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Inventory Control with RFID Software


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Hello all, I am beginning to research RFID Inventory Control systems for our company. I wanted to reach out if any users are currently using this inventory control technology and if so what is some feedback for someone starting at the beginning researching this. Also, if using are you integrated with Acumatica? 

 

Thanks  

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Best answer by gdow23 3 May 2022, 14:18

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Byates, that's a great direction you are taking as there are many advantages of RFID over conventional barcodes. I know both Acumatica and the RFID technology very well , even though i have not experienced any client yet using the two together , i would say it's very simple solution to apply on Acumatica. I would encourage you map your processes and points of using the RFID solution well. Since RFID readers are not plug n play like the barcode readers , you may require a third party plug in to allow "talking” with Acumatica. Even though the tech is not that cheap to implement , the benefits in many cases outweigh the cost. Go for it and incase of more help i am open. FWAMBUA

 

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Thanks for the reply @francisw00, much appreciated. At this point I am in a very exploratory stage. I have a very basic understanding of the technology. Since you appear to have some background understanding of this technology and process do you have any suggestions of possible providers that I can explore and contact? I would like to get some basic demo and more importantly a discussion with a professional to explain our needs and desired end goal to see if this is even the best route forward?

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We don’t use RFID system to control inventory. I think the process is same with the barcode system. I just deploy barcode scan system to my company. The scanner also have the RFID reader build-in. I don’t know what’s your real business process requests. If you want to sue RFID tunnel, ask the factory or set up RFID tunnel with a computer and use it as a RFID reader for the Acumatica WMS as well. 

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@byates Can you tell us what business problem you are trying to solve?  RFID may or may not be an appropriate solution.

I’ve worked with both bar codes and RFID.  Here are some general thoughts that might help:

  • Bar code scanners are like eyes - they require line of sight. The red beam has to cross all of the black bars.  RFID is like ears - a reader asks “is anybody out there” and any tag within earshot replies “me”.  Middle-ware must be in place to filter the numerous replies for context.
  • Bar codes are dirt cheap - black ink on white background.  RFID tags are orders or magnitude more expensive.  Ditto for the RFID readers.
  • Bar code scanners “see” and read one at a time.  RFID can “hear” and scan many tags in a second.
  • RFID read ranges can be inhibited by the materials being read.  RF bounces of metal, but is absorbed by dense liquids.  So sometimes perfectly good tags just don’t get read.

If barcodes can do the job, then use them.  RFID will justify when there are too may things to read and line of sight can’t be assured.

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@gdow23 

Absolutely, I should have clarified in my initial post. So we manage a network of 15 different inventory sites. Our biggest challenge with these sites is around inventory accuracy and control. Currently we rely on physical cycle counts every two weeks to validate our inventory. What I have experienced is that the sites have considerable issues providing us accurate inventory data and we consume a lot of resources chasing down variances. On top of that inventory movements are reported manually. So if we transfer items from one site to another we rely on that site to manually notify us when a transfer shipment occurs. We move a lot of freight so it is not uncommon for a truck load or more to go unreported. Similar issues on the Raw/Pack receipt side. Often I am not aware of a receipt until the AP invoice is received for the goods. It takes more time and resources to look for the receipt in the system, in some cases one does not exist because the site did not notify us that they received it. it is all just a very manual process, and we rely on less than stellar 3rd party sites. None of the sites are transacting ACU, that is all managed and entered centrally from our main office based on the daily documentation that they provide. We are just looking for a more reliable, systematic solution.

 

Let me know if you have any specific questions.

 

Thank you,

 

Brandon

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Brandon,

Inventory accuracy relies on discipline.  By that, I mean every time inventory is handled, there must be a corresponding timely accurate ERP transaction.  Adding any form of automation to an uncontrolled system yields no benefit.  So, until your sites and 3PLs follow the proper processes, don’t throw money at technology.

 

Greg

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I am currently prototyping an RFID warehousing solution, but only for a specific use case of ours. I would say that as a geneal matter, paper barcode labels are adequate for the majority of situations you might encounter.

Based on what you have described, I would say that you need to improve your process for tracking transfers. It is possible that an RFID solution would help you improve your process (for example, an active RFID tracker could log when the trucks arrive without any human intervention).

Just for your knowledge, there are really two types of RFID. Active and Passive.

Active RFID works similar to the “Find my iPhone” type solution you might be familiar with. It doesn’t use GPS or cell towers, but it’s a similar idea, where the RFID system can tell you exactly where a tagged item is at any time.

Passive RFID works by reflecting back a signal sent from a powered device. These tags require no power, but they are subject to some of the issues mentioned above (may not read well without line of sight, signal can be blocked by certain materials, etc).

Active RFID is used to track the location of high value items, and assets that may be constantly on the move (i.e. where in my warehouse is the forklift right this minute?)

Passive RFID is generally used to tag individual items (these tags are way lower cost than active tags and require no power to run, so they can still be read years after they are placed on the item).

With all that being said, it seems like some simple process improvements would help to fix your situation. Why are inventory movements reported manually? How can you fix that problem?

 

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Be careful not to equate “reading” with “locating”. 

Reading is merely, hearing the tag announce itself - A tag is recognized by a reader at a moment in time. That is all. 

Locating is reading the tag from multiple sensors at the same time,  and triangulating location coordinates.  These GPS-like solutions are often referred to as RTLS, for Real Time Locating Systems.

But still, any form of automation is premature if the manual processes are not effective and enforced.

 

 

 

 

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@gdow23 He is saying that one of their challenges is that they don’t know about inventory transfers until after they happen. It is possible that knowing which trucks arrived at different facilities and when would advance their ability to figure out where the inventory is moving before the paperwork hits the desk of the person who enters it into the system. So I see some potential use cases for an active rfid system that doesn’t require RTLS. You just need to know that truck A,B,C etc. left facility X and arrived at facility Y. Presumably there is some way to associate inventory moves with the truck moves. The exact location of the truck is likely irrelevant; the information that the truck arrived at a certain warehouse at a given time is the key data, so just reading the tag and logging that data is likely enough for a system of that kind.

However, even if you go with an RTLS solution, those things are becoming dirt cheap, especially when you are talking about tracking assets like trucks, etc (i.e. not millions of individual pieces of inventory). For example, Airtag is a perfectly adequate RTLS technology that you can buy at the Apple Store. I had the original Texas Instruments BLE dev kit when it first came out ~10 years ago; this stuff has advanced pretty far since then and is now commoditized.

 

 

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@rosenjon . My concern is that the upstream transactions are missing or inaccurate. There are lots of use cases for automation that will benefit a distribution operation, but they all should be built upon an accurate manual system.  Automating inaccuracy makes things worse, not better.  Once basic inventory discipline is in place, then RFID could be a great idea.

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