Ask most manufacturers about RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), and they’ll focus on tagging assets for better inventory management, or tracking products in a warehouse.
But this barely scratches the surface of the RFID applications available to manufacturers. With the right solution in place, and a partner who understands how to leverage the latest technology to optimize production, RFID can provide almost immediate additional benefits to manufacturing. It can eliminate costly errors and provide cost savings with every order.
In this blog, we’ll review five benefits manufacturers can capitalize on with RFID.
A New Age of RFID in Manufacturing
Lower costs. Better data storage. Improved standards. Fantastic reliability. New material technology for even the most extreme applications… There are many reasons why RFID has really come of age as an effective technology for manufacturers.
In the past, some manufacturers leveraged RFID for light applications like inventory management. Today it can deliver benefits for mission-critical manufacturing applications across the production process.
Because RFID provides automatic data acquisition and can feed critical information to almost any system, it has become a vital tool in modern manufacturing. The companies that aren’t leveraging this technology will quickly find themselves at a disadvantage. Competitive companies are continually finding new ways to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and optimize using RFID.
5 Benefits of RFID for Manufacturers
Here are 5 ways savvy manufacturers are already leveraging RFID to benefit their business:
- Automation and Error Elimination: RFID is an Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology. AIDC devices require little, if any, human interaction to operate. Once in place, the system can identify an object, collect data, and transmit information to another system. End result – you can eliminate human error and move your team to other tasks while still collecting the critical data you need. You can collect more data, better data, without increasing costs or impacting production.
- End-to-End Traceability: It used to be manufacturers were forced into inefficient and error-prone “workarounds” for gaps in traceability. This might be as simple as chalk scratches on a product or a label on a bin, or using guesswork, estimates, and pencil-whipped data to fill in data collections. Now, with low cost RFID chips and tags you can manage some extreme applications like kilns and furnaces. It is possible have end-to-end traceability. You can pass audits with ease with data you can trust. This is critical, as more and more customers and regulation demand end-to-end traceability.
- Safety: Manufacturers have made safety a priority, and rightly so. One critical step in improving safety is ensuring employees have no need to put themselves in harm’s way during production. RFID can help by collecting critical production data and tracking assets digitally during many of the most dangerous operations – extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals, dangerous mechanical operations and more. With the RFID systems handling data acquisition, employees can avoid potential safety hazards in the workplace. Even better, RFID can flag potential dangers in the workplace, arming employees with data that can prevent problems before they happen.
- Real Time Access to Production Data: One of the biggest benefits of RFID for Inventory Management and Warehouse monitoring is real-time information. You can know at a moment’s notice when inventory is running low or where an asset is in the warehouse. This eliminates the potentially costly delay that comes when you are forced to use morning reports with outdated information to plan production. You aren’t spending time searching the warehouse for information before providing an estimate. That data is already at your fingertips. With RFID, you can set up APIs and data integrations to feed data automatically to the systems you want. You can pull up information on mobile device and see in real time where a material or asset is, or the production status of an order.
- Identify Opportunities for Optimization: The real-time data you collect with your RFID asset tracking is an excellent opportunity to start optimizing production. Look at adding RFID to your equipment to track how often a tool is used to better schedule repair and maintenance. Another opportunity might be RFID tagged to raw materials, providing real-time visibility into the use and movement of materials. That data is the foundation of better scheduling and production planning. Asset tracking can also be used to identify problems in production, steps and operations that lead to delays or quality issues, which can feed process improvements. Review changes made in processes using RFID before launching them to other production areas.
We’ve covered only a few of the high-level benefits manufacturers see once they have RFID in place in production. Companies will often find additional, unexpected benefits with RFID applications such as more accurate and more frequent reports, opportunities to increase margins and profit, and simple steps to reduce production time.
Getting Started with RFID in Manufacturing
For any business – change isn’t easy. This is especially true in process-driven manufacturing.
However, with increasingly competitive markets and greater demands from customers, there has never been more incentive to adapt and change than now.
Rather than taking on the risk and responsibility alone, a safer strategy is to find a partner and supplier who understands both RFID and its applications in manufacturing. This partner should be able to provide best practices that can set your business up for success as you transition to RFID.
Start by implementing RFID in a small test area to see how to best customize your solution before rolling it out to other areas. Plan well-defined phases for the roll-out, so the work is manageable. Leave enough time and resources for each phase of the project to reduce pressure and problems.
With enough time and planning, and the right partner, you can leave outdated asset tracking in your past and quickly begin benefitting from RFID in your manufacturing processes.