If you are reading this book, you probably already have a barcode system in place and are considering adding an RFID component to your solution. A properly integrated RFID solution can improve the efficiency of your business and ultimately improve profits in your organization. This book is meant to help you in developing a successful RFID solution.
Here’s a list of some of the benefits of RFID:
- Does not require line-of-sight to read tags
- Does not require costly human intervention to scan barcodes
- Tags can be read from multiple angles as opposed to requiring proper optical alignment
- Hundreds of tags can be read “simultaneously”
- Tags can be updated on the fly with additional data
- The chances of a double scan or missed scan are significantly lower
- Accuracy rates approach 100% in a well-implemented RFID solution, which is significantly better than with barcode solutions
- ROIs tend to be greater in spite of higher initial costs
While all of these are true, RFID solutions are usually more difficult to implement and require greater expertise from your partners tasked with integrating the solution.
Do not simply select any “system integrator.” The integrator you choose needs to know specifically about RFID.
In this post, we’re going to look into eight different key considerations for implementing an RFID project including what to look for in a trusted RFID system integrator, how to assess your RFID needs and challenges, and how to select the best “tag” for your application.
Consideration 1 – Choose the Right Form of RFID
There are actually many different forms of RFID that you could leverage for a solution.
The most common form of RFID used today for “auto ID” (automatic identification) solutions is UHF (Ultra High
Frequency) Passive RFID. You may also hear this form of RFID referred to as EPC, RAIN RFID or often simply as RFID.
Low Frequency (LF) and High Frequency (HF) solutions also exist, but these technologies are generally not suitable for
applications such as logistics, manufacturing, inventory and other industrial applications due to the high per-tag costs
and low read-ranges.
UHF Passive RFID is now accepted as the best solution based on performance, read-ranges, cost and flexibility.
LF – LIVESTOCK, PET TAGGING, ACCESS CONTROL
HF – ACCESS CONTROL, “SMART BRANDING”, TICKETING, DATA TRANSFER APPLICATIONS
UHF – LOGISTICS, WAREHOUSING, RETAIL, ASSET TRACKING
Consideration 2 – Find a Good Solution Partner (System Integrator)
Before beginning an RFID implementation, it is important to find a good solution partner
(often referred to as a “system integrator”).
There are many companies involved with RFID, but only a limited number are truly capable of handling an
implementation from start to finish with a single point of contact for support and assistance.
Make sure that you have a single point of contact to guide you through the process and provide support later on.
Consideration 3 – Begin with the Discovery Phase
A good RFID solution partner will begin by assessing the needs and/or problems that you want to address with the
technology. This is often referred to as the “discovery phase.”
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What problems do you need to solve?
- What processes could you make more
Getting as clear a picture as possible before spending any money is not only financially smart, but it is also the correct
approach to make sure that the solution works both “today” and “tomorrow.”
The solution provider should also conduct a “site survey” as part of the discovery process. RFID solutions need to
consider the physical environment as well as the business processes.
- What other physical materials are present?
- What is the facility layout?
- Can large metal objects, such as forklifts or
garbage cans (real-world examples), occasionally interfere?
- At which moments and locations do you need to collect
Make sure that your solution provider proposes and conducts a site survey.
Consideration 4 – Choose a Suitable “Tag”
Upon completion of the discovery phase (including at least one site survey), a suitable “tag” (label with RFID capabilities)
needs to be selected.
There are hundreds of existing RFID tags on the market and more are coming every day, but they are definitely not
For example, some RFID tags are optimized to work in the presence of glass, others around metal, others around liquids,
Other factors such as read-range, memory, and encryption also need to be considered. And then there are all of the
usual considerations associated with standard labels such as size, material, adhesive, and durability.
If your solution provider does not work through a tag selection process, it’s time to find a different partner.
Consideration 5 – “Point Solution” vs. “Strategic Solution”
Next, the solution provider should recommend either a “point solution” or a “strategic solution” (you may hear these
ideas with different names, but the concepts will be the same).
A point solution is designed to address only a specific problem or problems and generally does not tie into your host
system at deeper, fundamental levels.
For example, a point solution might be implemented to track specific, high-value assets – that’s it.
A strategic solution, however, will leverage the RFID data you collect, tie the data in with your deeper business systems,
and allow you to make informed – even automated – business decisions for many aspects of your business.
An important approach that your solution provider should keep in mind is that even if you need to only address a single
point of your business with an RFID solution, whatever system gets implemented, you should be able to expand the
solution in the future to address other business processes and eventually tie in the data to your ERP.
In other words, if you decide on a point solution initially, make sure it can grow with your needs and other future
Consideration 6 – Select Additional Hardware & Software
Your solution provider will also need to select additional hardware and software suitable for your application.
- Which readers should be used?
- What algorithms should be running on the readers?
- How many antennas and their locations?
- Should you use fixed readers, handhelds or a combination?
- Is a middleware needed to connect your RFID data with your ERP?
- Which RFID printers are the best for your needs (encoder configuration, print volume, durability, budget, etc.)?
Consideration 7 – Proof-of-concept
Once the solution logic, hardware, and software have been selected for the solution, you will want to proceed with a
This normally involves very limited hardware and software, so the investment will be minimal.
This stage is to make sure that what you have in mind works under all possible scenarios. For example, what happens
when someone uses the microwave oven in the break room? Yes, this has stopped an RFID solution from working – and
there are many other possible scenarios that need to be checked.
Consideration 8 – Run a Pilot Program
Following a successful proof-of-concept, you should run a pilot program. This will be the complete solution, fully
implemented but only for a select site or two and without any critical ties to your business.
If the pilot fails, it should not bring your business to a halt. Pilot programs usually also bring in any relevant suppliers
and/or customers, so the solution needs to be coordinated and tested with them at this stage.
Make sure to conduct a successful pilot program before going live.
Printronix Auto ID Solutions
Printronix Auto ID is a global manufacturer of RFID printers and supplier of RFID media (labels). We can assist with the printer and label selection processes.
We also work closely with many companies in the RFID industry and can connect you with various partners who are experts in other aspects of the technology.
If you need assistance finding a qualified system integrator, we can connect you with qualified solution providers who offer a single point of contact to handle an implementation from start to finish. Please feel free to contact us for assistance with your RFID project.