For firms who have decided to embark on an RFID-led stocktaking or tracking method, one of the first steps is to adopt a printing and encoding method, and then decide how these tags will be read at each stage of the supply chain. Tags can be printed and encoded using an RFID printer with an encoding add-on, while handheld readers are also able to encode tags, but not print them. A common method for encoding tags is ‘Scan-Scan-Next’ process, in which the reader scans the RFID serial and the SKU and links the data together, then moves onto the next tag.
When it comes to reading RFID tags, there are two core options:
Often utilized at transitional points in the supply chain such as ports, checkout counters and packing stations, fixed readers can drive up to 32 near- or far-field antennae; near-field offering a narrow/condensed read-field of up to 50cm, and far-field offering a higher read-range of around 8-10 meters. With fixed readers, retailers can create any kind of custom installation at any point in the supply chain in which the items move through a particular read station.
Portable, pocket or handheld devices can be used for massive inventory counts carried out by employees, for instance in the store room of a retail premise. These generally function via bluetooth, pairing handheld RFID readers with Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and allowing for the seamless, instant exchange of data.
Unlike barcode scanners, these readers can scan multiple tags at once and do not requires a direct line of sight to the tag. While heavily stocked warehouses and storerooms used to represent hours of employee labour, the same bulk of goods can now be processed in a matter of minutes, with a far smaller margin of human error. Handheld readers can cover a range from a few mm up to 30cm, or up to 4-5m for larger stock takes.