I’m seeing a lot more buzz about RFID lately. It can be a fantastic technology to leverage – especially when you’re trying to keep track of things, like your assets.
But there still seem to be quite a few misconceptions surrounding RFID. It’s not magic. Very rarely can you find an implementation where you can walk into a room, flip a switch, and voila – all RFID tags present are recorded.
I’m not saying that isn’t possible – most things are possible with time and money.
It’s just that if you want to get the most value out of RFID (i.e., don’t waste a LOT of time and a LOT of money), it pays to be a little strategic about it.
When it comes to RFID, there’s no one size fits all – and I’m willing to bet that you’re looking for the size that will fit your situation (and budget) best.
Finding Your Fit
If you’ve done a simple Google search, you’ve probably experienced the overwhelming amount of information available on RFID. It’s good to know it’s there – but where to start?
With any solution initiative, I always recommend beginning with understanding your own organization. That will help you to more easily navigate what is and isn’t relevant to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Look in the Mirror
I know that sounds like an obvious notion – but you’d be surprised by how frequently teams rush to a solution before really understanding the problem they’re trying to solve.
Here are some questions to ask to get you started:
Why are you considering RFID?
The Why often directs the How:
- Are you looking for better asset visibility?
- Example – Assets X, Y, and Z are critical & I need to know where they are at all times
- Maybe you want easier inventory audits
- Example – It’s like pulling teeth to get the team to complete inventories – I get nothing but complaints and mistakes or missing information
- Do you have a requirement or mandate?
- Example – You have an oversight team, grant requirements, or other management to whom you need to provide periodic, accurate data
What are you marking?
Believe it or not, the actual asset you are tagging can have a big impact on the success of your solution. Different assets may need different types of tags.
- Are you applying a sticker on a laptop?
- Or a tag on a metal object?
- Or a tag on an object containing liquid?
These factors (and more) can influence the success of your tag read. Don’t define your tag plan without considering what you’re going to apply the tags to – you might need a mix.
Where are you planning to use RFID?
Environments can also have an impact on the quality of your RFID (and the equipment you use for your read)
- Do you have metal in your environment?
- Metal reflects signals. This can sometimes help – but it can also create blind spots. Florescent lights and other RF signals can do this too.
- Do you need reads outdoors?
- Is there moisture in the environment? Will the assets be near water tanks?
- Liquids absorb RF signals & can also influence your read rate.
How & When do you want to capture the RFID tag reads?
This can help you to understand if you need active or passive tags, if you need portal readers, and or mobile readers.
- Do you want to use RFID during your regular inventory audits?
- Do you want to know when an asset moves through defined locations?
- Do you want assets to “report in” so to speak, and periodically tell you where they are?
Where will the read data go?
Once you collect all of this information, what are you going to do with it? You need a way to get it from the raw data collected by the reader to useable information that will meet the needs of the Why you defined earlier.
That’s where we come in. mobilePLUS was designed to collect asset information from a variety of inputs (barcode, RFID, key entry), make sense of the data, and then provide it to your core business systems to ensure the What/Where/How of your RFID efforts all meet your Why.
So humor me. Ask yourself a few questions. The answers you provide may direct you down a path that you didn’t consider (or realize existed). Who knows, it may even reveal that barcode technology (or some blend of barcode and RFID) is what you really need to meet your Why.
I’m not an expert on RFID by any means. But I have spent my career helping teams align solutions to resolve their problems. If you’re considering RFID to track your assets, let’s talk. I may be able to help get your team where you want to go.