Why RFID?

Organizations like Wal-Mart, the US Department of Defense, Target and Albertson’s have all mandated that pallets and cases of product shipped to them from their suppliers must have RFID tags affixed to them. Wal-Mart has specified a starting date as January 1, 2005 with involvement in RFID pilots required of all vendors by the end of 2006. Other organizations are initiating similar mandates and timelines to begin the required use of RFID tags on products. There are already over 130 suppliers complying with Wal-Mart’s mandate with another group 200 currently working to comply. RFID holds the promise of streamlining and increasing visibility in the supply chain. RFID does not require line of sight and with it one can read from or write to many tags in a very short period of time without having to visually see them. This can help streamline processes like Receiving and Loading in relatively short order.As organizations start to get over the shock of infusing this “new” technology into their processes they may begin to explore uses of the technology to further internal improvement and inventory accuracy. As a result RFID holds much more promise than just slap and ship compliance in the long term.RFID technology has been around since its inception in the 1940’s. Its first implementations included aircraft identification, animal tracking and traffic signal control. RFID technology is alive and well today and most likely affects your daily life, sometimes without being overly obvious.Applications such as access control, Mobil/Exxon Speedpass, and Tollway Pass Systems like EZPass, FastLane and TransPass implement RFID technologies. Other uses include ski lift tickets, automobile ignitions, baggage tracking, parcel tracking, and prescription identification for the visually impaired. It may also be applied when you want secure and unique identification that does not require line of sight to scan, needs to outlive typical bar coded labels, or requires multiple writes to the tag without replacement.In most environments, RFID can achieve 99.5% to 100% first-pass read rates. Further, with no moving parts or optical components in RFID interrogators (unlike laser scan engines), maintenance is not an issue.Some environments do not allow for line of sight between a reader and the product identifier. Also some environments require data collection systems to operate while immersed in fluids, chemicals, dirt and/or heat where barcodes are not an option.RFID can compliment your existing bar code based identification and tracking systems. It does not have to (and most likely cannot) replace what you are already using.

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