Radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking emerged over a decade ago as a formidable supply chain management tool. Though still not as common as other types of tracking devices in warehousing, shipping, and logistics, RFID tracking is growing in popularity thanks to its affordability, accuracy, and ease of use.

Shipment tracking with RFID technology has a range of benefits for shipping and logistics. They can eliminate manual scanning of each box, crate, or pallet. They can reduce or eliminate human error in tracking shipments. And they can save time by eliminating the need to manually check shipments in and out of warehouses, and streamline pick-and-pack processes.

What Is RFID Tracking?

RFID tracking is a means of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) that uses radio signals to transmit and receive data stored on a digital tag. The same technology is used in the subdermal microchip ID implants you can buy for your pet cat or dog.

There are two kinds of RFID trackers: passive and active. Passive tags only transmit data when they’re activated by the presence of a receiver. Active tags have their own battery power so they can transmit data on their own, and can be read at a distance. A passive RFID tracking tag can store information about a shipping unit, but someone has to walk up and scan the area where the tag is located in order to collect that information and add it to an inventory database.

An active RFID tag broadcasts the data stored therein, so that shipments can be automatically logged as they arrive at a warehouse, for example. However, neither type of tracking device needs to be within the line of sight of the reader in order to successfully transmit a signal. That means you can embed an RFID tracking device inside a package or shipping unit and still read the tag.

RFID Tracking for Supply Chain Management

RFID tracking has a number of benefits for shipping, logistics, and warehousing. For example, it’s been used for over a decade to improve the safety and efficiency of the food supply chain. Companies like Dole Foods have been using RFID tracking devices to track where food shipments are coming from and how much time they spend in transit. Dole Foods first implemented the tracking devices in 2006, in the wake of an E. coli outbreak that affected nearly 200 consumers. RFID tracking in the food supply chain can help producers track the source of contaminated food, and identify which batches might need to be recalled, among their other uses.

Tracking devices using RFID technology can store a wealth of information about a shipment. In addition to the age and provenance of goods, they can also capture information like temperature changes goods have endured in transit. That can be beneficial when shipping items that need to be kept at a constant temperature, or items that can be damaged by extremes of heat or cold.

Active RFID tracking devices transmit data to readers, sometimes over a distance of hundreds of meters. When placed inside of or attached to the outside of shipping units, you can use RFID tracking devices to automatically detect and document the arrival of shipments and even keep track of where they are in the warehouse. That can really streamline the process of locating shipments for pick-and-pack or other distribution processes.

RFID tags are more accurate than human tracking processes, since there’s no room for error — the tags can be counted on to collect, store, and transmit accurate data, so you can eliminate recording errors. You’ll be able to see where goods are in real time,  and locate them accurately and efficiently. The high-speed data you get from RFID tracking tags can help you streamline your warehouse planning and structuring processes, since you’ll always know exactly what you’re getting and when you can expect it to arrive. RFID technologies have allowed many shipping and logistics companies to realize almost 100 percent accuracy in shipping, receiving, orders, and inventory, as well as effectuating a 30 percent increase in order processing speed and a 30 percent decrease in labor costs.

If you need shipment tracking that’s fast, efficient, and accurate, it’s time you jumped on the RFID bandwagon. Active RFID tracking tags offer the high-speed goods tracking that lets you know at a glance where shipments are in the supply chain, how old perishable products are, what temperature extremes and other conditions they were exposed to, and more. Simplify your supply chain processes, and integrate RFID trackers into your shipping and logistics today.