Barcodes are being used in supply chain management since 1974 when it first was implemented on Juicy Fruit gum packs and ever since it’s been used including today. It’s been used from FMCG to delivery packages and postal mails and works almost flawlessly. It is however limited in use in supply chain management in today’s world for the lack of traceability and long range scanning.
RFID in supply chain management
Even though RFID is not new, its use in supply chain was limited until now. With advancement in internet technologies and increased necessities of asset tracking, RFID is being implemented in many businesses now.
How RFID is used in supply chain management?
Radio frequency identification (RFID) uses a set of RFID tags, antennae, and RFID readers to send and receive radio frequency signals. This allows it to work flawlessly even when the tagged asset is not in direct line of sight with the RFID reader.
An UHF RFID Reader can identify, trace and track RFID tagged assets, hundreds at once, without error, over the range of 15m. UHF Active RFID system which employs tags with batteries can track up to 100m as well.
With strategic placement of RFID Readers at various intersections, it can track asset movement throughout the warehouse and outside as well.
RFID is also used to keep track of asset usage, life and condition. This results in better inventory control and improved supply chain management.
QR Codes in supply chain management
QR Codes are 2D barcode images which now can be read even by mobiles removing the use of specially designed barcode scanners. Unlike Barcodes, QR codes provide quick scanning and accounts for minor damages as well.
QR code is now preferred over barcode as it can contain more data like a URL, an image, text, PDF etc. and businesses are increasingly using it for promotions, marketing and even on assets to identify.
Like barcodes, QR codes are also used on delivery packages, mails and consumer goods to identify and track assets without requiring an elaborate installation, in small outlay as QR codes can be customized and generated using internet for free. Thermal transfer ribbons can be used for printing these QR codes on desired substrate.
BLE in supply chain management
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, like RFID uses wireless signals to send and receive data. It uses low energy Bluetooth signals which can be read by any device with Bluetooth 4.0 or above like mobiles or laptops within a range of up to 100m.
BLE tags are used on assets where low power consumption is needed. With small batteries, BLE is suitable for tagging and tracking small assets as well.
BLE is an ideal choice for small businesses requiring indoor tracking as the cost of BLE system is less in comparison to RFID technology.
It’s obvious that new technological advent and covid19 pandemic has pushed businesses towards increased automation and cost cutting measures. In supply chain management, timely delivery of assets/ consignments is also a factor towards better client and customer satisfaction and use of RFID, QR codes and BLE tagging can help achieve that, filling the obvious supply chain gaps.
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