When it comes to the collection and storage of data (and for tracking units) companies across many industries face the question of whether to opt for RFID technology or for barcoding. Many business owners know that RFID and barcodes are nothing like each other and the entire functionality of these products vary greatly. But, that doesn’t deter us from making the necessary comparisons we need to make in order to help you make an informed choice. After all, you’re making an investment in either of these technologies for your operational needs.
Now, while there are significant differences between the two sets of technologies, there are a few similarities that also need to be stated for a more holistic comparison between the two.
Both technologies are means to track the products that they’ve been attached to. Furthermore, both products are means to collect and store data that can be easily retained whenever required. Both these systems are quite simplistic in their functioning. This relative lack of complexity makes both these solutions excellent tools for inventory management that can be performed by a relatively low-skilled workforce.
This section is what you need to be concerned about. Your choice between these two technologies ultimately hinges on their set of differences.
Volume of Data
In a comprehensive inventory management program, the aim is to ideally store large swaths of relevant information. For instance, let us consider the amount of data a single package of the newly legalized recreational marijuana would require? We would need the name and grade of the product, the name and address of the licensed distributor, date of packaging, information on which batch it came from, and more. Now, although 2D barcodes have provided us with an additional volume of storage space that linear barcodes didn’t have the capacity to match, RFID technology has trumped 2D barcodes, too. RFID tags can contain a far greater volume of data, and it can also contain diverse forms of data that a barcode simply couldn’t. However, while RFID technology can contain more data, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need it — the cost difference can be huge between the two technologies. It would make sense to consider seeking out an expert to understand the nature and intensity of your storage requirements.
Speed of Scanning
For an inventory management point of view, time, and by extension, speed is of the essence. The speed at which these technologies can scan a product or component of a product is critical for the inventory management efforts of a company, especially when we’re talking about huge volumes of inventory here. So, it’s imperative that we compare the two technologies in terms of their speed.
Human beings really are inefficient creatures, in fact it may take us in excess of two minutes just to jot down (with pen and paper) the relevant details of 12 similar products. When the same experiment was conducted using a barcode scanner, it accomplished the feat in no more than 40 seconds. That being said, the beauty of RFID technology is in its speed. When you consider that RFID scanner took barely two seconds to produce this count, we’re not surprised why several industries are adopting it at such a scale. However, your requirements matter more. If you don’t have extensive inventory management requirements, then barcodes might suffice.
Convenience of Operations
There’s a major distinction between the two technologies that we’d like to make here. While RFID traceability solutions utilize the ‘near-field’ technology to aid its functionality, barcoding requires ‘line-of-sight’ technology. What this essentially entails is that each barcode must be scanned by a barcode scanner at the point of contact. This problem is aggravated further if we’re talking about a linear barcode, which needs to be aligned accordingly for you to successfully scan it. This isn’t a problem with RFID technology; as an antenna can register several tagged items at one go if they are in range. Even if these tagged items are packed in a box, the technology is good enough to scan them. You don’t have to unpack a box simply for the purpose of inventory management.
Accuracy of Scanning
Now, this is debatable for several reasons. It is found that barcodes are relatively inaccurate when compared to RFID technology. However, this perceived inaccuracy is more a result of the nature of ‘line of sight’ technology, where employees have to scan each item one-by-one in busy warehouses. Such a monotonous task can result in a couple of lapses on the part of those tasked with inventory counting duties. Employees don’t face such issues with RFID technology as the ‘near-field’ technology rids the employees of such monotony in operations, and thereby helps them reduce scanning errors, too.
Obviously, RFID > Barcodes! Right?
Yes, while it’s true that RFID is technologically no match for barcodes, it doesn’t mean you should make a decision based on that alone. There are other factors that also need to be considered.
- The practicality of your decision hinges on what you’re tracking. If all items are of the same size and uniform in nature, we can still see a case for barcoding, considering it’s a relatively cheaper investment. It is, however, advised that you consult an expert to understand the suitability of the technology based on the material of the inventory.
- Your ultimate choice must also depend on how much you need to know about a particular piece of inventory. You need to understand the amount and the nature of information you need to store about a piece of inventory. RFID tags can contain a greater amount of data when compared to a barcode. “How much information do you need to store?” is the crucial question at hand here.
- And lastly, the decision must be made on the basis of how the tracking will take place. Barcoding needs to take place a certain way for it to work well. Effective barcoding tends to work well with conveyor belts in place. RFID systems offer greater flexibility, thanks, in part, to its near-field technology.
Now, that you have a clearer idea of the technology you intend to use, the next step is enlisting the help of a firm that specializes in offering such solutions. Coincidentally, that’s a problem our experts at Jet Marking Systems can help you with. Contact us to understand more about our solution to your dilemma.