In our prior post we looked at the basics of RFID as a possible tool in data (or inventory) management as applies to a shop floor environment. Given the pros and cons of RFID (the cons mostly falling into the cost category), let’s turn our attention to barcoding technology next.
In terms of cost (as in low), complexity (as in simple) and universal acceptance (in manufacturing, it really is everywhere)… you can’t beat barcode technology. More varieties (2-D, 3-D) are becoming available, and they’ve long been available in a number of different (usually industry-driven) “symbologies.” Increasingly too, more and more data can be packed onto a barcode label.
In addition, most ERP systems have at least some form or rudimentary barcode capability or recognition built in, or at least, easily integrated. As well, there are many available hardware and software options, thus keeping costs manageable. This extends to handhelds as well which, while not “cheap” are certainly cost effective, and pack a lot of technology into a small and efficient footprint.
Barcodes can come in the form of labels, stamps, tags, Teflon-coated (dirt-resistant), large format (for higher shelves, say) and small format (in-line scanning), polyester tags, high-temperature resistant tags, and more. Newer technologies involving data matrix layouts permit more data to be stored in the tag than ever before.
So… when it comes down it, which do you choose, RFID or barcode?
A number of studies have been conducted on the topic, and one out of the Univ. of Western England concluded “… while RFID can deliver improved operational performance over traditional barcode systems, it is found to be less reliable in implementation.” Studies have found that while processing times with RFID can be quicker, they were less consistent, and that RFID produced higher error rates. And given RFID’s higher costs and technology requirements, barcode still appears to be, as the DMS white paper describes it, “the most practical and accessible way to automate warehouse and industrial processes.”
While both technologies have seen gains since the study, barcode remains the “ubiquitous international standard for product tracking.”
As DMS notes, regardless of what technology you choose, the benefits can be very significant in key areas like:
- Rejection and rework
- Processing times
- Entry errors
- Manufacturing costs
- Sales per employee
In our next post, we’ll take a look at the benefits of using barcode in inventory management.
Finally, we’ll conclude in our final post in this 5-part series with some thoughts on practical matters like where to barcode, and expected payback periods. Stay tuned…