RFID on the Production Line
d are more robust than the ubiquitous and less-costly barcodes they’re supposed to replace. And, RFID is less expensive than traditional radio transmitters and other wireless technologies.

Still, as presently applied, RFID is mostly used for identification, material handling, and other forms of documentation. This may satisfy recent Wal-Mart and U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) directives to install RFID systems, but it has also fueled tremendous hype, which is already being postponed and/or scaled

back in the face of reported implementation hurdles and questionable ROI.

So, as usual, it’s up to users to evaluate their applications, confirm their needs, learn about RFID capabilities and costs, and then decide if RFID is a worthwhile way to improve their efficiency, aid decision making, improve quality control, and increase productivity, or opt for a barcode, radio transmitter, or hardwired network is most appropriate.

‘While a barcode is seen though the ‘eyes’ of a data collection system, an RFID tag is heard though its ‘ears’ and can be spoken to through its ‘voice,’ which is simply a better way to have control and visibility into the supply chain,’ says Bill Arnold, of Omron Electronics LLC. ‘While a barcode only has 14-16 digits, RFID allows 96 to 256 digits on each tag, which allows a level of uniqueness that can identify products down to the shift, machine, and operator that produced them.’

RFID tags can be read-only, write-once-read-many (WORM), read-write, passively read by an antenna/reader, or actively send signals, usually aided by a battery.

‘RFID is essentially an automatic data collection technology, rather than a control technology, but it can be integrated into control systems because it can read and write to those systems,’ adds ArnoldSo, while a barcode can help track an item, RFID can track and record events, parameters, and measurements. This ability to store data, survive harsh conditions, and be written to make RFID more powerful than barcodes and