RFID technology is one of those investments that takes research, thought, planning, and care. The advantages of RFID are sizeable. For businesses that know what they’re doing, the technology can provide the data necessary to avoid all kinds of shortages, ensure timely and reliable delivery, provide maintenance history, and plenty more. This is one of those investments that pay for themselves very quickly, but only for those who know what they’re doing with it. There are twelve common issues frequently faced by RFID first-timers. If you’re considering investing in RFID, read this, then go forth and prosper.
- Understand that RFID might not be best for your business right now
RFID can propel a business far, but it’s not for everyone. Some might want to invest for the wrong reasons. A competitor using it, a general affinity for technology, and consultation with magic 8-balls are all bad reasons for taking this plunge. You really need to have a clear understanding of why RFID will be a boon to your firm. Investing in RFID prematurely can lead to heartache.
- Clearly identify your pain points
What exact problem would RFID fix? If you don’t have a precise idea of what you need to accomplish, you can wind up over- or under-investing. Once you’ve identified your pain points, you need to quantify the cost, then conduct an analysis to see what savings RFID could bring.
- Tricky ROI estimate
Estimating an ROI for and RFID system can be a deceiving process. You’ll get an underestimate if you focus on hardware and don’t fully account for software and integration portions, which actually constitute the majority of cost. Costs should include not just hardware and software, but also employee training and any operational changes needed to exploit the data you’ll be collecting. Do the ROI yourself, as well as have several other internal people submit their versions. This way, you’ll be most sure you’ve accounted for everything. This technology may be a CFO capital investment decision, although most cases will not require such major investment, and ROI will be captured within a year and a half.
- Know RFID’s capabilities and limitations
Some potential buyers have some misconceptions about what the technology is and what it can do for them. Take all the time you need to research what the capabilities and limitations are. One source of such information would be those selling RFID. Ask around, read up, and be knowledgeable before purchasing.
- Your IT department needs to have its fingers in the pie
The IT department has to be involved from the earliest stages of the discussion. The purpose of RFID is data, and those data need to be processed in IT systems in a useful way. Don’t wait until the last minute and put the IT people in a lurch. They’re actually a valuable resource during the discussion of whether or not to implement the technology. Everyone’s best interest is enshrined in the maxim, “It’s not serious until IT is involved.”
- Choose the right frequency
There are several different ranges to choose from. To make things a bit simpler, we’ll only mention the most popular in this section: passive ultra-high frequency (UHF). In a nutshell, passive UHF allows for short read ranges of just inches and long read ranges of about 50 feet. Active UHF is another option to be covered in the next item. You should know that frequency choice is something to be researched and thought about before purchasing.
- Choosing between active and passive RFID
In choosing between active and passive systems, there are a few things to consider. The first is battery life of the tags. You can replace batteries in tags, but that takes labor. You can also replace the tags, but there are parts and labor cost to that approach too. The next issue to consider is Wi-Fi usage. An active system will take up more bandwidth than passive. If you choose active, you’ll want to evaluate your current system’s capabilities and consider upgrading the Wi-Fi.
- Choose the right tags for the environment
Different industries are going to demand different levels of durability of their tags. There is a great plethora of tags out there, and there’s almost surely one engineered to suit your business’ needs. Some things to consider when shopping for a tag model are temperature, moisture/humidity, conductivity (metal surfaces, etc.), read range, and the need for extended memory.
- Choose the right hardware
Make sure you buy the right antenna and reader. The specifications of the antenna need to be suitable to the read range. The right antenna will only read the tags you intend without missing or adding unwanted tags. There’s another list of specifications accompanying the reader. The best advice is to do your research on these pieces of hardware. Also, don’t but the newest technology just to be prepared for the future. Technology improves rapidly, and if you buy something you don’t really need, the next generation may make your gadget lose its lustre.
- Appeasing the software gods
Choosing software is one of the more rewarding aspects of this investment if done correctly. Buy inadequate software, and your RFID technical functions will be limited. Buy too elaborate software, and you risk users feeling overwhelmed. Middleware can be configured to link the reader to the IT system. There are a lot of good software and middleware packages out there. A desirable software feature is a program that can manage data without concerning the human operator.
- Do yourself a favor and hire an expert integrator
Even if you’re a well-informed first-adopter, you almost invariably are not up to the task of setting up your new RFID system with only the people you already have in-house. When this course is taken, poor performance of the system usually ensues due to incorrect implementation. Technology is frequently blamed instead of human error. A professional integrator can save you hassle, headache, and expense by setting up the hardware and software and even training your staff.
- Some advice on implementation
Implement your RFID technology one step at a time, and let it run for a bit before moving on to the next step. Be aware that the reader or antenna your research said would be best might need to be exchanged. Make sure everything is working correctly before beginning to fully rely on your RFID system. This can be accomplished by doing a proof of concept. A POC can bridge the gap between the system’s expected and applied functionality.
An RFID system may be a revolutionary godsend for your company. To make sure it becomes that godsend instead of a source of disappointment and resentment, be sure you are in a position to benefit from RFID and you conduct all necessary research. A change so potentially lucrative is enticing, but the prospect of the necessary research can have the opposite effect. If you’d like help choosing the right system for your operation, please call our office. Our experts can advise not just on whether or not you’re ready, but can bring you straight through the whole process.