Five Ways to Attach RFID Tags

RFID tags can attach to different surface types using a variety of mounting techniques. Depending on the material, improper attachment can cause read rates to decline, impacting user ability to track and manage assets.

Film Adhesive
Film adhesive is quick and easy to apply. It is the least expensive method and, as a result, it is used in the majority of RFID tags today. It is especially useful for fixed assets.

Foam Adhesive
Foam adhesive is a more rugged solution. It is stronger than film and the preferred application technique for more durable assets but also for those that remain fixed.

Epoxy Adhesive
Epoxy adhesive is the strongest adherent, typically utilized to cover embedded tags or affix tags to assets that experience significant travel and wear-and-tear.

Screw and/or rivet adhesive is often used in tandem with a more durable tag and requires tools to affix and remove.

Wire/Cable Tie
Wire and cable ties are implemented when the above options are not workable. This method works well for unusually shaped items, like cables and other hard-to-tag items, but it is not very durable.

Contact us to learn more about how to attach RFID tags and to discuss which solution is right for your application.

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Methods of Asset Tracking

While asset tracking can be time consuming and expensive, there are methods of asset tracking that can save your organization time and money. The goal of any asset tracking system, therefore, is to maximize asset control efficiency and minimize equipment loss. Through the use of mobile computers, barcode labels, handheld barcode scanners, and asset management software, you can track your assets in real time, resulting in more efficient production planning and reduced downtime. The proper management software also enables organizations to schedule necessary maintenance or service, or even preventive maintenance. Complete asset tracking solutions include barcode technology, enabling organizations to scan their fixed assets to track them accurately and efficiently.

Barcodes are the standard for data collection and asset tracking, giving each asset a unique identifier so that they may be individually recognized and tracked. Barcodes include information that is critical to business, such as project name, asset category, and more. Barcode scanners read each barcode, allowing organizations to count assets more quickly and accurately without the risk of introducing human error.

What is Asset Tracking?

Think about all of your physical assets. You may have more than you realized, and if you do, then you need to enhance your asset tracking practices. Asset tracking, sometimes referred to as asset management, is the method you use to track your physical assets, whether you scan barcode labels attached to them or you use GPS or RFID tags that broadcast their location. Asset tracking is just as important as managing your inventory, because you need to know the location, status, maintenance schedule, and other important information about your organization’s physical assets. Indeed, asset tracking is important to your organization’s bottom line and compliance, as you are responsible for locating and replacing lost or missing physical assets, as well as those that have come to the end of their lifecycle.

Disadvantages of RFID Tags

RFID tags aren’t ideal compared to other tracking labels for a number of reasons. Some problems with RFID include different security and technological issues.

Because an RFID tag cannot distinguish between readers, the information can be read by almost anyone once it has left the original supply chain. Because RFID readers are so portable, and the range of some tags so great, scammers can gather information they would otherwise not have access to. This means that anyone can collect potentially sensitive information without a person’s knowledge.

Another security concern for consumers is that RFID tags can be linked to individual credit cards, creating the potential for financial theft and fraud.

Technology-wise, RFID tags are problematic largely because there are no real global or industry standards. Since they operate on radio frequency, RFID tags and their systems can also easily become jammed or disrupted, reducing their usability. This results in longer wait times and decreased productivity in both retail and warehouse settings.

There are also signal issues that can occur with RFID systems, including collision — when signals from two or more readers overlap, and interference caused by metal, water, or other magnetic fields in the surrounding area.

An RFID system is also time-consuming and labor-intensive to set up. Companies need to test various hardware and tag systems to determine the best fit, which can take months to arrange. In addition to the cost of the RFID system itself, such as RFID tags and scanners, an increase in time and labor also means an increase in cost.

These types of disadvantages are often avoided with the use of barcodes, which is why they are still a popular data collection and inventory control choice for many businesses.

