The learning objective of this seminar is analyze and understands relevant current issues or certain areas. In this seminar, I will discuss the issue on RFID technology helps in inventory control. Some of the topic about RFID technology in warehousing such as introduction, pros and cons, comparison between bar code and RFID, etc will be covered.
First and foremost, brief introduction of RFID will be discussed. In this section, I will provide some basic concept of RFID. RFID is mainly enables data to be capture and transmit it to a computer system without needing a person to be involved. With the ability of zero manpower involve, RFID helps the warehouse operate in their daily workflow effectively.
Secondly, I will discuss how an RFID system work and its performance do. The main flow of how the RFID work in warehouse will be showed by diagram and some brief description. Which the assist of diagram, it will help us more understanding on how the RFID work.
Next, advantages and disadvantages also will be discussed in this seminar. Advantages and disadvantages are the arguments for or against the RFID technology which advantages aim to promote the RFID, while disadvantages suggest points against it. In order to let user to have a clear view on RFID technology, two case studies found in the journal will be talk over. Two short case study will attached in the Appendix (Part B) and I will briefly discuss on it so that users will more understanding on the RFID involvement in the real life.
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Next will be the issue of hardware and software requirement for RFID. There are 4 main hardware component and software that are used to implement RFID. The hardware includes reader, tags, printer and host computer. While software part is the application that used to run the RFID system, which probably is middleware. Different tags used in different area will be discussed also.
By the same way, bar coding and RFID have emerged from the same roots, that is auto identification and both are carry information about the product. However, there will have different view from different criteria. Therefore, the issue of comparison on both type of technology will be discussed in this section.
RFID use and suit in what type of application will be included also. Many business consultants had use the RFID tag to implement some of their system such as library system or document management system. The benefit of using RFID have increase its usage potential in manufacturing, management system even security control also greatly benefited.
In order to fullfill the requirement that Final Year Project have to related with seminar title, the topic of how the RFID technology is linking to project will be discussed. It mainly describes the explanation on how the system application research in final year project has been used, linked and applied in the seminar.
Lastly is critical evaluation and conclusion. I am required to provide some analysis of the journal that has been referred. In addition, logical comments and own opinion on the journal referred had provided.
Introduction and basic concept of RFID
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a wellknown automatic identification system in this 21st century world. It uses radio waves to retrieve the data stored in a tiny circuitry. (English Word Information, 2010). The tiny circuitry is defined as chip or tag. Chip technology allow us to transmit information to the device and also receive data from it by using radio waves.
RFID is designed to enable readers to capture and transmit data to a computer system without needing a person to be involved. (English Word Information, 2010). An RFID reader just need to send radio frequency signals out to the tags and reads the signals that come back from the tags in the form of a unique serial number. The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code that provide a unique identifier for the object, but it was a scanning technology rather than using radio signal.
Below is the summarize bar chart that show impact of RFID on business performance. It show the impact or result of an organization that adopt RFID system contrast with non-RFID system. Bar chart below is the summarizing according from the table of statistic which get by (Google Image, 2010). Refer to Appendix (Part A) to the table of statistic.
Notes: Blue: Non-RFID System, Red: RFID System
Figure 1: Performance of adopting RFID system and Non-RFID system
2.0 How does an RFID system work and its performance
RFID belongs to a group of technologies refered to Automatic Identification System. This methods automatically identify objects, collect data and enter those data directly into computer systems with no human intervention. Below are the brief main flow of how the RFID work if warehouse use it for inventory control. (Ray Low, n.d) :-
Tag enters RF Field
RF Signal powers Tag
Tag transmits ID (plus Data)
Reader captures Data
Reader sends Data to Computer System
System determines Following Actions and return tag data
Reader may transmit Data to Tag
Figure 2: The main flow of RFID
At simple level, RFID system consist of 4 main component in order to work which include tag, reader, host system and software.
The tag which made up of a microchip with an antenna will trasmit data to the RFID reader when receive information. The reader sends out electromagnectic waves and then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. The tag receive the signal by using the antennas and respond by trasmitting their stored data. The microchip and the reader do not need to be in each other’s line of sight to work properly, and the transmission or reading process is ultra-rapid. (Intermec, 2007)
All of the data and information collected from the tags via its antenna is then transferred or decode through a communication interface to a host computer system, where the data being stored in a secure database through a cable or wireless connection. The data is captured and passed to computer system for interpretation, storage and action. (Intermec, 2007). The process or flow will then continue again and again when want to identify another object. The RFID performance increase by applied the correct flow of RFID process.
