Barcode vs RFID Tags – Choose the right Asset Tracking method for your business

Gone are the times when businesses relied on manual methods to track the sale and movement of their products. Companies now need effective inventory management software to track their assets in real-time. An ideal asset management software will cut down administrative costs, streamline business workflows, enhance customer service, scale your businesses upwards, and much more. After all, if you’re not investing in asset tracking, you may be wasting both your time and resources.

However, when there are multitudes of inventory tracking methods on the market, how do you choose the right one? Prior to that, let’s discuss some basic technologies that are widely implemented by businesses of all sizes. Barcodes and RFID are the most commonly adopted methods for tracking and monitoring assets. Each of them has its own benefits and setbacks when it comes to tracking your inventory.

Now, let’s take a glimpse of these asset tracking technologies.

Let’s meet Barcodes or did you already?

If you’re an organization that involves small-scale operations and focuses more on budget-friendly asset tracking solutions, you’ve arrived at the right location. While checking out of a supermarket or a grocery store, you must’ve probably noticed the cashier scanning a series of black and white bars. If yes, you’ve already met barcodes. These barcodes contain encoded data, usually the unit number or the universal code of the product. Barcode scanners are capable of decoding this information and fetching the product details.

Barcodes for asset tracking

Barcodes are inexpensive and easy to create. Besides, barcode scanners are cheaper, with scanning technologies available on most Android and iOS devices. This way, you can implement a barcode system without requiring large investments in hardware. Barcodes are definitely the go-to solution if your enterprise is just planning to move away from tracking inventory by hand.

Despite the above strengths, barcodes are less accurate when compared with other technologies. Additionally, barcodes require internet connectivity to fetch product information from the inventory management database. This can sometimes turn out to be a pain in the neck for enterprises with unstable networks. Sometimes, barcode scanners may fail to read the barcode if they are not aligned at the right position.

Therefore, barcodes are ideally suited for businesses on a budget. Since barcodes and barcode scanners are relatively cheap, they can prove beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises. Choosing the right barcode system to sync your sales with the inventory management system will certainly be a worthwhile investment.

Welcome to RFID tags!

Ever wondered why some retail shops have two different gates for entry and exit? Well, one logical explanation can be crowd control, but that is not alone. In addition to that, they need to look out for any item that can pass through the gates without necessarily being billed. And here comes the role of RFID.

An RFID or Radio Frequency Identification technology involves a microchip sealed in plastic or paper. The microchip contains the specific asset information, such as weight, dimensions, cost, and so on. A special scanner with NFC capabilities will be able to read RFID tags using radio waves. One cool thing here is that you can seamlessly access all the product data without ever requiring to connect to the internet. In short, RFID helps identify and collect data in a common database without any major human intervention.

RFID tags for asset tracking

Unlike barcodes, RFID can be scanned from any direction. Hence, warehouse employees need not invest more time getting each box aligned to the right angle before scanning it. Since they use radiofrequency for communication, RFID scanners can read them even when a wall or box blocks the tags. In the long run, RFID technology can save businesses a lot of time and money.

Despite having endless merits, investing in RFID is initially expensive and requires high up-front costs. The company also has to bear the expense of purchasing RFID scanners as they cannot completely rely on employees’ smartphones. Another downside is that they are prone to hacking by malicious agents who may try to steal your confidential data. RFID readings are also vulnerable to interference from some magnets, metals or liquids.

If your enterprise deals with a high volume of products, investing in an RFID system can be well worth the initial capital costs. RFID solutions are ideal for warehouses that involve a continual flow of a large number of items every day. Scanning each item manually can be a daunting task and may only prove futile for your business operations. Installing RFID scanners at strategic locations will ease the tracking of assets as they are moved throughout your warehouse. As a result, the processing of more items and orders per day will marginally increase and will improve the company’s net return on investment.

Barcodes vs RFID tags: Main differences

Now, let’s break down the differences between each technology to guide you choose the best option for your organization.

Description Barcodes RFID
Initial setup Easy to implement and create. Implementation is costly and time-consuming.
Cost Budget-friendly option. Suited for organizations that are moving away from manual inventory tracking. Barcodes are available in multiple types, catering to all business-specific needs. More expensive than barcodes. Investing in proper RFID solutions can be worthwhile in the long run.
Speed Quick data capture, though products need to be scanned individually. The barcode tag must be in the line of sight of the scanner. Fast scanners. Ability to scan tags in bulk at once, even if the tags are obscured by a box or wall.
Storage Can store up to 20-25 characters. Capable of storing the entire product information. Can store up to 4 million characters.
Accuracy More accurate than tracking by hand but less accurate than other options. Can read data even from a long distance.
Durability Less durable since they are prone to damages. Highly durable. Since RFID tags are sealed in plastic, they can be reused again.
Reliability Barcodes are reliant on internet connectivity to connect to the inventory management database. No need to connect to the internet server since the entire product information is stored on the microchip.
Training Requires minimal employee training. Onboarding RFID solutions require employees to receive training to learn the best practices in asset tracking.
Vulnerable to Wear and tear. A small tear on the barcode can cause it to fail completely. Hence, there’s no way of reusing it. Hacking by malicious agents, magnetic fields, liquids, certain types of metals.
Ideal for Small and medium-sized businesses that are on a budget. Most popular on retail and inventory. Warehouses and large-scale businesses that directly involve the movement of a large volume of products.

Barcode vs RFID: The verdict

Technology is advancing every day, and barcodes and RFID are not something that is new to this arena. Both these methodologies have their own ups and downs. And, it’s completely up to you to figure out the best solution for your business based on your needs and requirements.

Barcode is an inexpensive and widely accepted technology when it comes to inventory tracking. Here, implementing things is quite simple and straightforward and requires only minimal up-front costs. RFID can be conceived as a more evolved form of barcode but with greater efficiency, speed, and accuracy. Businesses that adopt RFID are more on creating fast inventory tracking systems to ease their employees’ workload and help in the rapid processing of items and orders.

Technowave, with its specialized automatic identity and data capture technology, offers top-notch enterprise mobility applications to address the growing needs of organizations. Technowave’s barcode/RFID solutions are ideally designed to meet specific business goals, such as inventory tracking, warehouse management automation, in-store automation, and so on. Hence, there’s no excuse for not getting updated with the leading technologies to run your business smoothly and effectively.

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