RFID for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

Managing inventory levels in a cost-effective and revenue-driven manner can be difficult, even for the most experienced manufacturer. Without access to effective software to help automate inventory control processes, properly managing inventory levels can be quite the challenge for manufacturers. AssetPulse RFID asset tracking software helps to automate inventory management.

RFID Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

RFID Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

AssetPulse’s RFID inventory control capabilities allow manufacturers to automate their processing based off of previous purchasing trends and can even set reminder alerts to replenish raw material orders when needed. With real time inventory data, inventory control becomes less of a pain point and more a background process.

How inventory is traditionally managed?

There are many different approaches to control inventory. The spreadsheet is an oft-used basic method using a variety of columns to track data. A column is used to deduct what is sold. Additionally, a log for returns and new incoming stock is maintained. It requires continuous manual monitoring to ensure every transaction is accounted for. Of course, this is an incredibly labor-intensive process. The information is difficult to share, and extremely vulnerable to human error. People are prone to make mistakes––mistakes that are difficult to track and result in inaccurate inventory numbers.

Forecasting Demand

A manufacturer relies on inventory to complete a finished product for which they expect to get paid. For example, an aerospace manufacturer has millions of dollars in parts in their inventory of raw materials that they include in the finished product.

Forecasting demand is essential for any business. For a manufacturer, this means having enough inventory on hand to meet this demand. If a manufacturer fails to forecast demand and orders too little inventory, they face the possibility of losing customers to a competitor. A late order may come at a higher expense, as supplier prices rise due to increased demand. If the manufacturer overestimates demand and orders too much inventory, they have capital tied up in excess inventory and have to incur additional storage costs.

AssetPulse RFID Asset Tracking solutions

Inventory management can be automated with the help of AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions. RFID tags are affixed onto the items that are inventoried. With the help of Fixed RFID readers or handheld RFID scanners, inventory data is updated in real-time or periodically, whichever is preferred.

This inventory data is centrally stored in a web based system that can be readily accessed from anywhere. Additionally, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions also alert users when inventory levels are running below par. All this happens automatically without any human intervention, thereby making the otherwise time consuming process very efficient and accurate.

The RFID asset tracking software also has different reports including historical reports which enables manufacturers to forecast a demand and stock required inventory.

RFID in Manufacturing Helps Gain Better Visibility Into Production Data

One of AssetPulse’s customers integrated RFID into the production work flow. Goods manufactured are embedded with unique RFID tags and each RFID asset data gets mapped to unique serial number of item being manufactured.

It is quite essential for management to get visibility into the number of goods manufactured in a given period of time and get other granular details like the quantity of the type of items manufactured per day, per shift and so on. Based on the production data, management can address any efficiency issues that might exist or bring about a process change for the better.

Without RFID all these information had to be tracked manually by feeding data into a spreadsheet or a register, which was prone to manual errors. Additionally, verifying produced goods involved manually sorting and counting them, which is quite time consuming. More importantly, archiving and reporting historical production data required intensive data mining.

RFID in manufacturing process

Now, with RFID asset tracking introduced in the manufacturing process, each and every item that gets manufactured is embedded with an RFID tag. AssetPulse asset tracking software feeds RFID data along with serial number of the item manufactured, time of manufacture, shift timing and other relevant information into a spreadsheet which is then packaged along with the production slip. RFID scanner is used to scan 100’s of produced goods in a fraction of minute and this is cross-verified against the production slip to ensure integrity of the production lot. Cross-verifying a production lot used to take at least an hour without RFID earlier.

AssetPulse asset tracking software archives the production data which is used for easier reporting and data analytics. If the manufactured goods are returned servicing or for RMA, then with the help of the unique RFID tag that is embedded, it is very easy to identify the manufacturing details of the product such as date of manufacture, batch and quantities manufactured in the batch etc. This data can be used in identifying production, QA or manufacturing issues and appropriate corrective actions can be taken.

Basically, RFID in manufacturing process provides visibility of the process as well as statistical data, all of which can be used for increasing efficiency. Want to know if RFID is the right technology for your tracking project? Contact us today.

Automated Cleanroom Equipment Tracking – RFID Solution

Do you know what equipment has to go to Metrology for calibration? Do you know when it was removed from the cleanroom and whether it has gone to Metrology? Was it brought back to the Cleanroom and if so, when?

Equipment Management in Cleanroom

Cleanroom management in a biotech company poses several challenges, many of which, if not addressed effectively, can severely impact the company’s bottom line. One of the many challenges is facilitating the strict adherence of the calibration schedule for all test and measurement equipment.

