We’re on the edge of the next wave of visibility technologies. By Aik Jin, Tan, vertical solutions lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific
We often find ourselves in this situation: rummaging through our belongings, looking for our car keys with one hand while balancing two takeout coffees in the other.
Similarly, scouring a warehouse or yard for misplaced items is clumsy, aggravating, and a waste of resources. The same can be said for manually chasing down the location status of shipments in real time, and logging reports via phone or email with individual customers.
In Asia-Pacific, amidst the pandemic, the unprecedented demand of online orders saw a shift in consumer patterns.
Nielsen reported that in Singapore, Covid-19 drove a higher penetration of online shopping for FMCG products (personal care, home care, beverages, packaged food) as 7 in 10 consumers are shopping online to stock up their pantry.
As such, with the surge of online orders, many companies are faced with issues of damaged goods, lost parcels in transitions, and even late deliveries.
According to Zebra’s Warehousing Asia Pacific Vision Study, supply chain visibility is cited as one of the most significant operational challenges now and within the next five years.
The question of lost opportunities comes to mind. Can the lack of visibility into stock or asset locations affect sales and production?
As a result of such logistical complications, issues can arise in stock rooms and at every touch point in the supply chain, resulting in dangerous consequences in the medical, pharmacological and law enforcement industries.
That is when maintaining asset visibility not only improves the bottom line, but more importantly, can help to save lives.
Why Tracking Assets Is Now Essential
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology dates back to World War II, where it was used by the British to help early radar system crews identify which planes belonged to the enemy and which were a country’s own pilots returning from a mission.
Early forms of RFID technology application in the 20th century included keyless door locks, tracking of nuclear material, automated toll payment systems, and maintaining livestock.
With the end of World War II, the application of RFID technology in emergency services has expanded over the years. In healthcare, it is necessary to have visibility and accountability, as lives depend on it.
Hospital staff must locate patient testing equipment such as drug infusion pumps within seconds. IT teams need to track equipment in server vaults to eliminate the risk of lost or misplaced equipment and identify when equipment has been stolen or breached. This contributes to today’s aggressive innovation around real-time location systems (RTLS).
Instant fulfillment expectations are on the rise due to the existing ‘on-demand’ economy. With the pandemic ushering in a new era of online shopping from the safety of home, contactless delivery is seen as a potentially life-saving solution.
The ability to quickly find a single item – whether in transit or at rest – has taken on new significance. Combine that with labor shortages and the increasingly competitive business climate, and visibility is more important for efficiency and oversight than ever.
Manufacturers, warehouse operators, healthcare providers and public safety agencies need a reliable way to maintain accountability for assets throughout the supply chain, whether it is prescription medication, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or other items that are critical to public health or retail assets in general.
RFID Technology Can Revolutionise Visibility
What the ongoing pandemic has shown us is the importance of remote interaction and asset management for global supply chains. It also highlights the necessity of technologies that can provide maximum visibility into every corner of operations.
It can be easy to overlook the ways in which technology has been woven into our everyday activities. For instance, the ingredients in your most recent meal were tracked and traced at every point in the supply chain, from the producer to your local grocery store.
Your most recent shopping package also prompted a notification when it arrived, because it was marked and traced from the warehouse to your doorstep.
The future of business optimisation is in the consolidation of detailed information about inventory, personnel, and the stage of progress for each task – essentially in real time. This is made possible with RFID technology.
It allows multiple sensors and a whole host of tagging and scanning solutions, each specialised to work differently to confirm the temperature or specific location of people, equipment, and materials at any given moment.
Upon proper execution, RFID can prevent disruption to businesses’ operations and our way of life as consumers.
Zebra Technologies’ 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index found that 52 percent of global organisations polled are already using active RFID technology in some capacity. A further 34 percent intend to implement RFID in the next few years.
While you probably do not need RFID technologies to locate your car keys, RFID tags allow manufacturers, warehouse operators and transporters to protect against the accidental mishandling of hazardous materials in the warehouse and provide multiple ways for healthcare providers to safeguard against incidents in their healthcare facilities.
Additionally, RFID wristbands can be used to confirm patients’ locations, while special RFID labels can assist with drug inventory and administration control.
RFID technology even has applications in sports, used today for performance analysis and game strategy.
Simply put, RFID technology has staying power, with the power to connect every system, device, tag and worker.
Businesses cannot afford to lose control of valuable assets. Advanced technologies such as RFID make every asset – whether a person, piece of equipment or inventory part – more visible, connected and fully optimised across entire operations.
Managers and workers alike can ‘see’ where something is located in real time without having to send someone down to the warehouse or laboratory to physically report and confirm.
RFID technology can transform your business, and provide you with a head-start over your competitors – giving you a higher ROI and providing you with the means to rapidly grow your business in the new post-pandemic reality across every industrial and consumer sector.
With the on-demand economy fueling the ‘want-it-now’ mentality of consumers, it is important for business leaders to re-analyse their strategies, starting with opening a realm of possibilities which can be made into realities with RFID technology.
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