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Radiofrequency Identification Technology vs Barcodes

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology has been proposed as a much more advanced alternative for barcodes that can be used to improve the “product tracking, building access control, airline baggage tracking,” supply chain management and other aspects of various operations (Zhu, Mukhopadhyay, & Kurata, 2012, p. 159). The superiority of RFID is manifold: it is capable of reading multiple tags simultaneously and does not need them to be within the line of sight; the scanned area is greater, the data storage capacity is much more impressive, and the security is higher (barcodes can be duplicate much easier than RFID tags).

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Apart from that, RFID tags are more durable, which is especially important since a damaged barcode cannot be read. Moreover, the real-time visibility provided by the technology means that no shrinkage can occur, and the counting and reordering of units are automatic, triggered by a particular level of inventory; apart from that, RFID provides updates on the expiration date (Çakıcı, Groenevelt, & Seidmann, 2011).

The technology has been successfully used in retail, food and restaurant industries, logistics, healthcare, travel and tourism, and the military (Zhu et al., 2012). It is probably noteworthy that varied advantages of RFID will be of particular importance for different industries, and in certain cases, the technology can be considered too advanced (for example, for a small business). Still, the opportunity for timely and automatic management of the inventory appears to be of interest for most industries.

This advantage of RFID over barcodes automatically reduces the labor costs of the process (since the latter require manual counting and do not update on the expiring date of the products) and ensures that there is no shortage of essential units at any given moment (Çakıcı et al., 2011, p. 845). Also, while this option is attractive to any industry, it is of particular importance for those that are concerned with emergencies, for example, healthcare.

Roper, Sedehi, and Ashuri (2015) have carried out a case study of RFID being implemented in hospital settings for the sake of ensuring asset tracking (in this particular case, mobile medical devices). While RFID proved to be useful for varied reasons (in particular, it helped to define underused units and manage assets more effectively), the real-time management, updates, and the “confidence that equipment is readily available when needed” were especially highlighted by the authors (Roper et al., 2015, p. 383). Operational efficiency is of an extreme importance of healthcare that chronically experiences the shortages of labor, time, and finance.

RFID real-time asset tracking ensures that the efforts (time and labor costs) directed at inventory management are minimal, and the human error is eliminated from the process (Roper et al., 2015, p. 368). The constant monitoring and automatic quantification allows the staff to be certain that the necessary inventory is always readily available, which is especially significant for an industry where emergencies are a frequent matter and also tends to reduce stress (Roper et al., 2015, p. 383).

In the end, as a result of the effective RFID real-time inventory monitoring, the quality of healthcare rises: according to the study of Roper et al. (2015), the innovation resulted in the decrease of patient waiting time, greater staff productivity, and higher quality of care (p. 383-384). Other aspects of RFID also led to the more efficient and less costly facility management. As a result, the advantages that RFID has over barcodes make it a more suitable technology for hospital settings.

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Çakıcı, Ö., Groenevelt, H., & Seidmann, A. (2011). Using RFID for the management of pharmaceutical inventory — system optimization and shrinkage control. Decision Support Systems, 51(4), 842-852. Web.

Roper, K., Sedehi, A., & Ashuri, B. (2015). A cost-benefit case for RFID implementation in hospitals: adapting to industry reform. Facilities, 33(5/6), 367-388. Web.

Zhu, X., Mukhopadhyay, S., & Kurata, H. (2012). A review of RFID technology and its managerial applications in different industries. Journal Of Engineering And Technology Management, 29(1), 152-167. Web.

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