This means not only ensuring that the equipment is removed from the Cleanroom and sent to Metrology, but also that the equipment is returned to the right location in the Cleanroom from Metrology. Cleanroom management has very little visibility into this process. Several times, equipment may leave the Cleanroom, but is not delivered to Metrology in a timely fashion. Often calibration is completed, but the Cleanroom is not aware of it and the equipment is sitting on some shelf waiting to be returned to the Cleanroom.

RFID Cleanroom

AssetPulse Solution for Lab Equipment Management in Cleanroom

A global medical device company faced similar challenges for several years. These problems were of course exacerbated by its explosive growth, thus exposing it to more severe consequences. Over the years, it tried to address them with process modifications and applying various technologies. With the AssetPulse lab equipment tracking solution – a combination of well-selected RFID tags, appropriate reader configurations and well-tuned software, they were able to finally address the problems effectively. Not only were they able to get complete visibility of how the equipment moved between the Cleanroom and Metrology, but they were proactively alerted when there was a break in the process – when equipment wasn’t delivered to Metrology in a timely manner or if calibrated equipment wasn’t returned to the Cleanroom when ready.

Automated Asset Tracking software

The AssetGather asset tracking solution automatically tracked the movement of equipment leaving the Cleanroom and entering and exiting the Metrology Lab. Automatic tracking alleviated the shortcomings of the manual process involved in keeping track of equipment moving between Cleanrooms and Metrology.

In order to realize the full potential of AssetPulse asset tracking solution it is very critical to choose optimal RFID tags. Not only do they have to be mounted on very small pieces of equipment including 6” rulers, but they also have to withstand the sterile environment of the Cleanroom. This means they have to withstand chemical wipe-downs and sometimes more rigorous cleansing. AssetPulse offers tried and tested RFID tags of different form factors and properties like the ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions and to sustain exposure to chemicals.

RFID Asset Tracking for Lab Relocation

Is your company growing? Or are you downsizing? Either way, there is likelihood that your labs are being relocated. Laboratory relocations present a unique set of challenges and are huge headaches for lab managers. First, lab managers need to have an accurate inventory of their current equipment. Not only what they have, but also where everything is. Inventory tracking and equipment location tracking is simplified by AssetPulse Lab equipment tracking solutions. Now that the lab managers have clear visibility of where each of the equipment is, they need to decide what equipment goes where, in the new location. Equipment has to be packaged and marked with care before they are moved.

Laboratory Relocation Services

Unfortunately, mistakes are bound to happen. Packages are mislabeled. Equipment is not delivered to the right lab. Well meaning personnel, will move packages out for legitimate reasons, without informing anyone. The lab manager is tearing his or her hair searching for misplaced equipment. These are not uncommon scenarios.

RFID Asset Tracking Solution in Relocation of Labs

One of our long term customers who has implemented our RFID based asset tracking solutions just went through a move. The complexity of lab instruments, regulatory requirements and the need to address lab workloads during a move demands exacting processes. With our RFID enabled lab equipment tracking system, they had an accurate inventory of all their equipment and more importantly, where each of the equipment was located. They were able to plan the move efficiently – which equipment goes to which destination. Equipment was packaged. Some labeling mistakes were made. Equipment did get misplaced.

However, because all the equipment had been RFID tagged, and the major exit and entrance doors had been instrumented with RFID readers, our RFID asset tracking system accurately tracked what equipment was moved when and through which doors when they entered in the destination buildings. Even if a piece of equipment was incorrectly delivered to a lab, our asset tracking solution alerted the lab manager of the error. So, they knew where exactly to go search for the equipment with a handheld RFID scanner. Since the RFID tags are able to be read through the packaging, they didn’t have to undergo the laborious processes of opening the packaging and trying to read the asset number of the equipment inside.

With our RFID system, the entire relocation process, from planning through execution to completion, was a much smoother, much quicker and more painless process for not only the lab management personnel, but also for the users of the labs. This had direct impact on the business, because it not only made efficient use of personnel’s time, but also got the labs back on its feet quicker, so the business suffered minimal disruption.

RFID Asset Tracking for Pipette Management & Calibrations

If you are in charge of a bio lab where you need to manage calibrations of pipettes, we empathize with you. Pipettes are crucial to experiments conducted within labs. However, they also tend to move around a lot – yes, a lot! Not only is it trying to make sure pipettes are in the right lab a challenge, but it is harder and more imperative to find them when they are due for calibration.

RFID Based Pipette Tracking Software for Laboratory

Using RFID asset tracking to trace pipettes is a great solution to address these issues. AssetPulse has worked with world leading pharmaceutical companies to track their pipettes. We have an array of RFID tags depending on the use of the pipettes. Having affixed RFID tags on these pipettes, inventory audits using RFID scanners have become a lot easier and it also has become easier to locate the pipettes when they come up for calibration.

