How does a warehouse smart inventory management system perform?
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has completely revolutionized the old-school ways of inventory tracking and management. This is indeed the best example of how one can leverage technology to create next-gen inventory management solutions.
What is RFID?
RFID is the radio frequency tracking method that utilizes radio frequencies to detect the products listed in the inventory with the shelved products. One can detect product laundering within minutes with the help of RFID.
Traditional Methods of Inventory Tracking That RFID Can Easily Replace:
- Accounting Tools – Inventory is maintained in the spreadsheet (MS-Excel).
- Manual Systems – A person manually enters the products in the register that arrive at the warehouse.
Challenges With Traditional Tracking Systems That RFID Can Aid:
With simple frequency detection, the incoming and outgoing of merchandise can be tracked with accuracy (without human aid) and this revolution is called RFID integration to the inventory management system.
Here are the limitations of old-school tracking systems:
- Inconsistency of data entries – Missing or partial entries.
- Human Errors – Evaluation, counting or assessment of the inventory without a proper process may lead to future discrepancies.
- Lack of Centralized Database – Contenders will have a hard time tracking the real-time information that is updated by other segments as there is no centralized database.
- Lack of Data Security – Data leaks are highly common in warehouses with no automated inventory system. Talk to a professional IT consultancy about warehouse data security and management.
- More Time Consumption – Manual data entry process is by default slower than automated machine entries. This slows down all your other supplementary processes.
- Hidden Expenses – Labor cost increases significantly. Also, there are chances of financial loss due to mistakes, typos, duplication, etc.
Bulk stocking and logistics need a strong backend to flourish and here you can rely on RFID integrated inventory management solutions. For immense production and large inventories – paperwork and spreadsheet tracking are not suitable as it increases risks of mistake, laundering, duplicacy and false tracking. With RFID, you can rely on a barcode mechanism as well.
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What is the difference between RFID and barcode?
Barcode is a scanning solution with which the QR codes of the product stickers are manually scanned and then they are shelved. But the process still has its shortcomings as compared to the RFID mechanism.
RFID is an advancement on barcode scanning in which there is no need to precisely scan the item for entries and there is no line of sight. RFID being the latest revolution, certainly has more advantages than traditional barcode scanning methods. Let’s evaluate the two for efficiency:
High readability (multiple tags can be read simultaneously)
One barcode at a time.
Line of sight is not required; this increases the probability of identifying even the hidden items.
Sight is needed for a barcode scanner to identify the product.
No need for humans to intervene. Once installed the system is completely automated.
Labor is required for thoroughly scanning each tag.
Highly protected frequency scans. Also, hold the ability to work proactively under harsh conditions.
It is tough to read the stickers if they are overlapped or not printed properly. Less readability and no protection against harsh environments.
The frequency scans are difficult to replicate.
Easier to replicate and counterfeit.
Capable of triggering multiple events (doors opening, alarms, etc).
Not capable of triggering events.
Clearly, RFID holds the upper hand in terms of inventory management and tracking as compared to barcodes that so far are trusted by most of the logistics chains.
Let’s get this clear with an example….
There is a manufacturer of biotechnology and pharmaceutical equipment. Each unit costs them around a hundred or thousand dollars with highly precise components. Each component has a unique ID attached to it. The components are manufactured at different manufacturing units and are thereon transported to the assembling departments for further processing.
Further, the assembled unit is tested for quality and sufficiency and hen packed in crates to be shipped to the warehouse.
On the other side, the customer calls the front desk of the manufacturer to inform them about the item malfunction. There could be many reasons for the final equipment or machinery to work inefficiently – it could be bad manufacturing or assembling lag. No matter what, the customer support engineer should sort the matter.
Sometimes the support engineer has to change the defective input parts in front of the customers.
So components are moved from one department to another and then finally delivered to the end consumer. Each department including the manufacturers, assemblers, sales, admin and customer service should know the real-time status of the product.
RFID solves all your problems. As the product status gets updated in the database automatically without any human employment. It is easy to track real-time information with RFID.
On the contrary, tracking each product’s movement with barcode scanning is extremely exhausting, time-consuming and expensive for the manufacturing and selling unit.