In order to increase the reading area of RFID, it can attach more antenna and increase number of reader in RFID. (Ray Low, n.d). The more antenna included, the reading area is bigger. Due to the seamlessly flow and bigger reading area of RFID system, it resulting in optimised time management for product delivery process or for inventory management. By applying RFID, it can promote operational efficientcy and precision.
Advantages of RFID
RFID system has many advantages over conventional technologies as it turns the process become automatic. Conventional tracking system requires manual interaction, which include labor intensive, very time consuming and error prone. With RFID solution, it definitely has significant advantages that can raise the efficiency of inventory and management. Below are some of the benefits of using RFID in inventory management:-
3.1 Efficient Inventory Tracker (Intermec, 2010)
The main benefit to using RFID in the warehouse is to improve inventory tracking, especially where the technology is not required line-of-sight to read RFID tags, in the same time, inventory can be performed in a highly efficient way.
RFID using the real time, high accurate technique to track raw materials, work in process product and finished products. All inventory levels and safety stock in the warehouse can be track within a second. With RFID solution, inventory can be updated in real time without scanning, product movement or human involvement. The fully automated system also allows inventory status to be determined and generate documents automatically. Besides, it also alerts the retail outlet once the last piece of product is purchased and preventing out-of-stock occurrences.
In addition, readers covering the shelves and other warehouse storage location can automatically detected the removal products or items and update the inventory records. If the item misplaced, the RFID reader can automatically search the item by reading the specific product ID number and staff have to place it back. It increases the inventory efficiency in all the while.
In real life, Sonoco is one of the manufacturer of paper industry which adopt RFID to handle their inventory. If the paper process is adopt or used RFID technology, it will eliminate those risks and will maximize the tags reliability by integrate the tags into the paper cores while manufacturing process. By moved through the supply chain that using RFID technology, the tags would be more secured and not easy to damage. In addition, it will help the firm to decrease the amount of waste and save money, it will also reduce the number of lost shipment that made. Refer to Appendix Part B(I) for futher information on the case study.
3.2 Improved Sort Rate (Searching) (Shien-Chiang Yu, 2006)
In a warehouse, activity of sorting product is always important but it is time consuming and subjected to errors. With the using of RFID system, it makes the sorting activity become more easy and simple.
For example, the activity of issuing items from a store, staffs have to find out whether the item is available or not by physically walking to the warehouse to check. By using RFID system, it eases the sorting and picking operation because it captures real-time data, and provides accurate information about product availability in computer database without physical movement. When warehouse workers need those certain items, the information that trace by RFID readers can help them eliminating the times for manual searches. Hence, it is very helpful in pick and sort rate for improve the effectiveness of warehouse management.
3.3 Durability (eHow, 2010)
In the environment of warehouse, it possibility will have many dust and dirty thing on the products and the surrounding of warehouse. RFID tags are more effective in working in harsh environment while bar code labels have the problem on it. The durability of RFID tags that inserted in the products perform well in a variety of demanding environments. An RFID tag is securely placed within an object or embedded in plastic. It will eliminating many of the problems where they are exposed to dirt, chemicals or heat. RFID tags tend to be protected with the plastic which much more thoroughly and allowing them to be read in the harshest of environment like warehouse. Therefore, RFID definitely can work under harsh environment and RFID tags may be place in extreme environment and perform to specification.
3.4 Asset management (Intermec,2010)
RFID tags are mandatory place into the product, items and fixed assets. In the asset management, i will briefly describe the shipping and receiving of product between sender and receiver.
Shipping & Receiving
Identification of items will happen automatically with the exist of RFID taags and reader, the exact amount and type of product is immediately known to all parties. In other words, by matching the shipment information in a database, warehouse worker can automatically build a record of what information specific in a shipping containers which will send to receiver. The information can be used to improve recoveries and returns by users about lost and damaged. Any lost or damage of the product between the amount ordered and received can be automatically identified for both the shipper and receiver. (Puneet Mehrotra, 2006)
The implementation seem to progress well when the company use the RFID into their operations. In real life application, one of the company which use RFID is HP organization. The using of RFID has changed HP’s shipping processes in an very effective way. Warehouse shipping tracking application helped in identify work in process or finished goods inventory. All the products with RFID tags can be read as they are automatically recorded in the shipping system. Warehouse worker also can know the item inside the cartons without open the carts. In addition, shipment list information that encoded in RFID tags can be read by receiving organization and make the process become simplify and satify customer’s requirement. Warehouse people can use RFID reader to simply scan the tags that place in the product to determine whether or not the products are matches with what was ordered. This wills totally eliminating the number of errors that may occur in shipping and receiving. Besides that, all those error or mistakes can be detected before the products arrive or even after leaves the warehouse. Refer to Appendix Part B(II) for futher information on the case study.
