Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a phenomenal way to automatically locate and track tagged assets, but discovering and avoiding potential problems is the key to RFID success.
Here are the four important tips you should keep in mind before implementing your RFID system.
1. Know Your Environment
Know your environment and where your RFID solution will operate.
For example, if you’re using a fixed RFID reader to identify and track tagged assets as they pass through a dock door, it is best to wire that device to your network via Ethernet. This ensures the fastest and most reliable communications. However, constraints on your Ethernet cabling could pose problems for implementing your RFID system.
You’ll also need to consider the presence of other wireless devices that might compete for the same “air space” and interfere with your signals. There may also be physical factors, such as metal barriers or the presence of water, which can absorb radio waves or cause them to bounce around in strange ways.
A site survey by an RFID engineer will help you identify and mitigate these risks. For example, our engineers use software that pings your environment and creates a heat map overlay onto your site CAD drawings with topographical lines to indicate how strong your RFID signal is throughout your site.
They use this tool to help design the right system with the right cabling, tags, and hardware to handle your specific environmental factors.
2. Test and Validate Your System
RFID performance can vary between tags and devices, so you need to thoroughly test and validate your system before you roll it out.
For example, if you’re applying RFID tags to metal containers, curved surfaces, or certain types of packaging materials, you may need specialized tags designed to adhere to your surface type.
Our RFID partners at Zebra Technologies have specific tags suited for these applications, and they help us ensure our customers have the right tags and hardware for their specific tracking needs. Our custom solutions include determining the right RFID readers, which are also important when you need to account for specific environmental or application requirements.
To ensure you get the best results with your proposed system, you need to test it in your environment or a simulated environment that duplicates your RFID operating conditions. This will help you identify any specialized requirements and choose the right tags and hardware configuration before you do a full-blown implementation.
The RFID hardware will be unique to the requirements of each site but will consist of fixed RFID portals at dock doors and or RFID tunnels on conveyor lines for most of the items to be read. Each site also needs one or more handheld scanners for exception processing or reading tags that did not come through a portal.
3. Train Your Employees
Of course, any new system should be accompanied by thorough training of all employees who will use it. Don’t make the mistake of rushing things or forgetting about the end user and leaving too little time and resources for sufficient training.
4. Audit Your RFID Performance and Accuracy
Discrepancies can still occur with RFID, and continuous improvement may be necessary if your ultimate goal is 100% accuracy. To achieve this, you need a process for monitoring, auditing, and logging your RFID results.
For example, if you’ve shipped 180 items from manufacturing and want to be sure you’ve tracked them all accurately, you will need to know how many you shipped, how many were received, and how many were read at your RFID checkpoints along the way, along with an easy way to create reports like Exception Lists, Advanced Ship Notices or Bills of Lading. Versona’s Rainvue can support all these and more.
With proper tuning and monitoring of system accuracy, you can expect results at or close to 100% accuracy. Rainvue’s utilities and reports will pinpoint how accurate your RFID scanning and tracking is, and where you may need to address any issues until you achieve your desired results.
Need help planning and deploying your RFID system? Visit Versona Systems for expert help.