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Working of RFID Technology
- When it comes to RFID tracking and management solutions, each product is packed with an RFID tag attached to it.
- These tags look thin in texture but have an electronic radio transmitter, an antenna and a tiny batter incorporated in the core.
- These can be stuck to the surfaces or any part of the product for identification.
- Each RFID tag has a Unique Identification Number (UIN).
- As the product passes the RFID receivers, they transmit the frequencies carrying the UIN (which is different for different products).
- Each RFID receiver (also known as scanners/readers), extracts the UIN of every tag and updates the database.
- This way the inventory gets updated to the software without any human intervention.
Types of RFID Tags and Readers Available In the Market
There are an array of options in the market when it comes to RFID tags and readers. While tags can cost somewhere in-between $1 – $20, RFID readers range in-between $3000 to $10,000 per portal.
Types of RFID Tags:
- Basic Tags – Suitable for non-metal and liquid material. Will not work for IT or metal assets.
- Metal Passive Tags – Passive tags that work for metal surfaces. Best suited for servers or metal equipment, especially in the data centers.
- Active RFID – These are the high-end RFID tags that emit signals every 30 seconds. Active RFID is fully automated and is highly secure. The tag has 100% read rates and immediately gives signals to the database as and when the item exits the premises.
Types of RFID Readers:
- Handheld – Handheld RFID receivers are portable frequency detectors. A human has to wave the scanner near the assets.
- Positioned Passive RFID – Portal readers installed at the doorway – these readers detect the assets at the doorway at the time of passing.
- Active RFID leaders – Zonal readers that are known to cover the radius of about 3000 square feet and detect the RFID tags in the range.
- Active RFID Rack/Room Locators – These coincide with the Active RFID readers to report the precise rack or room reports of the active RFID tagged assets.
Also Have a Prior Idea Of Software Development Cost and Factors
RFID – Communication System and Tech-Stack
RFID is a versatile solution to the age-long challenges of warehouse and inventory management. With the ability to scan and read from different angles and the resistance against harsh environments, RFID is your best bet in 2021 and ahead.
RFID Supports Two Types Of Communication Protocols:
- TTF Protocol – Tag transmits information as soon as it detects the reader field – it simplifies the process but is less absolute as the tag doesn’t know what information it is transmitting. It will maintain a connection as long as it is in the circumference.
- ITF Protocol – Tag waits for the interrogation and thus transmits information with accuracy. As far as efficiency is concerned, ITF protocol is ideal. It is perfect for security purposes and thus is recommended by the experts for your next smart inventory management system.
Warehouse is a place where not one or two units but containers are unloaded, to manage such a massive space fast and efficiently you need highly customized and advanced inventory management solutions. Discuss your requirements with the professional software developers to land on some productive conclusions.
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RFID – Tech Stack
- A program to communicate with the receiver, based on the full-stack programming languages Java, phpMyAdmin, SQL.
- An appropriate database schema that is needed to determine all the information the history, current tag, past tag, etc.
RFID – System Architecture
The new age inventory management and tracking solutions are well programmed to utilize RFID subsystems to its extent for accurate and fast logistic mobility. RFID has a number of application cases.
All the software components coherently work to maintain and process a chain of information including the UIN (in RFID tags) and constitute an entire inventory management solution. Within a typical enterprise or a logistic architecture, RFID readers are placed at the strategic points within the warehouse premises marking the product fluency including entry and exit.
Everytime the data transmitted between the tags and RFID receivers is updated to the core servers before sending the information to the database storage. On the other hand the database storage is connected to RFID application that includes entity framework and RFID reader API.
The host servers are designed to process the data from various readers in real-time – it processes the information and saves them for a predefined time period.
Middleware Architecture and Database
ATIM – Asset Tracking and Inventory Management Solution has SQL database support in its back-end. Authorities can easily access the ATIM through a web portal that has a storage in the Intranet server of the enterprise, or a virtual wide area network or it can be IP based.
Same as any other web interface, the admin can use web browser (chrome, firefox, etc) /on their computer, tablets or smartphones to access the Asset Tracking and Inventory Management System.
ATIM – Asset Tracking and Inventory Management
The back-end of the new Asset Tracking and Inventory Management (ATIM) is based on the SQL Server database. You and others can access the ATIM through a virtual WAN, Intranet, or IPs. If you are worried about the inverter operators, then don’t be, even if they can access the network through any browser over the smartphone or PC.
