Keeping control of stock and products within an organization used to be a laborious task of booking on a computer, placing in a known area, and ensuring that the same product was booked off when sold or used.
How RFID Technology Improves Inventory Management
Everything needed to be accounted for by its existence on a computer system, and if that stock went missing, or was incorrectly logged into the system, then disarray would eschew. Days, and sometimes weeks of company time would be spent periodically checking stock against the computer system and altering the available stock as appropriate to ensure that a company actually had what it thought it did. Failure to do that would mean to risk not being able to fulfill received orders as stock depleted between checks, or would result in carrying too much stock and having assets tied up unnecessarily.
When Radio Frequency Identification became available, the world’s stock takers held their breath; was this something that might take all of the pain out of endless counting and checking? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has become one of the most efficient ways of tracking stock and goods. With its roots dating back to post-second World War espionage, RFID has evolved over the years from being a passive radio transponder technique with added memory to being incorporated into modern devices that use radio frequencies to transmit data. An RFID system uses RFID tags that transmit data which are attached to the objects or products to be identified. In turn, two-way radio transmitter-receivers called interrogators or readers send a signal to the tag and read its response. Modern devices can be as small as a single grain of rice and can be discreetly inserted in packaging or within the bulk of a device being monitored so that the its presence can realistically be noted by a radio frequency RFID reader device that is tuned to a specific set frequency.
Because the components that are essential for an RFID device to work are now routinely available in miniaturized and cost-effective form, placing sensors in large amounts or even in throw-away items such as product packaging has become viable. This means that RFID becomes the technology of choice, since it offers many advantages over simple stock-taking and inventory-control devices such as barcodes and serial number scanners.
RFID is generally used in an increasing number of commercial applications such as asset management and inventory tracking, and even finds its way into government-issued documentation such as biometric passports.
One of the growing areas of interest in RFID is in the identification and tracking of live subjects. The system is already being widely introduced into both domestic and agricultural animals with the so-called “chipping” of pets being a routine process that can be used to identify lost or stolen animals within seconds. Following a number of food-chain related scares, it is becoming standard practice to introduce RFID tags to animals destined for human consumption to ensure that only prime meat is used. This has become a major issue in Europe with recent concerns over lower-grade meats and horsemeats entering the food chain, and to prevent other diseases such as Mad Cow Disease from gaining a foothold.
Advancements in Miniaturization
Recent advances in miniaturization have opened up the possibility of routine human identification via RFID, though this has also opened up a debate on personal privacy and the possibility of abuse of such systems by the government. There have also been claims that it is possible to hack into and alter the tag on human systems, which could result in confusion concerning identification.
RFID is a growing market and one which will fit a growing number of new applications, though there are concerns about data flooding as more and more devices come into existence. While hacking has yet to be proven, manipulation of systems by outsiders could become a serious issue. For the moment, it makes the transfer of stock a safe and reliable process that can only be good for all industries.
Pivot International is a product design, development, and manufacturing firm with strengths in software development, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and industrial design. If you are interested in engineering a new product or updating an existing product, contact us at 1-877-206-5001 or request your free consultation today.