RFID: The Oncoming Wave
This article will define RFID technology and offer examples of how it could help improve your distribution center operations.
RFID uses radio waves to automatically identify physical items in varying proximity to readers that can uniquely identify them. The identification process entails the following:
- the RF antenna broadcasts a signal;
- the tag enters the RF field;
- the RF signal powers the tag;
- the tag transmits data to the reader; and
- the reader interacts directly with the supply chain execution system.
By now, no doubt, you’ve heard that Wal-Mart is requiring its top 100 suppliers to implement a technology called radio frequency identification (RFID) by January. And other merchants are following suit. All of these organizations issued their RFID mandates to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency.
The question for catalogers is: Should you also look at RFID for your merchandise fulfillment operations? This article will help you make that decision.
First introduced during World War II, RFID technology was used to help identify allied aircraft through radio frequency waves. Since then, RFID has continued to evolve and is used by the railroad industry to track cars, the automotive industry to streamline production and track parts, and the agricultural industry to trace livestock.
More recent advances, such as declining chip and reader prices and the increased ability to inexpensively and efficiently transmit data electronically, have prompted companies to begin using RFID for tracking goods as they travel through the supply chain for greater visibility and competitive advantages.
How the Technology Works
RFID is a thin, low-cost, wireless communication device for transmitting and receiving data. RFID tags use computer chips and antennas to transmit information that’s carried over radio frequency (RF) waves and activated when placed within the transmission field of a reader. (See pg. 38 for an illustration of the transmission process.)