Paul Trudgian Ltd | Supply Chain & Logistics Consultancy No Comments

Tracking products from factory floor to consumer purchase has never been more important. From increasing government regulations and the importance of tracking safety and consumer recalls to the money-saving impact of proper supply chain management, setting up a solid asset tracking solution is a vital part of doing business in the 21st century.

Radio frequency identification technology can make every part of supply chain management and asset tracking a lot easier. These tiny chips can be embedded in just about any type of product, and they provide the tracking information companies need to manage their operations, lower their costs and remain compliant with ever more stringent governmental and safety regulations.

It was not that long ago that RFID technology was expensive to implement and cumbersome to use, but those days are now gone. RFID chips have never been more affordable – or more capable. If you are not yet using this state-of-the-art technology, you are potentially missing out on cost savings and giving up a real competitive advantage.

Setting up a successful asset tracking operation with RFID technology is not as difficult as you might think. Whether you are a small startup struggling to compete with the big boys or one of the biggest players in your industry, the successful implementation of an RFID asset tracking system can make your operation more efficient and positively impact your bottom line. Here are the steps you will need to take to implement a powerful RFID-fueled asset tracking system.

Step 1 – Identify and Prioritise Your Business Processes

While many business processes can benefit from asset tracking technology, some processes will benefit more than others. Identifying those essential processes and giving them priority will maximise your return on investment and give you the cash flow you need to implement additional asset tracking processes in the future.

The prioritisation process will also help you identify processes that may not benefit from RFID technology. RFID is a powerful upgrade to your supply chain, but it is not suitable for every part of the manufacturing and distribution process. Identifying the parts of the process that will not benefit from RFID tracking allows you to focus your efforts where they will be most useful.

Step 2 – Map Your Business Process and Workflow

Identifying the target applications for your asset tracking is an important first step. Now it is time to map out your business process and workflow and see where RFID technology can help you improve your operations.

Start by mapping out every part of the production and distribution process, from which asset items are to be tracked to the movement of those assets throughout your facility. Work with the management team to develop a working map, then use that map to lay out the movement of trackable assets throughout your production facility and distribution network.

Step 3 – Perform a Thorough Site Assessment

Conducting a thorough site assessment is the next step in the implementation of a successful RFID-enabled asset tracking system. Again you can turn to your management team to perform this site assessment and develop a strategy for incorporating RFID tags into your day-to-day operations.

You can begin by gathering the information you need to determine the requirements for the asset tracking project. Surveying the existing landscape of your site is essential, since certain infrastructure elements can interfere with the RFID equipment and reduce its effectiveness.

Those potential complications include things like short-range radios, existing RF sources and even cordless phones. Knowing where those items are located and developing a plan to relocate or work around them is a critical part of implementing a successful asset tracking processing using RFID chips.

Step 4 – Develop Your Asset Tracking Architecture

Now that you have the lay of the land so to speak, you can continue by developing the asset tracking architecture that will eventually lower your costs and make your operations more efficient. During this step you will determine which assets need to be tracked, how those assets move through the production process and the supply chain and where the RFID readers are to be placed throughout the facility.

Developing a scalable architecture will be critical at this point. You do not want to build a system that is not able to grow with your business, and you will need to think about tomorrow as well as today.

Step 5 – Install, Test and Fine Tune Your System

No matter how carefully you plan your RFID-enabled asset tracking system, you cannot anticipate every eventuality or foresee every roadblock. That is why it is so important to build in sufficient time for testing and fine tuning your new asset tracking system.

Developing a smart strategy and complete documentation for the installation of your asset tracking system is very important, as is working with an experienced vendor who can guide you every step along the way. From where the RFID readers will be located throughout your facility to how issues will be identified and addressed, your installation documentation will need to address all of those concerns.

The documentation you create will also need to provide a detailed process for testing and fine tuning the system, both through the initial stages and during actual operation. It is important to stress the asset tracking system and simulate its day-to-day operations. This will allow you to identify and address weak spots now, before they interfere with mission-critical operations.

Step 6 – Train Your Team

Even the best RFID-enabled asset tracking system will be useless if your workers do not know how to operate it. Communication and training are critical parts of the implementation process, and your schedule should provide plenty of time for this vital last step.

You will want to develop a comprehensive training guide your management team can use to train their employees – a step-by-step document that is easy to follow and easy to understand. You will also want to make sure every member of the management team has the skills and training they need to support the asset tracking system and troubleshoot any problems that may occur. The more your team knows about the asset tracking system the easier it will be to implement the processes and work through any growing pains.

RFID technology has come a long way in a short period of time. What started out as a good but prohibitively expenses idea is now highly affordable, easy to implement and better than ever before. The steps outlined above can help you develop a powerful asset tracking system that will improve your supply chain, lower your costs and let you stay one step ahead of the competition.

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