HLG Products & Functions Technical & Industry Thoughts

You’re Closer to RFID Than You Think

RFID is one of those technologies that many organizations are interested in – but actually implementing it into their environments can be another story. It’s been around for some time – over 15 years actually – and has generated a lot of buzz as a source of improved data capture. Three of the most common “capture” benefits it offers are:

  • Hands Free – grab the data without human intervention
  • Bulk – simultaneously read information for multiple items
  • Out-of-Sight – capture data on items that you’re near but can’t actually see

So, with all of the interest and unique benefits it offers, why hasn’t RFID been more broadly adopted? Not to say that it isn’t being implemented – it definitely is. However the amount of actual implementations in no way measures up to the level of interest. There are a number of factors that have influenced this imbalance. Here are some of the most common:

Cost to Implement & Deploy – This one is almost always underestimated. RFID solutions are comprised of a mix of specialized components (tags, devices, networks, services, etc.) that together, create and sustain the solution. Each of these components has a higher cost that some of their traditional barcode counterparts.

Over Estimation of the Capture Performance – This is where early marketing of the technology may have led some people astray. There is often an expectation of amazing tag reading results at exceptional speed and accuracy. And while there are impressive results with RFID, there are physical limitations to the technology itself.

All or Nothing – There seems to be an assumption that an entire process needs to be converted to RFID from barcode or manual capture – that it’s an “all or nothing” solution.

Data Management – Outside of the RFID hardware components, there is often a lack of attention to handling whatever data the RFID solution requires. Organizations often don’t look at what efforts are needed to prepare data for RFID scan input – much less what will happen or how the data will be used once scanned.

Business Case – Defining the parameters (such as accurate inputs on cost & sustainment) and level of performance (in labor, material & time savings) is difficult with even simple automation projects. RFID has a far reaching impact to an organizations business processes and accuracy of data returned. While all positive – it can be challenging trying to establish a business case and potential measurements to expect against it.

With all the challenges – there are still huge benefits to bringing in RFID. So how could I get started with my own RFID project? Let’s look at each of the factors above and see if there isn’t an approach that can minimize their impact on the success of an RFID automation project.

Cost to Implement & Deploy Bundle it Up  Initiating RFID from packaged application solution approach can be much more economical than trying to put together the individual components. And a packaged solution worth its salt will have published procedures for implementation – so you get a more comprehensive and guided deployment. This can have a big impact on both the cost and time required for this effort.

Over Estimation of the Capture PerformanceAsk the Experts  While you might ask your accounting department about preferences for their accounting system functions – you wouldn’t rely on them to program it. The same goes for working with RFID. There are many environmental and process factors to be considered to get the most benefit from RFID technology. An RFID expert can help you define and design what will be optimal for your environment, assets, team, etc. – all with your end goals in view.

All or Nothing Target Your Approach  You wouldn’t approach managing your team on the shipping dock the way you would manage your kid’s little league team – you need to tailor your approach to the audience for best results. It’s not all that different with data capture of your assets. Different items/teams/locations will do better with different approaches. You don’t have to have an all or nothing method of getting the data from your assets to your database. A successful capture application allows all manner of capture. So maybe RFID is best for those high-value or high-visibility items, and barcodes are better for the others.

Data Management Know Your Needs  Ultimately any information you capture will need to land in one of your business systems – typically an ERP or other host system. Knowing how you need to communicate this data to your systems – and how to get it out to the RFID components – is critical. This is another area where packaged solutions can help. A solid application solution will provide interfaces for your ERP/host/system-of-record – and will do so without needing changes to accommodate RFID capture.

Business Case Clarify the Scope  Trying to build the case for a global, custom solution is always more challenging than using an established tool in a focused area. Combining a packaged solution and approach that will leverage RFID in specific high-value areas can provide the framework and performance metrics that can have a huge impact on creating an understandable and positive plan for your solution.

HL Group offers a unique mobile option with assetsPLUS for any organization desiring the addition of RFID to their fixed or other semi-permanent items that they’re managing. Our solution, teamed with the right plans, technology SME’s and industry suppliers can make RFID available for you today.