Disadvantages of RFID
Not all the applications of the technology and products are perfect in every way, especially RFID which utilizes radio frequencies to transmit signals. RFID will face many issues such as costs, access rate, security and RFID collision. Below are the discussions of each issue:-
4.1 High Cost (eHow, 2010)
Cost is one of the major factors influencing RFID as it will be hugely expensive to implement RFID completely. The RFID system is costly compared to other automatic identification systems and it is much more expensive to install compared with bar code.
According to article from (AIM, 2010), it stated that the cost of one tag generally cost $0.85. The pricing is based on the volume, the amount of memory on the tag. Some of the tags required to be designed for a given application may be costly when designed for use under extreme environmental conditions. The packaging of the tag which encased in plastic or embedded in a label will also determined the price of the tags. Besides, most of the reader in RFID will cost from $500 to $2000, which depend on the feature in the devices. The costs of antenna are about $250 and up. The fully functional RFID system cost is hard to figure out due to the different peripheral equipment and application software used. Besides that, after the installation fees of RFID system, types of software used, companies may also need to hire a system integrator and upgrade network within facilities. Hence, it increases the overall cost of an RFID system.
The estimation project costs for a medium company include (AIM, 2010):-
RFID Tag(per pallet transfred per month)
$0.85 x 500
$2000 x 29
Installation and Integration Service (RFIDWizard,2010)
Table 1: Estimation of a project cost
4.2 Security Concern (eHow, 2010)
Methods of cracking smart card also apply to RFID tags. Since the RFID system is not limited to line-of sight technology like bar coding, another security issues could been develop. The security issue is the external or malicious can use high-intensity directional antenna to scan sensitive tags. When RFID is used for high-security operations, frauds issues always is a possibility.
For example, a production competitor could build a high directional antenna to scan the tags in trucks that going to a warehouse. From the data being scanned, the competitor may determine the flow rates of various products or what is the material used in a particular product.
4.3 RFID Collision (eHow, 2010)
Collision occurs when the signals from two or more readers overlap, or more than one tag read at the same time, the tag is unable to respond to simultaneous queries. So, it may be some tags will not be read or some tags are been read twice, subsequently it will confuse the reader. Next, the RFID reader will fails to differentiate between incoming data since the read time is very fast.
This problem does not occur in bar code technology, as when bar code is scanned, it is instantly verified from the scanner. To avoid tag collisions, integrators use time division multiple access, which will make the readers programmed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read simultaneously. In simple terms, the reader are instructed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read at the same time. This ensures they don’t interfere with each other. Besides, many systems are use Anti-collision protocol to solve this problem. Anti-collision protocol enables the tags to take turns in transmitting to a reader.
Hardware and Software Requirements for RFID
There are 4 main hardware component and software that are used to implement RFID. There are RFID tags, reader, host computer and printer. Whereas software that it needed is middleware. Below are the main components of RFID (Intermec, 2010):-
Figure 3: RFID Component
Tags are very important in a RFID environment because they store the information that describes the object being tracked. The more detail object information is stored in the memory of tags and is accessed through the radio signal of RFID readers. Most tags are only activated when they are within the interrogation zone. Chip tags contain memory which can store or keep history. It has different kinds of tags (Ray Low, n.d):-
Smart Label, Cards, Belt
Unique Serial ID
Active and passive tag
Figure 4: Example of Tags
Some of the RFID tags had been search through (RFIDTags.com, 2010), and the type of tags will suit on the particular environment. For example:-
Avery Dennison AD-827 RFID Tag
This tag is one of smallest tag in the RFID tags portfolio with strong and longer read range capability and excellent stack performance. It was capable of receiving, storing and transmitting digital information in multiple frequencies for supply chain support. The AD-827 provides strong read range which wills helps to increase data level capture reliability although it is stack arrangement which sometimes will wrong identified. It was preferred in warehouse management, document management and library system which deal with tracking system.
Passive Integrator Transponder (PIT) Tags (Biomark, 2010)
Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) has been used for permanently identified individual animals. PIT tags will help to detect the growth rate, behavior and health condition. In addition, it will also capture the stress to the animal and reducing handling time of RFID users.