RFID Asset Tracking Helps In Calibration Process Itself In Addition To Inventorying

An RFID instrumented bin can be placed at optimal locations in or around the labs. We notify users/lab managers of upcoming pipette calibrations. They use a mobile RFID reader to locate these pipettes and then place them in the bin. Notifications are automatically sent to the pipette manufacturer or the third party calibration company, who can then schedule a pickup or send over personnel to perform the calibration. Not only do they know what types of pipettes are up for calibration, but also how many of each AND their individual serial numbers.

The calibrating entity can also leverage the RFID tags. Their personnel are notified as soon as the pipettes enter their facility, so appropriate resources can be allocated to service them. On completion, the customer can be notified that they will receive the pipettes shortly. The pipettes are deposited in the lab bins upon arrival from the calibrating entity and the lab manager is notified that they are now ready for us.

RFID can provide visibility into the ‘calibration supply chain’ process end-to-end!

RFID Based Asset Tracking aids in GLP/GMP Regulated Lab Management

Being responsible for the equipment in a GLP/GMP regulated lab is no easy task. Several compliance requirements have to be adhered to. AssetPulse’s RFID asset tracking solutions have greatly helped streamline the equipment management of such labs.

lab equipment tracking software

AssetPulse Real-time Asset Tracking Software

Our real-time asset tracking solutions provide an accurate inventory of all equipment across geographic locations. It can detect addition or removal of components in qualified systems like HPLCs. The Lab Manager can be alerted of such movements, thereby triggering a re-qualification process automatically. Failure to re-qualify can have serious technical and financial repercussions.

Before the use of RFID, the equipment databases were woefully out of sync with reality. This resulted in Finance and QA departments to initiate audits often, in order to update their databases. Small teams of scientists/researchers would need to be assembled, to scour the labs looking for equipment, severely impacting their overall productivity.

AssetPulse Asset Tracking Software Maintains Centralized Database of Asset Information

Maintaining accurate inventory of all the equipment and keeping their details up to date can be a full time job. Details include location, manufacturer, model, serial number, receive date, deployment date and all maintenance related information including calibration/maintenance schedules, non-routine repairs, performance verification and revalidation dates. The AssetPulse database allows all such detailed information to be maintained in one central database, accessible to all concerned players including R&D, Quality and Finance personnel.

Further, the database allows all relevant documents to be stored together with the equipment details. IQ/OQ/PQ documents, standard operating procedures, warranty certificates, calibration certificates can be made easily accessible through the database. This allows audits to go a lot quicker, instead of having to sift through a myriad of documents in order to locate the appropriate pieces of paper.

Thus, the use of RFID can effectively bridge any visibility gaps with respect to Asset Management in Analytical labs, hospitals and in pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chains.

AssetPulse’s RFID asset tracking eases auditing of assets

Yet another process where RFID asset tracking can help you with…

Usual wall to wall inventory audit process

If your fiscal year matches the calendar year, you must be in the throes of your annual asset audit. If you currently use barcodes or worse, a highly labor intensive process to do your wall-to-wall audits, we commiserate with you. Having to crawl under desks and lab benches, reach behind assets in order to read off barcodes or serial numbers is not only time consuming, but can also be injurious to your health! Often, teams of people are made to perform these audit tasks and it can take days, if not weeks. Once an audit is done of the entire company, considerable amount of time is spent reconciling the audited list with the list sent by your finance department.

Then the teams have the unenviable task of chasing down those assets that were not located the first time around. Now, equipment owners, lab managers, Principal Investigators and the like, are recruited to participate in the daunting task of having to track down the missing assets. After days of these expensive resources being deployed, the missing asset list is whittled down to a few dozen. The Finance department is then asked to write these items off. All in all, it is a costly and laborious process.

rfid asset tracking inventory management Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkeleylab/3523139681/

RFID asset tracking solution for wall to wall inventory

By using RFID asset tracking solutions i.e. RFID tagging the assets, using an RFID handheld reader only or a combination of RFID handheld readers and fixed RFID readers, the organization can more efficiently and accurately complete its audits, with nearly 100% reconciliation. Our customers have not only seen at least an 80% reduction in audit times, but have also not seen a need to write off inventory due to their inability to locate them. Further, they have realized more than 100% ROI in less than 2 years.

One of our happy customers

“The AssetPulse active RFID solution meets my needs for managing the ALS vacuum equipment pool. The inventory and search capability of the active system is invaluable during the yearly wall to wall inventory of the entire lab. Having an up-to-date inventory record of all assets will cut the time and labor cost to the lab to an ultimate minimum. Previously, wall-to-wall inventory has taken multiple weeks to manually find and scan these assets.”

– Frank Zucca, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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