RFID With Yard Management: An Unnecessary and Costly Addition

Written by: 
Adam Pascar
Posted on: 
October 22, 2019

Whether you work at a manufacturing facility, warehouse, or distribution center, it is absolutely critical to oversee the movement of trucks and trailers in your space. This is especially true if you are working at a larger facility. There is a flurry of activity every day, and in an increasingly competitive business environment, mistakes are costly. Delayed or even forgotten orders can lead to dissatisfied customers and lower profits.

If you and your organization haven’t already, you will absolutely want to invest in a yard management system (“YMS”). A YMS is essentially a software system that oversees the movement of trucks and trailers in the yard of a manufacturing facility. It provides real-time data on the location of these trucks and trailers in the yard, allowing facility employees to do their jobs in a more efficient manner.

A YMS is clearly a great investment. Deciding on which YMS to use in your facility, however, is an entirely separate question. There are different types of yard management systems and they have pros and cons. Many yard management systems, however, leverage radio frequency identification (“RFID”) chips. RFID chips can be found in everything from automobiles, cash, clothing, animals, and even people. They can be a cheap and easy way to passively gather data from people or objects. This is why some companies believe that by leveraging RFID chips, they will be able to more efficiently track trucks and trailers in their facilities.

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RFID chips certainly have their place in society. The idea of using RFID chips in yard management makes sense on the surface. But having said this, we believe that they are an inefficient tool in yard management. The costs of implementing RFID in a yard management system, unfortunately, outweigh the benefits. Luckily, as we will discuss in this article, the good news is that there is a better way to manage trailers and trucks in your facility.

The Problems with RFID in Yard Management

There are several distinct problems with attempting to use RFID tags in yard management. While these problems standing alone are troubling, put together, they are extremely discouraging.

One of the most significant problems from RFID tags is that they are expensive compared to alternatives (like barcodes). Depending on the tag that you need, an RFID tag can cost anywhere from one dollar to a whopping thirty dollars. The costs don’t stop there. You will need to purchase hardware to support RFID technology, and this hardware is also costly. Printing and encoding RFID labels require you to purchase a printer that can be expensive in its own right. There are also RFID readers. Compared to things like barcode scanners, RFID readers are about ten times more expensive. And as for implementing an RFID system? The costs can escalate quickly.

There can also be interference, meaning that your RFID chips may not be working efficiently. This interference is due to the inherent nature of RFID chips. RFID chips use electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags that are attached to objects or people. These tags collect energy from nearby RFID readers that are interrogating radio waves. Interference is more likely when trailers and trucks are moving around your facility. In sum, different RFID tags on different trailers can lead to significant monitoring problems.

Finally, RFID chips sometimes just stop working. Like any technology, there may be times where RFID chips just die unexpectedly. You have to continuously monitor whether your RFID chips are actually working. While this isn’t the most onerous task, it is just one additional task that you must put on your plate (or a contractor’s plate).

An analysis from an expert from Capterra is insightful here. Recent internal tests from Capterra have indicated that many RFID technologies fail miserably. The Capterra representative further argued that RFID technologies may not be a better option compared to performing simple yard audits to resolve discrepancies. Finally, the expert argued that whether or not you have a YMS in place, transitioning to RFID technology most likely will not be fruitful.

A Better Path Forward

This is just a selection of problems that plague RFID systems. While the vision of having RFID technology as part of your yard management system may be intriguing, the simple fact is that RFID systems cause more harm and work than you may initially expect. These deleterious effects cause headaches, are expensive, and distract you from other pressing items on your to-do list.

With advancements in the future, RFID technology may be more promising. As the technology improves and becomes more ubiquitous, we will likely see costs fall for RFID tags themselves and the hardware that supports it. Technological improvements may also lead to less interference and greater reliability.

As with all types of technology, the future is extremely difficult to predict. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see RFID technology improve in the near to long-term future.

The good news throughout this discussion, however, is that there is an alternative solution right now that can help you with all of your yard management needs. This solution involves barcodes. Barcode technology is an inexpensive, yet effective way to track movement in your facility. Whether you work in the food and beverage or grocery industries, barcodes are a terrific foundation for yard management systems.

Barcoding technology is relatively self-explanatory. It essentially requires only two things: a barcode and a scanner. An individual takes the scanner, presses a trigger that releases a beam of red light, and points it at the black and white lines of a barcode. The barcode is read, the signal is translated into text, and the text is sent to a computer or database.

Upon considering how barcode technology actually works, you may think that it is less efficient than RFID technology. This is because barcode technology requires an actual person to approach a barcode and scan it, whereas RFID technology is more passive. Nevertheless, as we discussed above, the promise and potential of RFID technology in yard management systems simply haven’t yet materialized.

Barcode technology isn’t buggy. It is extremely reliable and accurate. A barcode scanner captures each barcode individually, so there is no need to worry about whether you scanned more items than you initially intended. You also don’t need to worry about any potential interference, as barcodes are read through a simple scanner. Along with this, barcodes extremely cheap. Compared to the one dollar to thirty dollar range for RFID tags, barcodes only cost a few cents to make. Barcode scanners themselves are affordable and durable, giving you the confidence that they aren’t going to break even after repeated use.

Our Solution

We are extremely bullish on barcode technology as part of a yard management system. We believe that it is a better way to monitor moving trucks and trailers in your facility.

Our barcode yard management service, for instance, lets you easily monitor the health and status of your facility. While our barcode yard management service can be an excellent choice for virtually any industry, it is especially useful in the food and beverage or grocery industries. Once a sufficient amount of barcodes have been placed in your facility, our team goes to work. Our drivers pull up to your property and a guard begins the barcode check. That data is inputted into our software and is saved like a timestamp. It remains in our system so that you can obtain unique insights about what is actually going on in your facility.

Ultimately, our software is intuitive and easy to implement. We are proud of the fact that we are significantly different from our competitors. Not only do we beat them in terms of the cost of our software, but we provide white-glove service on the implementation of our software. No problem is too large or too small. Our overall goal is to help our clients manage their facilities in the easiest and most efficient way possible. While it may be somewhat cliche, we are willing to go the extra mile to make that happen for all of our clients.

Get Started Today

Everything we read about RFID technology seems like it would be a more efficient and effective part of a yard management system. Especially if your facility or warehouse is quite large, the idea of receiving constant updates on your facility seems especially intriguing.

But as we have discussed here, expectations often don’t meet reality. Not only may you experience sticker shock when looking at the cost of RFID technology, but RFID technology may not be as reliable as you think. In fact, it may lead to even more headaches and more oversight, which is the last thing that you need.

Instead, we recommend that you seriously consider barcodes as part of your chosen yard management system. Barcodes are reliable, easy to use, and can help you obtain unique insights about your yard management strategy. Moreover, a barcode yard management strategy doesn’t require nearly the amount of planning for an RFID strategy. You can get started quickly and iterate as necessary.

The benefits are clear. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about a barcode yard management system for your business, we invite you to contact us. We are happy to discuss this topic further and answer any questions that you may have.