An RFID Reader is a device that used to interrogate an RFID tags. Whereas the reader serve as the middleman between the integration of tag and host system. It also can collect data from RFID tags. It transfers the radio waves from RFID tags into a form that can be used by middleware software. An RFID tag reader uses antennas to communicate with the RFID chip. Reader requirements was depending on the type of application and almost all applications will require more than one forms of readers to make a successful system.
Reader used by different application will based on the frequency that the user to to use. (Control Electronic Company, 2004)
30KHZ To 300 KHZ
3MHZ To 30 MHZ
Very High Frequency
30 MHZ To 300MHZ
Ultra High Frequency
300 MHZ To 3GHZ
Below are some of the image of reader which include mobile RFID reader(Ray Low,n.d):-
Figure 5: Example of Reader
All of the RFID reader communicate to a RFID host computing through the wireless networking system. The host will keep track all the data and update it as the data changes.
Figure 6 : Host Computer
The purpose of Radio frequency printers is printing smart tags and labels. RF printers encode the data on RFID labels and tags while the same time they print bar codes, printing text, graphics to become human readable text.
Figure 7: Example of RFID Printer (Zebra RZ400)
5.5Software (Middleware) (Shien-Chiang Yu, 2006)
RFID environment is requiring a middleware in order to implement it. Middleware is the software that allows the user to make the electronic identity link to production or management information. The message, data and information will be share with each others. Middleware software are needed to manage the flow of data from readers and send the data to back-end management systems. In addition, Middleware will also helps in capturing history, filtering data, retrieving data from readers and generate inventory notifications.
Figure 8: RFID Asset Tracking Software
Comparison between RFID tag and Bar code
RFID technologies recently received attention from different area. Many consultants have claimed that RFID will replace barcode as the track and trace technology. By the same way, barcoding and RFID have emerged from the same roots, that is auto identification and both are carry information about product. In my opinion, RFID is not necessarily better than barcodes as they are two different applications and contain different characteristic.
However, in many circumstances, RFID always offers advantages over traditional bar codes. In the table below, there are numerous comparison have been undertaken to qualify the benefits of RFID and Barcoding technologies.(Atlas RFID Solution, 2010)
It have different kind of tags available. Besides, it have different size of the tags too.
Barcodes represented data in the lines and the spacing of parallel lines.
Line of Sight Requirement
Direct line of sight is not required.
Any direction can be oriented by the items, as long as it is in the read range and there is no need to orientate scanned items.
It requires a direct line of sight to the printed barcode.
The items must be physically see by scanner each time it scan, and items must be oriented in a very specific manner.
Read Rate (Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
Read rate for RFID tags much faster. As long as they are within range of a reader, RFID tags can be read.
Hence, it has a greater system throughput by eliminate of manual processes or labour for repetitive scans.
Inventory count is very fast.
RFID can read multiple items simultaneously.
If the items are not properly placed to the reader, it might take time to read an individual tag.
Reading barcodes is time-consuming due to the reason that direct line of sight is required.
Very low throughput.
Tags can only be read manually one at a time.
Read/Write Capability (Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
RFID tags have read/write devices and can add as much of the information as the tag design will allow.
RFID able to read writes, modify, and update.
RFID reader can communicate with the tag, and get the information as the tag design will allow.
Barcodes have no read/write capability; that means cannot add to the information written on a printed barcode.
It only afford read only.
RFID tags are more expensive but cost less as more industries adopt the technology.
Implement Bar code is cheaper.
Durability (Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
It can be read through very harsh environments as RFID tags are not affected by dirt. So, there is better protected.
Tags may be placed in extreme environments and perform according to the specification.
The readability of barcodes can be impaired by dirt, moisture, abrasion, or packaging contours. Bar code cannot be read if they become dirty or damaged during handling.
If a label is get dirt or soiled or has fallen off, there is no way to scan the item successfully.
Data capacity/Data volumn
Provide additional item tracking info or even repair histories.
Can carry relatively large volume of data.
Physical limitation exists.
It is very difficult to read a very long barcode.
Human capital (Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
Virtually do not require labor, the system is completely automated.
Eliminate time/labor associated with relabelling items/assets over time.
Error free inventory count
Large labor requirements as laborers must scan each tag.
Require manual tracking and therefore are susceptible to human error
Security (Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
Security is high.
Difficult to replicate.
Data can be encrypted, password protected, so information stored is much more secure.
Security is low.
Much easier to reproduce again.
Event Triggering(Atlas RFID solution, 2010)
Can be used to trigger certain function like gate openings, alarms, etc.
Bar code cannot be used to trigger events.
Tags may be written on board memory to retain information.
Updated may be made automatically without human intervention.
