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RFID or Barcoding: What Users Want In Inventory

Author : , Russ Davidson is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Software Connect, a company that provides free software and application recommendations based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 1996, we’ve helped thousands of companies find the best solution for their needs by understanding software requirements and pointing them in the right direction.
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RFID Stock

Whether you are running a large warehouse or a few shelves in the back of a retail store, inventory tracking is essential to proper record keeping.

Inventory software will help you with both inventory tracking and traceability.

Tracking is product specific record keeping, or maintaining records that track a products movement from it’s point of entry to your business (received from a manufacturer), to when it has fully left your hands (been sold, or been used in your own manufacturing process, if the good was itself a raw material).

Traceability is operator performance specific, which lets you know who in your company is accessing certain pieces of inventory. You may have items that get checked out from your inventory but then need to be replaced or put back, which traceability functionality will allow for.

Both of these capabilities can help benefit a business through the use of inventory management software. But how does the software track when these items are being removed, used, check-out, or used in any other way? Through barcode scanning and RFID tracking.

What is Barcode software?

A is the image representation of data where data is represented using an image of bars and spaces. Software exists that will read these symbols and link with your inventory system, or with a point-of-sale (POS). Retail stores may use barcodes to scan items, which will pull up their pricing information and allow the customer to get their total and pay faster. Warehouse workers can scan items of inventory while stocking, or while removing a product from inventory, to allow management to have a more clear picture of real-time inventory.

What is RFID software?

RFID software utilizes RFID technology (radio-frequency identification) for inventory tracking. Each collection of inventory has a location-tracking tag on it that integrate with inventory software. The technology has been around for decades but has only just started to become known as a serious option for inventory tracking for all businesses, mostly due to its newfound affordability (the cost of an RFID chip is around 10 cents today, compared to $1 in 2003).

RFID has many uses in the world of business, such as:

  • Retail inventory
  • Smart belts for construction workers
  • Luggage tracking on airplanes
  • Guided order picking in warehousing
  • Cashierless, checkout-free stores
  • Which is better? Barcode or RFID?

Barcodes tend to be easier to use, as they are easier to be printed on products or boxes. This also makes them less expensive, as they only require the cost of printing the ink onto the product or box. Barcodes, given their extended history over RFID, are also a universally accepted method of having a product read. It seems almost every supermarket or store in the world will scan your products at the register via barcoding. However, drawbacks do exist. Barcodes can only be scanned one at a time, and they need to have a direct line of sight with the barcode scanner in order to be scanned. The data that can be stored in a barcode is also limited, and can not be edited once printed.

RFID has a huge range and can be scanned from a distance. Products can be scanned in mass, as the scanner just needs to pick up the radio frequency, and thus does not need a direct line of sight with the RFID tag. RFID tags can also store much more information than a barcode, such as product histories, maintenance days, expirations, and more. They are rugged and allow for huge shipments to be scanned in a far quicker manner. However, RFIDs are much more expensive to implement, which becomes more impracticable from a small-business standpoint.

Do Buyers Prefer Barcoding Or RFID?

A recent survey looked at the buying trends of warehouse management software (WMS). The creator, Software Connect, spoke with 116 companies looking to purchase WMS. These respondents were asked which tracking method they preferred when looking at their new software: Barcoding, or RFID. Almost three-quarters (73%) said they were currently using or plan on continuing to use barcoding. Only 7% of respondents were in favor of RFID.

Barcode vs RFID: Which Is The Best For Me?

Both options are going to provide you with greater efficiencies in inventory look-up activities and help improve any retail check-out process. The National Retail Federation (NRF) feels that RFID is ready to revolutionize the retail industry. Given the prevalence of barcoding over RFID, there are far more barcoding options in the market, however, RFID is not far behind and will continue to grow as a popular form of traceability.