Why would you ever want to use both RFID and barcode tags on the same asset? It might seem redundant to use two methods of tracking, but in certain operations there are distinct advantages to having both.
Barcode and RFID asset tracking systems each have their strengths. For inventory functions; such as, performing cycle counts and performing annual inventories, RFID is going to save you tremendous time and provide outstanding accuracy. This is due in large part to the fact that RFID does not need a direct line of sight between the reader and the tag – the RFID reader is able to pick up the tag even if it is hidden or inside of a case. This allows the RFID reader to go through an area much more quickly than a barcode reader can.
In contrast, Barcode systems become the preferred method when it comes to order picking or order assembly. Situations where it is necessary to physically pick the items from the shelves — where you’re going to be touching the asset or a small number of assets — barcode is the right solution. When items are required to be handled anyway (for example, picking components to build an assembly) your line of sight barcode scan becomes an advantage and can actually improve your accuracy.
When does it make sense to use both?
When flexibility in the type of data capture is needed. In other words, if a barcode scan is the preferred method in one process and an RFID read is preferred in another process. For instance, we were designing a system for a company that manages a repair process. This repair process requires a repair technician to handle the item at each stage of the process. A simple barcode scan is preferred at each repair workstation. This provides insight to the exact location of an item in the process. However, when these items are stored prior to the repair process or when they’re ready for customer pick up, RFID tags enable fast, efficient cycle counting. This is particularly helpful when the customer arrives unannounced and is ready to pick up their item and pay for the repair.
In another example, we were designing a system for a company that warehouses valves for the oil and gas industries. Each valve has significant value to their customer and all valves need to be identified at a moments notice within warehouse bins as they are moved throughout the facility. In this case, it made sense to identify the bins and the valves with an RFID tag as they moved within the warehouse because each “chokepoint” or doorway was equipped with RFID readers, providing near real time monitoring of items as they move. Once these valves were sent to the field, technicians would use their smartphones to read the barcode which was paired with the RFID tag, instantly downloading item details and repair history. This eliminated the extra cost of added RFID hardware for each field technician and enabled the use of common everyday smartphones to get the job done with speed and accuracy.
These are a few examples of situations in your asset’s lifecycle and business processes where having both barcode and RFID systems in place can be a distinct advantage. Want to learn more about the benefits of RFID and Barcode tracking and why you might want to use both systems in tandem? Watch this short video from our recent webinar here…