Advances in cloud and tracking technology, such as RAIN RFID, allows previously disconnected technology to connect to the internet, expanding the definition of the Internet of Things (IoT) and enabling companies to benefit from digitizing their supply chains.
But, how can companies leverage today’s technology in order to gather data quickly and accurately? How can companies use IoT to help automate processes? Where does digitizing and tracking products in the supply chain start? And, what benefits will companies see from digitizing the supply chain?
Starting the digital life
One of the first questions customers ask is, “How can we automate our receiving process using RFID or other automation technology?” And the basic answer to that is, “How do we get something onto your product we can use for tracking?
In order to take full advantage of the IoT, companies must give items a digital life and identity. This means adding barcodes, active transponders, or RAIN RFID tagging to products. This can be a challenge for manufacturers and retailers whose suppliers are across many different countries with varying technological infrastructures. Many wait until they have received the products from their suppliers to tag the items and start their digital life.
The reasons for digitizing a company’s supply chain are as varied and diverse as the companies themselves. For some they want to gather information about items that are within their warehouse. Others want to improve inventory accuracy. Then there’s those whose driving force behind this effort is improving shipment tracking for compliance.
One of the major benefits of giving a digital life to items is you now have something that is extendable. Companies may use the information gathered to solve one problem today, and many more problems in phase two, three, or four – all because they tagged an item to solve a problem in phase one.
Another benefit is the ability to automate tracking processes. Most companies’ tracking processes are still manual, which can result in inaccuracies and can slow down the supply chain. By automating processes, companies dramatically improve the accuracy of their tracking data, as well as have immediate access to that date within their business systems.
When companies tag their products they gain inventory visibility that has broad, expansive implications across the whole supply chain. With the data gathered, manufacturers gain insight into which products sell faster so they know where to funnel their production resources. By the same token, instead of filling store shelves and ending up with excess inventory that needs to be moved at a discount, retailers have better visibility into their inventory and can replenish items based on actual sales.
Beyond barcodes & RFID
Technology companies are always looking for ways to improve or enhance the systems that are in place. Building on the use cases of RFID tags using RAIN RFID, low-energy Bluetooth tags are currently in development.
Depending on the Bluetooth tag and reading devise, these tags can be read from 100 to 300 feet away. Low-energy Bluetooth is an area that is going to add to supply chain visibility in the IoT world, and it enhances some of the RAIN RFID technology. While RAIN RFID tags are typically placed on individual items, uses for low-energy Bluetooth tags would include tagging a pallet or a high-ticket item like a piece of industrial machinery.
At the end of the day, the Internet of Things is all about data and what sensing technology works best for a company, which is determined by what they want to track and where they want to read the data. In some instances barcodes or RAIN RFID is going to make the most sense. In other instances, another sensor may be the best thing.