Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that allows for identification and tracking by microchip. It does this through storing information in the microchip on the tag and delivering that information to a reader through the attached antenna.
So, does this technology have the potential to complement and enhance automation? Well, the short answer is yes, and it is already being applied this way in a number of industries. Here, we will go into greater detail as to how RFID can enhance automation systems, and will also cover why it may be important for your business to make the switch as the era of Industry 4.0 continues moving forward.
How can RFID enhance automation?
As previously mentioned, RFID allows for identification and tracking by microchip. This is exactly why RFID makes a great complement to automation. In the presence of readers, sensors, machine vision, robotics, material handling and specialized software, RFID becomes a component of the automation system itself. More traditional automation systems have the capacity to adapt to RFID as well through adding necessary components as needed.
You may be thinking, based off of this description that barcodes and scanners are already filling the role we are describing for RFID in your current process, and to a certain degree they likely are. However, there are three major differences between barcode and RFID labels.
RFID labels can be read by a reader without line of sight; barcodes need to be placed directly in front of a scanner to be read. This allows RFID labels to be tracked through whatever process they are going through with reduced human interference.
RFID labels can be read from a greater distance than barcodes. Depending on the frequency of the RFID tag, this distance can be anywhere from a millimeter to a few meters. This also allows for reduced human interference.
RFID labels can store a lot more information than a barcode making tracking product easier and more accurate.
Automation is intended to make processes faster and more efficient. Through utilization of RFID you are given to the opportunity to do just that.
A prime example to understand the benefits of RFID and how it creates value within automated processes is within the food retail industry. Most foods are picked, packed, caught, manufactured, etc., then embark on a series of automated processes before making it to the retailer.
Oftentimes, RFID chips are placed in pallets, containers, and cases that contain food or other consumer goods to increase traceability. This allows for a decrease in outbreaks of disease, contaminants, or spoiled foods, and increased transparency throughout the entire food supply chain. This ensures that wherever the food goes, as soon as the RFID chip passes an in-gate, the source, important dates, ingredients, etc. are disclosed
Another example of RFID in a process is within healthcare. In the healthcare industry, quality is observed by reducing the possibility of human error, and RFID helps achieve that. If a human sample is collected and an RFID chip is utilized on the sample container, the tag will store all patient information, when and where the sample was taken, and all other required information.
This way, when the sample is sent off, if it is mislabeled or results come back faulty, all information needed to correct and preserve the integrity of the sample was stored right at the source.
RFID can be used with automation in just about every industry to increase efficiencies and transparency throughout the process. Information from many steps throughout a workflow can be stored on the RFID chip; for example, in manufacturing, RFID can carry the history on how and when a part was made and what it was made of on the item directly.
Why should you consider RFID?
Now that you know how it works, and how it has benefitted the food retail and healthcare industries, let’s talk about why you might need to upgrade to RFID. If you have automation, you likely need RFID, or will in the near future. As industry 4.0 takes over, smart processes are becoming the norm, and no one is doubting the intelligence of RFID.
All workflows are able to be streamlined with automation and RFID in a way that saves money and improves quality throughout any industry. Currently, many workflow systems depend on barcodes for automatic identification not knowing RFID is an option.
The great thing about RFID is the benefits aren’t limited. As time goes by and more innovations come to life in the era of Industry 4.0, RFID will be able to accommodate and complement them. Additionally, you can tailor your RFID technology to your business and create benefits using sources of differentiation through RFID.
All of these reasons speak to why RFID and automation are so powerful together. Combined, they result in efficiency, throughput, increased workflow, and sources of differentiation that help your customers. If you would like to learn more about how RFID can help you and your business processes, contact us.