Part 2: Can RFID replace all barcodes?

RFID replacing barcodes

In Part 1, we looked at RIFD, what it is, its uses benefits over bar codes and drawbacks. In this blog, we’ll cover just where RFID is opening a world of opportunities and the future as we see it.

RFID opens a world of opportunities, but where?

From products to animals and even people, RFID tags are being used in a whole range of applications worldwide. In Spain, RFID technology is used for blood bank tracking. Air Canada is tracking the food carts it uses at airports. Here in Australia, Australia Nursing Homes is using RFID-chipped underpants to monitor residents’ incontinence.

Tennis anyone?

And the 2013 Australian Open saw Kia Motors Australia partner with Jacob’s Creek to launch an RFID-based program, Courtesy Ride, to prevent alcohol-related incidents and share the tennis experience. It was hailed the biggest activation of RFID within Australia.

Groceries?

But how about the humble food and grocery sector? RFID has been present here for a while now, but notably only on cartons and returnable transport items, such as pallets and trolleys. First and foremost, it’s used for improving supply chain processes and for driving the “FIFO” (first in-first out) principle. So if you have fresh produce and you’re driving a forklift into the warehouse, RFID tagging at a carton level will help make sure you’re sending out the oldest produce first.

But at an item-level for food and groceries, RFID tagging still has a way to go. To date, the costs have proved simply too prohibitive, and the grocery industry simply cannot afford to add any costs to their items, unless they cut costs elsewhere. And that begs the question, who should tag the products and pay for the tags? The grocery producer or the grocery retailer? It’s thought that as RFID gets more and more widespread, the trend will probably move towards tagging at production, just as with barcodes.

The future as we see it 

RFID tags are getting better, smaller and more durable, and their prices are finally going down, with tag prices dropping 40% over the past few years.

So will 2014 be the year where we will see a growth in item-level tagging? Only time will tell.

What we do know is that the food and grocery industry still needs to see a bigger return on investment before RFID becomes the norm. Those grocery retailers that already have RFID at a carton level are in the best place to expand the system to an item-level as a big part of the hardware and software system is already paid for.

Cost aside, the arguments for RFID are too good to ignore. Manufacturers and retailers alike are constantly striving to streamline their processes, and RFID enables this on a huge scale. Moreover, supply chains are increasingly complex, and demand more efficient solutions than barcode systems can offer. Add to this the increasing desire to track everything on an individual level, and it’s only a matter of time until RFID becomes mainstream.

And at the end of the day, automated systems will always win against manual systems. That is 100% right — both in the future and the present.

If you want to discuss RFID in more detail and find out how it will work for your company, call us on 1300 CODING (1300 263 464) or email us.

Mark Dingley
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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