Examples of RFID Tags

Since an active RFID is constantly sending out a signal, it makes an excellent choice for those looking for up-to-the-minute live tracking, such as in tolling and real-time vehicle tracking applications. They are an expensive product, but they do offer a long read range, which may be preferred depending on their application.

Passive RFID tags are a much more economical choice than active RFID tags, and cost around 20 cents each. This makes them a popular choice for supply chain management, race tracking, file management, and access control applications. While a passive RFID tag does not require a direct line of sight to the RFID reader, it has a much shorter read range than an active RFID tag. They are small in size, lightweight, and can potentially last a lifetime.

Since active RFID tags feature a larger, more rugged design than passive RFID tags, they are better suited for applications where durability is required. They are frequently used in toll payment transponder systems, cargo tracking applications, and even in devices used to track people.

Three Ways that 2D Barcodes Increase Warehouse Efficiency

Supply chains continue to grow in complexity, and in no place is that more obvious than in today’s warehouses and distribution centers. In order to meet consumer demands, warehouses now hold more product and have more inventory moving through them than ever before — which exponentially increases the need for asset visibility.

An automated data collection system like barcoding is a key method to ensure accuracy, reduce risk, and increase traceability in your warehouse. Depending on the complexity and unpredictability of your supply chain, or compliance regulations you have to meet, you may have to store a copious amount of information in those barcodes.

Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes offers several distinct advantages to ensure that your warehouse operates at peak performance, regardless of its complexity

1. They store more information than one-dimensional (1D) barcodes.
1D, or linear, barcodes can store only a very limited amount of information — just 20-25 characters. However, 2D barcodes are designed to encode data differently — in patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and other shapes rather than vertical lines and spaces. This pattern arrangement allows 2D barcodes to contain up to 2000 characters. That’s way more information.

The information that one 2D barcode can contain includes, but is not limited to:
Product name
*Serial numbers
*Lot numbers
*Date of arrival
*Date to be shipped
*Expiration dates (for food, medication, etc.)
*Website addresses

— along with many other types of binary data.

This means that it takes just one scan to collect all the pertinent information about products, lots, and shipments, which is then easily accessible in one central repository.

2. They can be scanned from any direction.
The aforementioned pattern arrangement that allows 2D barcodes to store so much information also means that they can be scanned by 2D imagers from any direction.

For tasks where items are moving along assembly lines or conveyors, this increases efficiency. Conveyors can move at a faster speed because workers no longer have to perfectly align a laser scanner on a 1D barcode — the only way to get a proper read. Rather, they can hold a 2D scanner in virtually any orientation and still get a good read on a 2D barcode.

And many 2D barcode scanners, which have become more affordable, are capable of scanning moderate to far distances — improving workforce efficiency by making it faster and easier to scan objects high up on shelves or in hard-to-reach places.

3. They reduce risk from human error — even more than 1D barcodes.
Any barcode inventory system is going to eliminate manual record-keeping. The act of physically writing down product, lot, and shipping information wastes time and creates risks for error.

At best, human error can result in the wrong product being shipped out, and then a lot of wasted time and money to ship the correct product to the customer.

At worst, human error can result in a botched recall — which, depending on the recall’s size and severity, can make or break the future of a company.

And while risk does not equal a guarantee, the risk of human error can be avoided with automated data collection and inventory management. With just one scan of a 2D barcode, your workers can quickly access all the information about a product, lot, or shipment without once having to manually record anything. Because 2D barcodes can store so much data, it’s easy to make sure that you have all the necessary information right where you need it. The entire data collection process is much faster and easier with 2D barcodes.

By using a 2D barcode inventory system, you’re able to ensure the accuracy of your data across all aspects of your warehouse and distribution environments. You gain real visibility into your inventory because all the data is electronically gathered and stored.

Seven Guidelines for Choosing the Correct Label Supplies

Have you every purchased a coffee mug only to have the price tag label stick stubbornly to the bottom of the mug? Are you a retailer dealing with customers who swap price stickers on your products because the labels won’t stick? The problem in both of these examples is that the correct label combination wasn’t used.

