Over the years poor warehouse management has been a root cause of many logistics and supply chain disruptions amounting to billions of dollars of losses. Retail industry alone suffered losses in billions (46.8B USD), according to a FORBES article in a 2019 that highlighted retail inventory shrinkage as the main factor.
Currently, Many Supply Chain and Logistics businesses are seeing an unprecedented transformation in technology applications that are focused on asset visibility in warehouses. Warehouse visibility applications will certainly increase and not only in large scale business but small businesses as well. While large business will deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase asset visibility and reduce losses, small size businesses will move towards AIDC (automatic identification and data capture) technologies like RFID, BLE etc.
Various AIDC technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification), barcodes, BLE (Bluetooth low energy) etc are widely used for identification and tracking purposes, not only in warehouses but in retail, restaurants, healthcare, offices, manufacturing as well.
RFID for Warehouse Automation
Warehouse Automation is seeing large scale growth in recent past years but there is still a long way to go. Supply chain and logistics operations still suffer from bottlenecks and human errors at large scale. Employing new technologies to increase visibility of assets throughout the warehouse and supply chain intersections to the end user will benefit the business and clients greatly. While QR codes and BLE are a fair choice for small business and small inventory operations, RFID must be used to manage a large scale warehouse.
Warehouse automation will enable workers to take note of the large amount of data gathered on daily basis and to make appropriate changes in order to increases visibility of assets inside the warehouse.
Since RFID employs wireless radio frequency signal to communicate and transfer data between a RFID tag and a RFID reader, the line of sight scanning of articles becomes redundant and it also optimizes day to day warehouse operations.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how RFID can account for more visibility in warehouses:
Determine the RFID system requirements:
• Define the inventory or asset items to be tracked.
• Determine the required read range, frequency, and tag type.
• Consider the physical layout of the warehouse and the potential for interference.
Install RFID infrastructure:
• Install RFID readers at strategic locations throughout the warehouse.
• Set up the required antennas and cabling.
• Configure the readers to communicate with the warehouse management system.
Label items with RFID tags:
• Attach RFID tags to each inventory item/asset.
• Ensure that tags are readable and can withstand the environmental conditions of the warehouse.
Integrate RFID data with warehouse management system:
• Configure the warehouse management system to receive RFID data.
• Map RFID tag data to the corresponding inventory or asset item in the system.
• Set up alerts for missing or misplaced items.
Monitor inventory and asset movement:
• Use RFID readers to track items as they move through the warehouse.
• Update the warehouse management system with real-time location data.
• Analyze inventory and asset movement patterns to optimize warehouse layout and operations.
Utilize analytics for greater visibility:
• Leverage the data collected by RFID readers to identify trends and patterns.
• Use analytics to monitor inventory levels, identify bottlenecks, and track asset utilization.
• Integrate RFID data with other systems, such as shipping or billing, to streamline processes.
Large scale retail organizations like Walmart, Target etc. are not only implementing RFID infrastructure for greater warehouse asset visibility, but also integrating cutting edge Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning for more control on inventory operations and asset movement.