Marking, tracking and managing assets with RFID allows military, contractor and civilian organizations granular insight into the location, state of readiness and performance data of individual assets. RFID data capture systems are able to read and collect the data quickly and automatically, since they do not require a direct line of sight or handling of the individual items (like barcode or IUID). Inventory cycle counts can be performed in a fraction of the time of manual or barcode tracking since RFID can simultaneously scan multiple items in a broad area.
RFIDs can also store much more data than a traditional 2D barcode allowing for applications like recording maintenance that’s been performed on individual assets. Also, RFID can be used to identify assets inside a kit or container. Once tagged, all items contained inside the container can be inventoried with a single pull of a trigger on an RFID scanner. A great example is a test assembly that relies upon a myriad of cables that are stored within a case. Each cable inside the case needs to be working perfectly for the assembly to work. Frequent inspection of the assembly is mandated — but to do a visual inspection and cycle count of the entire case and contents is very time-consuming. Placing RFID tags on all cables with the test assembly would dramatically reduce the inventory time and improve mission readiness.
This is not to say that IUID doesn’t have a major role in global asset identification on a massive scale. It’s simply to identify areas of operation that could benefit from RFID that may be overlooked by the broader DoD initiative required within the military standards.
Understanding Where the Pentagon Falls Short
While MIL-STD 129 and MIL-STD 130 requires specific RFID and IUID standards that a government contractor must meet, using auto ID technology according to these standards does not always optimize asset identification and tracking for every asset class or process. Commercial organizations have pioneered the use of RFID to create greater automation which provides for better operational data for certain use cases.
The DoD could take a lesson from industry and take advantage of RFID when tracking and managing location or the state of repair for specific critical asset classes such as weapons, IT equipment, or hard to reach embedded components within a larger assembly. Something as simple as tracking warranty assets down to the serialized item can yield major savings and increase mission readiness. It seems it’s often easier for the DoD to buy a new widget, then to have the old widget repaired under warranty.
Understanding 2D Barcodes vs. RFID Tagging – Beyond the Military Environment
Auto identification technology like 2D barcodes and RFID labeling are central to the DoD strategy of successfully managing and tracking their assets and shipments. The DoD relies on auto identification technology because it allows for simple product identification and authentication, visibility of assets, enhanced security, faster and more accurate inventory control, labor savings, and precise data.
In a non-military asset tracking environment, the choice between 2D barcodes and RFID labeling depends on the depth and breadth of your operations and cost of implementation. The difficulty of implementation is often the deciding factor between barcodes or RFID tags for many organizations.
Barcodes are price-friendly and simple to implement, but require direct line-of-sight reading and touching each item or asset, which can quickly become a time and labor intensive endeavor depending on the scale of your organization.
In contrast, RFID tags require less handling and are therefore less intrusive. RFID tags also allow for faster reads with no direct line-of-sight and or handling of individual assets. With RFID tags, there is a reduced risk of asset tags being copied. RFIDs can store much more information than a traditional 2D barcode allowing for applications like recording maintenance that’s been performed on assets. RFID tags can be ideal where a barcode cannot be used.
Utilizing the full potential of an Auto ID system requires a detailed understanding of the latest technology and how it can be most efficiently applied to the entire lifecycle of a specific asset. Improve the systems at your organization by taking a look at how the US Military manages one of the most complex supply chains in the world. To learn more download our latest eBook: Track and Manage your Assets Like the Pentagon.