You can create a separate app for the same as well. But remember that RFID information and ATIM solution, together, are required for implementation. This middleman will interact with the ATIM database and the RFID base and update the same (notified on your smartphones).
Asset Tracking and Inventory Management (ATIM) as a Solution
While using an RFID integrated ATIM solution, the desktop reader is the only user that can allow the authorization of each tag.
This authorization establishes that the made tag is included in the inventory and shall be recorded at each level of transport. The tag is attached to the package and is good to be transported.
These crates are then forklifted in the warehouses after reading the tags by the integrated RFID readers. People in the warehouse then scan the package tags in the entire warehouse. Deficient or wrong RFID packages can easily be identified at this stage – the ATIM quality operator further looks for the cause.
In case there is no error or missing, all the required crates are then reloaded into the trucks and sent to their respective destinations (shipment agencies, etc). The exit of the warehouse has an active RFID scanner ensuring that no package is lacking
All the unloading points have an RFID reader for ease of tracking and data validation.
What Industries Can Use RFID Technology?
Is the use of RFID restricted to warehouses? It is a versatile technology that has various application industries. Some of which are:
- Healthcare to track patients
- Farms and Dairies to track cattle
- Workplaces to track employee movement
- Hospitality to track room services and items.
- Prison to track inmates
- Aviation industry to track parcels
- Security and Vehicles to track movements
- To track empty parking spots in different areas.
- Dropshipping Chains – Order and Supply Fulfillment
Ubiquitous Advantages of Warehouse Management System
Several large scale logistics chains rely on RFID due to its efficiency and work architecture. Here are the sure-shot benefits of RFID in smart warehouse management systems.
- Optimized Inventory Processes and Transportation
- No friction between Receiving and Supplying Ends
- Real-time inventory updation
- Cost Reduction
- Transparency among all the processes
Sleek optimization of integrated processes
Whether it is a small, medium or large scale enterprise, one can easily optimize the entire ecosystem by managing every process and product transportation. RFID is a versatile technology that can track barcodes, automate equipment and have smart scales.
If this is not enough, RFID lets you establish key performance indicators, align coherent operations, have real-time access to information and implement equipment automation.
Establishing consistency among Receiving and Supplying Ends
Thanks to the WMS software solution, you can now easily track every product movement, maintaining a consistent process and a code of ethics between receiving and supplying end.
Moreover the entire system is centralized for each department to access and update the current product status helping to eliminate all kinds of friction and discrepancies. Letting you save significant time to focus on other segments of progress increasing your sales.
Timely Inventory Updation
Smart inventory management system helps you effectively channelize your complete inventory keeping real time records of the transportation. You can assure the quantity and quality of the items that are placed on the shelves. More than that, the smart WMS solutions help you optimize your slot spaces along with the products that help you achieve space and better accuracy, leading to a balanced inventory.
Reducing Overall Operation Costs
The smart Asset Tracking System needs no human intervention, so you can easily relocate your company’s humare caliver to do other productive tasks without hiring an extra bunch of talent.
RFID integrated warehouse management streamlines the process of packaging and transportation nullifying the threats like product pilferage, false supplies, duplicacy, etc.
With the help of a robust and highly customized WMS solution, you can easily reduce all the additional expenses that you otherwise might have to spend.
Warehouse Management System working on set protocols promotes more transparency than manual processes. The centralized system binds all the processes from manufacturing to warehousing, shipment and order fulfillment – there is no way one could not find the source of a missing package or container.
The smart WMS software system promotes transparency by giving real-time information of the product status.
RFID – Return On Investment
Return on Investment on RFID integration depends on how efficiently you can use the technology to replace your other expenses like labor costs. Also availing of real-time and accurate information.
The type of RFID readers and tags you use depends on the scale of your business – if you own a small enterprise and the labor cost is less, then you can employ passive RFID readers and tags as employing active RFID will be a large and unworthy expense for you.
Different enterprises seek different WMS solutions based on the asset receiving, distribution, volume and budget preferences – ask for highly customized solutions from the professional IT Consultancy today.