The Role Of RFID In Digital Organisation

T.G.Dhandapani is a Chartered Accountant having more than 31 years of professional experience in the fields of Finance, Business planning, Operations, Projects and IT. He is responsible for IT strategy development and execution in 10 companies, including TVS Motor and Sundaram Clayton.

A radio frequency identification reader(RFID reader) is a device used to gather information from an RFID tag, which is used to track individual objects. Radio waves are used to transfer data from the tag to a reader. RFID is a technology similar in theory to bar codes. However, the RFID tag does not have to be scanned directly, nor does it require line-of-sight to a reader. The RFID tag it must be within the range of an RFID reader, which ranges from 3-300 feet, in order to be read. RFID technology allows several items to be quickly scanned and enables fast identification of a particular product, even when it is surrounded by several other items.

Typically RFID tags are used for tracking whether People, Asset, Documents, Inventory, Animal or Books. These application typically gives visibility of the location or progress but more for keeping the hygiene. For example People tracking is used for attendance management system or visitor management system. This is to keep hygiene of discipline. Assets or inventory tracking helps in online measurement of progress of work or for easy identification. For example, asset tracking helps in automation of periodical physical verification of Assets and Inventories. Animal tracking is used in forest and big cattle field to monitor the movement of animals. Tracking of documents typically used in financial services industry for safe storage and retrieval of important mortgaged documents like building registration certificates or RC books of vehicles. Availability of large amount of data and documents brings lots of problem in document management system. An RFID document-tracking system saves time and money by substantially reducing either time spent searching for lost document or the financial and legal impact associated with losing documents.

These applications though bring marginal operational benefits but d on’t b ring size able strategic benefits.

High level automation in process plant can be achieved using simple RFID applications. For example, in paint plant of automotive organisations, RFID tags can be used to sense size of the components by which movement of paint application robots are controlled, and thereby improving transfer efficiency ratio and more saving on rupees spent on treating wasted paints in the drains. Another example is, where Process parameters actually used while manufacturing individual products, can help in review of the standards based on field feedback.

RFID, with its ability to locate anything, has been used in a vast number of fields that one may have never even thought of

RFID tags can be used in a manufacturing setting to identify the product that is being assembled, as well as the constituent parts that are to be installed into the product. At the time of assembly, it is then possible to do an instant check to ascertain what parts need to be installed in the product, and whether the parts that are installed are the correct parts. Thus, RFID has a role in assuring the quality of the end product. This benefit is particularly valuable if the product is highly customizable.

RFID technology can also be used in capturing genealogy of the vehicle that can help in recall of those a few defects instead of recalling entire batch.

Robust RFID tags can be used in high temperature, dusty, chemical and other harsh industrial environments where its near impossible for humans to collect on-line data.

An interesting application of RFID in the retail sector is the use of smart shelves and item-level tagging. Smart shelves are retail shelves that have RFID readers built-in. The main purpose of smart shelves is to prevent out-of-stock situations(OOS) from occurring at the shelf. An out of- stock situation occurs at the shelf if a customer wants to buy a certain product, but the shelf is empty. Shelf replenishment from the backroom is initiated by a notification from the shelf to the store personnel.

In health care industry, patient safety is a big challengeof healthcare vertical. Reducing medication errors, meeting new standards, staff shortages, and reducing costs are the plus points of use of RFID solutions. RFID wristbands containing patient records and medication history address several of these concerns.

Naturally, there are limitations to RFID. Some limitations are due to the laws of physics. Metals and liquids,for example, effectively block radio waves. This is particularly true for UHF and Microwave frequencies. Thus, it is generally not possible to read RFID tags enclosed in metal or surrounded by liquids. There are some advances in tag and antenna design that allow for RFID tags to be placed on metal objects, as long as the tag is not fully enclosed. But in general, RFID does not work very well in environments where the product is surrounded by metals or liquids. Any manufacturing shop floor is a steel jungle and making the technology work is really a problem. A potential workaround to the problem of fluids and metals blocking RF is to use multiple readers, trying to read a tag from different angles. This will not only improve read rates in the presence of metals and liquids, but also in the general case. But this is expensive.

In order to get size able benefit, along with RFID technology, IT systems, Analytics, business process or manufacturing flow should work in healthy ecosystem. RFID, with its ability to locate anything, has been used in a vast number of fields that one may have never even thought of.