It’s critical when choosing supplies to understand what business problem you’re trying to solve. This will guide your decision-making process as you look at supplies, because their entire function is to solve the business problem you’ve identified.

Here are seven questions to ask yourself when choosing supplies:

What will the label be applied or attached to?
You need to consider the material to which you’re applying your label. The kind of label you need will be partly determined by the material it needs to stick to. A label that is appropriate for cardboard may not perform as well on plastic or metal. For example, the majority of businesses ship products in corrugated boxes. But if you ship in wax boxes, and you use labels with adhesive designed for corrugated boxes, you’ll be disappointed when you find that those labels don’t stick to your wax boxes.

What size should the label be?
Label size is extremely important because the information you print on it needs to be easy to read. It needs to be large enough that all the information — whether it’s an address or a barcode — can be easily read or scanned. At the same time, it also can’t take up too much space, because then you’re wasting valuable space that could be used for other labels, or even for branding purposes (like if you want to display your company’s name or logo on a shipping box). Knowing the function of your label will make it easier to determine the size of your label.

How long does the label need to last?
Once you’ve considered the first two guidelines, you’ll need to determine how long the label needs to last. Again, being aware of your label’s function should make this a relatively easy question to answer. An address label doesn’t need to be that high-quality in most instances. But if you’re labeling food, or if you’re trying to meet GHS compliance, you need something durable that will meet specific requirements.

What environmental elements will the label be exposed to?
While you’re considering the material you’re applying your labels to, don’t forget about the temperature of the environment in which you’ll be applying it. Will it be applied in an ambient environment? Cold freezer? Remember: over the label’s lifetime, it may be exposed to a range of temperature and elements. For example, if you supply raw chicken to grocery stores, you will need labels that withstand your application environment temperature, as well as refrigerator temperatures and even freezer temperatures.

You’ll find a similar situation in blood banks. If you’ve ever donated blood, you’ve probably noticed that they stick barcodes on each donor’s set of bags and tubes so they can accurately track and trace the blood, whether it’s in a blood bank, in transit, or in a hospital. Labels on this equipment are applied at room temperature, and then are exposed to the warmer temperature of the blood during donation. To preserve the blood, it is then frozen, and when it needs to be used, it is thawed back to a warmer temperature.

Additionally, if the labels are going on shipping containers or packages, weather elements such as rain, snow, and heat need to be considered.

Will you be printing barcode information that needs to be scanned?
If you’re printing any information that will be scanned, especially barcodes, you may want to print on a mid- to high-quality label. Low-quality labels can smudge or fade and become unreadable, slowing or even stopping operations. Even if your workers aren’t the people scanning the labels, your customers may send pallets and products with unreadable barcodes back to you, incurring high costs on your end that you could avoid by using better supplies.

Do you need any certification, i.e. UL/CSA?
You’ll need to recognize if you need any kind of certification, such as UL/CSA certification. Having the proper certification for your labels ensures that you have the right label combination for your application, and gives your customers confidence in in the fact that the print on your labels won’t wear off.

How will the label be printed (thermal, laser, inkjet printer)?
Finally, you need to determine how you will print it. There are several viable ways to print labels, including thermal printers, laser printer, and inkjet printers. The type of label printer you use can be determined by the amount of printing you do.

Disclaimer: If your business already has printers and is reevaluating its label needs, it’s possible that you’ve prioritized the method of printing labels above other criteria in this list. That’s understandable, since you probably don’t want to buy entirely new hardware. However, it’s worth noting that some printers are better suited for certain applications, environments, or levels of output — providing better performance and a lower total cost of ownership. No matter where you’ve prioritized your method of label printing, it’s always important to know which kind of printer will provide the best ROI over time, even if it’s cheaper up-front to stick with the printers you already have.

If you have any questions or want any help choosing your label supplies, please contact us! Our label experts can help you find the ideal combination for your business application. We guarantee the success of your label combination if we help you choose it, or your money back.

