Technology

RFID technology is powerful, but only with Tag-Data standards

RFID technology is powerful, but only with Tag-Data standards

Businesses must commit to building a better future by building RFID solutions based on a single standard for every supply chain.

Data-driven decisions have become essential for businesses today, primarily because market conditions, customer demands, and resources can now change daily, and sometimes hourly. The shortcomings of monthly, quarterly and annual forecasting and planning became evident. So we’ve seen a move towards technology platforms and open information ecosystems that are breaking down silos and allowing people to see what’s happening on the road, in the sky, at the airport and in the last real-time supply chain kilometer. Except we need to be able to see what the human eye can’t and make decisions faster than any human can alone if we’re going to avoid supply chain outages and reduce traffic jams. like those that happened in 2021.

That’s why we’re seeing increased investment in hardware and software solutions that allow organizations to extend operational visibility beyond four walls, automatically analyze what’s happening and why, and then tell stakeholders what they should do in response. These include modern machine vision systems, cloud-based warehouse management systems (WMS), software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms that aggregate data to streamline processes, and robotic and mobility platforms that automate situational analysis, decision making. production and execution of tasks.

We strive to close the gaps and tear down data, functional and organizational silos once and for all so that we, as communities, industries and economies, can become stronger in the future. But despite the impacts of these different systems and platforms, one of the most prolific technologies of this decade may turn out to be radio frequency identification (RFID).

In many circles, UHF-RFID is no longer seen as cutting-edge technology, but rather fundamental to operations, with some saying RFID will be as transformative for industry as barcoding has been for retail – and ultimately the supply chain. supply – 50 years ago. Time is precious. Workers need to be able to quickly aggregate data on the status of raw materials, finished goods, stock in stock, orders in transit, and equipment in motion. Without wasting a minute analyzing this data, they must be able to extract actionable insights and translate them into ideal outcomes.

RFID facilitates automated data capture, workflow execution and decision making at a scale unmatched by most other technologies, making it the Solution to many of today’s global trade issues. That’s why we need to be more diligent this year to achieve RFID success.

The value of RFID is in the data and our commitment to data standards
As RFID has developed, the number of tags “in the wild” has also increased. Over 25 billion tags were rolled out in 2021, and we’re poised to see hundreds of billions of tags on goods and equipment within a few years. (As I said, RFID is on a parallel track with the barcode, which is now found on all goods, packages and pallets in one form or another.) But RFID’s success is under threat and the subsequent success of companies regaining control of their operations and supply chains—if data standards are not adopted.

Without a single tag number system and standard coding structure, RFID use cases will interfere with each other, causing conflict in track and trace applications and confusion around accuracy. data sets. If a shipper uses RFID to track packages, but inside the packages are sneakers with a second RFID tag, how does the RFID reader know which data set to extract and report back to the system? Or should it report on all data but separate systems? Like the barcode, it’s adherence to data standards that allows RFID readers to quickly filter out the relevant tags at the time, then pass the right information to the right system for real-time track and trace. .

The data standard itself, however, is not as important. This can be GS1, ISO, IATA (for airline baggage tags), VDA (for German cars) or even the Numbering system based on ISO that the RAIN RFID Alliance is about to launch. The key is to choose one and use it throughout your operation and, ideally, your entire supply chain. Remember that the supply chain does not end at the warehouse or distribution center. Hospital, restaurant, retail, and public safety assets require as much monitoring as inventory, bins, and equipment moving in and out of upstream facilities. If last-mile entities are having trouble extracting data defined by different coding standards, then they may think it’s best not to even bother.

The reason the barcode became so successful is that its data was eventually standardized. We have found a way to easily and reliably identify, locate and authenticate objects. Well, here we are again, aiming to repeat history, but with a technology platform capable of accelerating data capture and automating track and trace to new levels, possibly without human intervention. Therefore, we must work together to systematize data in a way that will benefit humans in the short and long term.

Let’s start by understanding how printers and labels establish the baseline, their role in producing labels with accurate, reliable and readable data. From there, we can determine the most scalable labeling method for item, package and pallet levels at the point of production so that all downstream stakeholders benefit from RFID. Then we can agree on an appropriate label data standard.

At first glance, the value of RFID may lie in its ability to identify, count and locate objects faster than ever before. But at its core, its value comes from the quality of its data, because that’s what allows us to stay ahead of production and execution issues, or at least prevent them from having consequences. If we don’t get the right data from the start, the whole solution falls apart. So let’s commit to building a better future by building RFID solutions based on the single best data standard identified for every supply chain.

Michael Fein is senior product manager for RFID printers and automation at Zebra Technologies. To learn more about the importance of data and encoding standards in designing RFID solutions, click here.