Old information can be over-written.
Once a bar code is printed it remains constant.
Cannot be updated
Below are the two figure show that the comparison time needed with its frequency between RFID and Barcode technology.
Figure 9. RFID with its frequency and time taken to perform operation
Figure 10. Bar Code Scanning with its frequency and time taken to perform operation
According to the figure above, Figures 9 RFID show the difference between the times taken to perform the operation by only using (9.669 seconds average) and Figure 10 barcode scanning (24.479 seconds average). (Gareth R.T. White, 2007)
This show that not only RFID is a faster operation but also more consistent and give a clear picture that RFID can deliver more rapid scanning times than barcode scanning. This supports the view that RFID can deliver measurable operational benefits, faster cycle times result in more throughput, productivity benefits and lower product search time.
Application that can use RFID
Besides using RFID in inventory control system, there are other applications were also using on this. Since RFID technology is getting more popular, many business consultants had use the RFID tag to implement some of their system. The benefit of using RFID have increase its usage potential in manufacturing, management system even security control also greatly benefited. Below are some of the RFID applications (Ray Low, n.d):-
Warehouse Management System
RFID technology provides a simple way to handle a huge and large manufacturing process. It offers the benefits such as reduce and eliminate bottlenecks, reduce any anomalies by alerting the staff, helps in better analysis, reduced time in locating parts and products.
Security Control/Security Gate
Security gate are more common and we can see at any of shopping complex. It positioning at the shop exits and they read the security setting that is stored in RFID tags. The tags inside will determine whether or not items are permitted to leave the shop. An alarm sounds will ring to alert staff if items have not been properly checked out. In short, Security gate are very useful in theaf detecting elsewhere.
Document Management System
This is most common problem in document management system that they can stored or manage large amount of data and documents. The RFID document-tracking system saves a lot of time and money by the way of reducing time spent searching for lost document.
Library RFID Management System
In library by using RFID management system, RFID capable to read multiple items at the same time. This can increases the number of customers and reduce queues that using self-check, which will reduce the staff necessary at the circulation desks.
Animal Micro chipping
RFID using microchip identification on pets by more quickly and efficiently returning pets to their owners if they are lost. In animal, chips are usually inserted below the skin at the back of the neck on the animals.
Linking to Project
Wang Wang Pet Shop System is deal with sales order, rent and inventory control system. Therefore, the seminar title with RFID help in inventory control can consider as linking to project. The main related issue was inventory control management. RFID is a new technology that help a lot of warehousing manage their product and inventory by an effective way. By using RFID system, it can help Wang Wang Pet Shop to manage their product such as pet accessories by controling the inventory. However, there are very hard in implementing the RFID system into the project since the RFID system is a reallife technology. Hence, I will just propose the RFID concept and knowledge into my project.
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RFID system can help on Wang Wang Pet Shop by some ways. The product that we had was pets and pet’s accessories. RFID technology can control the inventory management by having a chip or tag inside the products. The chip which insert into the pets can detect its pet information such as age, breed, current healthier and their temparature. Whereas the chip which insert in the pet accessories can detect the quantity level of a particular product.
Next, batch processing can apply to the pet system by perform the inventory shelf-reading. RFID can offer assistance in tracing service. For example, staff can immediately detect all of the collection within the range, including abnormal situation such as pet accessories put on the wrong shelf. With that, it can raise the efficiency of inventory and arrangement.
Secondly, RFID can act as assistant of searching particular pet’s accessories too. When member wants to buy a pet accessory, the staff no need find it all the way. The staff was just search it through computer by a click anyway. It can display where is the product located and the quantity left of the product. When there is low of stock, the staff will order again from supplier immediately. It decrease repeatable task of daily counting and checking stock.
In conclusion, RFID system can tried to implement in Wang Wang Pet Shop system to help to keep track the inventory management.
9.0 Critical Evaluation
Before the end of this seminar, there are some of the critical evaluations has been discussed. These include rational behind use of certain technique or tools, argument and opinion about the technology.
Pros and cons of RFID system
The use of radio frequency to communicate information among the system makes the inventory process faster. This capability can help the manufacturer achieve the future improvement by determine their inventory within hours rather than days. In my view, RFID really can help warehouse in manage their inventory by an effective way. Besides of using in inventory area, it also manages to help to increase shop’s security. However, not all the applications of the technology and products are perfect in every way. The only problem is that different RFID systems have different capabilities and costs. The cost depends on the application, the size of the installation, the reader and software cost and many other factors.
Comparison between barcode and RFID system
The function of both technologies almost is same
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