Six Things to Know for a Successful Barcode Implementation

Any modern supply chain business knows that traceability is essential — for ensuring visibility, meeting compliance, and, if necessary, performing an effective recall. While some companies still insist on using inefficient and inaccurate manual methods of collecting information, automatic data capture systems collect information quickly and accurately and store it automatically in a digital database for easy access.

The most common and affordable method of traceability is barcoding. And while a barcoding system makes inventory tracking and asset visibility much easier, implementing the system can be a tall task. Transitioning from manual methods to barcodes forces a business to overhaul its entire data collection process and requires experts to perform new technology integration. However, the benefits of a barcoding system far outweigh any headaches that may occur during research and installation.

Here are six guidelines to keep in mind if your business is new to barcoding:
Know your industry’s barcode standards.
Before you determine the size of your barcodes, or where you’ll put them on your products, make sure to familiarize yourself with the standards of your industry. There are often regulations in place that businesses must follow, and you need to make sure you’re in compliance with these regulations before you begin designing a label. GS1 is a good place to start. Your industry may also determine if 1D or 2D barcodes are best for your application.

Know the environment in which your barcodes will be scanned.
Depending on the application or industry, barcodes can be scanned in a variety of environments — from warehouses and distribution centers to retail stores and point-of-sale applications. Some sizes, types, and colors work better in certain environments. Knowing where your barcodes will be scanned allows you to design the best possible barcode.

Barcode placement really does matter.
A barcode should never be obscured or damaged — this defeats the entire purpose of the barcode system. Folds, flaps, and edges are natural enemies to the barcode. Speed is one of the main advantages of a barcode system, so you want to put the barcode labels in an obvious and unobstructed location. If employees need to search for a barcode or smooth a crease to get an accurate scan, the entire traceability system slows down, reducing efficiency.

Size and color affect readability.
The size and color of your barcodes is dictated by your industry’s regulations, but sometimes there is wiggle room for customization. Size is extremely important because barcodes need to be scanned easily. A barcode that is so small that it becomes hard to scan is going to be a be a massive time-waster. On the other hand, an unnecessarily large barcode is a waste of valuable space. It all depends on your industry, and where and how your barcodes will be scanned.

A black barcode printed on a white label is the default color combination for barcoding, mainly because it is easy for scanners to read. If your industry’s regulations allow it, there are some other potential color combinations that you can take advantage of. However, readability is the most important factor, so don’t compromise on readability just to have more unique or colorful labels.

Integrate the barcode system with any other technologies.
Most businesses use multiple types of software and technologies. When you’re implementing a barcoding system, you need to make sure it’s compatible with the business’s current structure and systems. Installing a barcode system will probably require you to tinker with existing software, so during implementation you need to anticipate and prevent any possible issues that may arise. An experienced barcode solution provider can integrate an automatic data capture system with minimal hitches to ensure a seamless installation.

Know which kind of barcode printer will provide the best ROI for your business application.
Thermal: There are two kinds of thermal printers — direct thermal and thermal transfer. Both use heat to transfer ink to paper. They’re known for producing high-quality images and being extremely durable. Direct thermal labels have a shorter shelf life than thermal transfer labels; this may influence which kind of thermal printer you choose.

Inkjet: These printers can produce readable barcodes at a very fast pace, and are perfect for high-speed production lines. Installation prices are generally quite high though, and inkjet printers need more upkeep than thermal printers.

Dot matrix: Dot matrix printers produce barcodes by printing hundreds and hundreds of tiny arranged dots. They’re usually inexpensive and can print barcodes on a variety of surfaces. However, dot matrix printers only print low- to medium-quality labels.

Make sure you research the total cost of ownership for each type of printer. Based on your industry standards, environment, and output, you may find that the printer you originally thought was a good fit for your needs will actually increase costs and/or downtime.

Even though every business is unique, it’s important to keep these six guidelines in mind when considering a barcoding system for your operations. The initial installation will require research, coordination, and work — but if you put time and energy into the initial planning, the transition from manual to automatic data collection will go much more smoothly and produce visible ROI.

