Manufacturing supply chains are tightly regulated for quality, no matter which industry you work in, from oil and gas and construction to the automotive sector. Because of such tight regulation, many products are also subject to stringent labeling requirements. To ensure products along the supply chain are adequately labeled, many companies are now relying on the newest and most advanced labeling technologies afforded by companies like LabTAG, Seagull, as well as many high-end thermal printer manufacturers.
RFID and supply chains
Any talk of advanced identification technology starts and often ends with radio-frequency identification (RFID). RFID isn’t exactly new; the technology itself has been around since the 70s, but recently, substantial improvements in RFID technology have made it much more cost-efficient.
So, how does this affect the supply chain? We’ve covered many of the advantages of RFID before:
- Scan from a distance, without a direct line of sight
- Scan multiple tags simultaneously
- Tags can be rewritten as many times as needed
- High storage capacity
- Increased level of security
These features give everything in the supply chain optimal trackability and traceability, as all parts made and assembled during production can be encoded with all necessary information, from batch numbers to the date and time it was processed. All pertinent data can be assessed in an instant without scanning each individual code. This can help remedy inefficiencies in the supply chain, especially those that originate from poor inventory management. With RFID, companies can better manage expiry dates, recalls, and stock inflow and outflow. In the food industry, RFID also makes it possible to quickly trace contaminated batches, reducing the likelihood of harm caused by a defective product.
RFID likely isn’t used as frequently as it ought to be in the supply chain, mainly because it’s only recently that RFID technology was capable of being adapted to varying environmental conditions. Production lines often depend on high-heat conditions and chemical exposure, of which there used to be no RFID-based solutions. Now RFID inlays can be generated in any type of label. That means that RFID can be integrated into temperature-, heat-, and chemical-resistant labels, to be used as many times as necessary throughout the supply chain, from beginning to end.
Using the right software is essential
Software is an essential component of supply chains, whether it’s used to control major components, like inventory, or simply used to scan items. It’s vital that whichever system you choose, it can be trusted to account for everything, from inventory to incidents, to maintain compliance and meet all industry regulations.
One thing to look for when selecting software, whether it’s for supply chain management, inventory management, or label printing, is its adaptability. It’s important that all software be capable of integration. For instance, certain kinds of software, like BarTender, can be directly integrated into many types of other management systems so that databases containing identifiers can be instantly linked between the two systems. This makes printing labels much faster and reduces errors caused by manual data input.
Another thing to consider is the capabilities of your software to generate both barcodes and RFID. For labels with RFID inlays, it is also possible to print barcodes (ideally with a thermal-transfer printer to provide maximum protection against abrasion, chemicals, and extreme temperatures) on the facestock as a secondary tracking method. That means not only having a printer with these capabilities but software as well. BarTender is a recommended option, as it has the ability to not only design and print barcodes but also simultaneously encode RFID labels using the appropriate RFID enabled printer.
Label customization for adaptable supply chains
As stated before, RFID is a much more attractive identification technology nowadays due to its ability to come with any label. However, the correct label must be used for each appropriate condition, particularly in the supply chain, where even a single mishap can stop the chain in its tracks. This means that just one label that fails can cause significant losses and potential harm to patients.
Working with a manufacturer that can customize labels, not just orders, is advantageous for several reasons. Customizing labels means that during development, a solution can be constructed that aims to fit the exact need regardless of the environment. In this case, it helps to have the right personnel with the expertise to understand these specific identification requirements. By partnering with a label manufacturer, it is possible to thoroughly test the solution before being implemented wholesale throughout the chain. This allows for a period of optimization to ensure the solution works as intended.
There are many ways to enhance productivity and reduce errors along the supply chain. For many companies, it’s essential not just to developing new technology but to keep improving how it’s produced, tracked, and traced. Ultimately, working to enhance identification will increase productivity, save money, and lead to a better overall product.