RFID Should Be a Part of the Manufacturing Process

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RFID is just one type of technology that is part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Expanded use of RFID-enabled technologies is helping retailers recognize and fight back against operational loss, improve their customers’ experiences and streamline omnichannel operations. RFID-enabled systems help companies reduce costs and labor, boost accuracy, and raise production levels. Additionally, the technology is superior compared with the limitations of traditional technologies such as barcode technology. For example, RFID tags can be read from a greater distance than barcodes, and RFID tags don’t need to be positioned in a line of sight with the scanner, as barcodes do.

However, many of the applications of RFID is in the aftermarket, whereby the tags are affixed to already manufactured products. Software assigns each tagged item with a unique validation code paired with an ID number encoded to an item’s tag or label. That code is encrypted and stored not only on the tag’s chip, but also in software on a back-end database. The printers, labels, thermal ribbon, and scanning equipment can be expensive for product makers that are trying to keep track of inventory.

Such challenges caused Peltz Shoes to stop using RFID and move to the far less technologically sophisticated barcode technology. Peltz, in a press release last month, noted that, “RFID is a great tool, but for all of the inaccuracies and associated high costs, it will not be a viable solution until a significant manufacturing change at the wholesale level occurs.”

That simply means that RFID should be built into items — including apparel, furniture, electronics — so that they arrive in customers’ hands ready to be recorded using RFID.  IoT solutions can help track the location of products during the manufacturing process and throughout the supply chain at the serial number level, which can help to manage delivery expectations. In addition, the identity of the distributor and end customer for any particular product can be immediately known.

Manufacturers of luxury goods can take that tracking information one step further, and ensure  that the products are what they purport to be. Some luxury brands are using the technology to fight counterfeiting. For example, German messenger-bag manufacturer Bagjack two years ago implemented an RFID-based anti-counterfeiting solution from Serfides. Not only does the solution help confirm the authenticity of goods, it also tracks the movement of the bag through the supply chain — ensuring the bags stay on their expected routes.

Products with integrated tags are much easier to process and track, even when original packaging is lost or product labels are damaged. Also, for complex systems for which component level returns must be managed, tags are effective at preventing fraud and abuse of warranty replace policies. And, if a product must be recalled, RFID can make that entire process more efficient.

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