matter of inspecting them and reshaping them to ensure they reach their destination intact. Some RFID trackers feature useful companion labels that provide clear instructions on the necessary action to take once the device registers an impact. Disruption doesn’t have to make or break your business. With RFID, you can create far better customer service and improve your reputation, so your customers don’t find someone else to work with!

Remote readings

Remotely tracking your shipments is the pinnacle of modern technology. As the technology evolved, the need for line-of-sight tracking for most applications predominantly dissolved. Nowadays, tags can be placed inside packages or at strategic locations on the cargo as it travels. When RFID tags are implemented into your larger management system, you have complete control over remotely managing your shipments. Since they transmit direct reports to your management software, it’s easy to make decisions about affected shipments in real time. In this manner, you can keep an eye on your precious cargo while maintaining full control over its safety along the supply chain.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.