How Vehicle Manufacturers Can Use RFID to Track Inventory

Any modern business knows that they need to track assets and inventory to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and respond quickly in case of a recall. Vehicle manufacturers are no different. Whether they produce cars, forklifts, motorcycles, or even golf carts, they need complete visibility into their operations.

The challenges that vehicle manufacturers face are twofold:
* The must quickly and efficiently move vehicles coming out of production to customers and dealer networks.
* They must track developmental vehicles through the research and development process.

The solution? A traceability system that uses passive RFID technology to provide real-time visibility of finished goods as they move through the logistics of the delivery process. The same system also provides real-time visibility of developmental vehicles as they move through development and testing processes. The system specifically implements passive UHF RFID technology and works in tandem with GPS technology to provide real-time “last seen” location data on target vehicles.

In many cases, manufacturers store or stage finished vehicles in large lots, many of which are outdoors. A vehicle tracking system enables the organization to quickly find a target vehicle in a sea of hundreds or even thousands of similar vehicles. It combines fixed RFID readers — to break large geographic areas into smaller, more manageable zones — with handheld RFID readers equipped with GPS technology to identify the exact location of the target vehicle within a specific zone.

How Does It Work?
RFID tags are applied to the finished vehicles at the end of the production process, and fixed RFID readers are placed at the entrance and exit points of each zone. Personnel responsible for moving finished vehicles to holding areas are equipped with GPS-enabled handheld readers.

As vehicles move into or out of a zone, the fixed RFID readers report the movement to the vehicle tracking system. As vehicles are parked within a zone, the personnel scan the RFID tag with the handheld, capturing both the RFID tag ID and the GPS location, which provides the vehicle tracking system with the exact location of the vehicle within the zone. Any vehicle can be located in mere seconds using the software.

The vehicle tracking software application is a web-based application accessible by a browser running on any PC, laptop, or tablet. In the case of outdoor vehicle tracking, the application displays a Google Earth-like image of the area to be tracked. The image is created by performing a Geo Survey of the area, collecting GPS coordinates of the entire perimeter, and loading them into the application.

In the case of indoor vehicle tracking, the system displays a blueprint of the facility in which vehicles are housed. In both indoor and outdoor applications, vehicles are displayed on the map where they were last seen by either a fixed RFID antenna or a handheld RFID reader.

Other Use Cases
Vehicle tracking software has many applications aside from this specific kind automobile tracking. Transportation and logistics companies utilize it to track and find specific tractors and trailers. Material handling equipment manufacturers will find it valuable for end-of-production logistics when they move finished goods from the plant to a dealer or end user.

Ultimately, an RFID vehicle tracking application delivers essential flexibility and scalability for any company that needs to quickly and efficiently track and locate a specific vehicle, or type of vehicle, over a large geographic area or among a dense population of vehicles.

RFID Tags and Smart Labels

RFID Tags and Smart Labels

As stated above, an RFID tag consists of an integrated circuit and an antenna. The tag is also composed of a protective material that holds the pieces together and shields them from various environmental conditions. The protective material depends on the application. For example, employee ID badges containing RFID tags are typically made from durable plastic, and the tag is embedded between the layers of plastic. RFID tags come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are either passive or active. Passive tags are the most widely used, as they are smaller and less expensive to implement. Passive tags must be “powered up” by the RFID reader before they can transmit data. Unlike passive tags, active RFID tags have an on-board power supply (e.g., a battery), thereby enabling them to transmit data at all times. For a more detailed discussion, refer to this article: Passive RFID Tags vs. Active RFID Tags.

Smart labels differ from RFID tags in that they incorporate both RFID and barcode technologies. They’re made of an adhesive label embedded with an RFID tag inlay, and they may also feature a barcode and/or other printed information. Smart labels can be encoded and printed on-demand using desktop label printers, whereas programming RFID tags is more time consuming and requires more advanced equipment.