The 5 Biggest Issues Involved in RFID Asset Tagging, and How To Manage Them
Article on RFID Asset Tagging
1. Quality Control
The very nature of RFID asset tracking technology means processing errors cause programming errors, in turn programming errors cause RFID system failure. Having a process that does not include stringent quality control measures will inevitably cause issues later, your RFID asset management system is far more likely to fail on poor data without these measures.
There are some simple RFID programming data integrity checks you can employ. Depending upon the RFID software system you are utilising and the way the data is captured you can utilise that data for quality control checks. Using a reasonably simple software solution (access based is fine) you can establish whether any of the data that has been input through the tagging process is outside the required parameters.
For instance, if all the data going on the RFID tags and asset database is barcode data, you can run a simple query to ensure all the inputting meets the barcode parameters, by then looking at the data and establishing that all the unique tag IDs match a single barcode you can be sure there were no processing errors causing the same tag to be programmed more than once. You can also check that each barcode was only utilised once. Depending what other asset information is recorded on each RFID tag more data checks can be employed.
One of the key reasons these checks need completing is human nature and our unerring ability to find a shortcut wherever possible. If a team member charged with tagging sees an opportunity for a shortcut, then some will take it. We have seen it first hand, the trouble is there are no shortcuts in this process, improvements to ensure the process is as efficient as possible certainly, but no shortcuts.
The Tagging Team use a number of quality control processes to ensure that data integrity and tag placement are never compromised. Our teams are experienced, we get very few of these errors, but that’s because we’ve been running this check for seven years and 28 million + RFID tags.
Every RFID tag that is placed on an asset and programmed with the relevant information is a cost to the asset owner. For source tagging that cost is lower as it forms part of an existing system, for legacy asset tagging the cost is more difficult to define. This cost can be high or low, depending how the processing is performed, by who, and how many that person can process in any given period.
The calculation for this is straight forward, hourly rate divided by tags applied and programmed equals cost per tag. If existing staff are utilised then perhaps this could be considered a soft cost, using existing staff is covered later.
In order to create the most efficient process for any individual RFID legacy asset tagging process, some knowledge of RFID technology, some skills in RFID process management, some project management, quality control procedures and some clear staff supervision needs to be employed.
Otherwise the costs potentially spiral out of control with no realistic project cost target being applied ahead of the tagging process.
Additionally, Parkinson’s Law comes into play “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. If you don’t know what timescale to apply to the RFID tagging task then it will take as long as the team doing it decide it will take. Or, if you estimate the RFID tagging timescale
incorrectly you run the risk of filling far more time than was necessary, or, underestimating the time required and causing delays to implementation.
Scoping the RFID legacy asset tagging project correctly and applying realistic timescales is an essential part of the overall RFID implementation project. The Tagging Team will scope your project for you, provide a guaranteed timescale and maximise productivity to keep costs down utilising our unique Optimised Cognitive Labour model.
3. Define the process clearly and create exhaustive tagging guidelines
We have seen the after effects of poorly implemented tagging projects in a number of scenario’s, from low productivity raising costs to poor processing causing errors, the latter can be covered not only by strong Quality Control but through thorough planning.
An exhaustive RFID asset tagging manual is essential to the process. Everyone involved in applying and programming RFID tags needs to be managed throughout but they also need a manual to work to. The nature of the process means that some assets require a different method of RFID tag application. If all possible scenarios are covered in an asset tagging manual which each team member is charged with reading carefully and reviewing where necessary, the potential issues are far less likely to occur.
Cover every possible scenario in your manual, each item type, how, where and even when it should be tagged. If you get this right from the start the likelihood of issues is reduced, but don’t assume it removes the need for monitoring and quality control.
The Tagging Team treat the production of a tagging manual as part of the project.
4. Who’s doing the tagging, are they invested in the result?
The RFID legacy asset tagging process in any industry is manual labour, but not thoughtless manual
labour but cognitive manual labour. In order to ensure that the process is successful it’s important
to understand who will be performing the task, for a number of reasons;
- Are they invested in a positive outcome?
- Could they wish to influence a negative outcome?
- If you utilise agency / temporary staff what incentive’s do they have to do the job in a timely and quality controlled manner?
- If you utilise internal staff do they see this as part of their job description?
- Will there be resistance to the proposed change in process that RFID brings?
- Are there any issues around RSI or other H&S concerns?
- Do you have a risk assessment prepared?
- Do you have H&S guidelines prepared?
- You are securing your companies assets, it’s important to bear in mind that the process could actually encourage leakage at the tagging stage.
- RFID is often seen as the machine that will reduce staffing levels, if this is the case are you asking the ferryman to build the bridge?
- If a team member makes a mistake have you provided a reasonable course for them to report and repair it?
- The same questions need asking for your Project Manager, Team Supervisor and Quality Control Manager.
The Tagging Team are invested in your project being successful, if it’s not then neither are we.
The most important element of RFID Asset Tagging implementation are the consequences when it doesn’t go right. Let’s walk through some of them.
Quality control procedures don’t work or are not in place. It is inevitable that when you have people processing high amounts of legacy assets in a repetitive task format there will be errors.
The consequences of poorly implemented RFID technology can be assimilated to creating any other database. If the data you put in is poor, the data you get out is even worse.
So let’s consider what happens if some of the errors shown in part 1 are not managed and corrected.
Your system is implemented and your team begin to utilise it. But, there are errors, they try processing information on an asset and find they’ve processed details on the wrong asset. They try processing an asset and find no data on the tag at all. Both scenario’s are not only possible but very likely.
The reactions initially may be limited, slight shift towards negativity, if it continues the system soon becomes more troublesome than the process it was supposed to replace.
We have consulted on RFID projects (tagged in-house), where the staff charged with utilising the system have simply turned it off. They report it as broken when in reality it’s unplugged, sounds crazy, but it’s a real world example of the negative effects of a poorly implemented RFID project.
If you don’t implement correctly your new RFID asset management system will get off to a bad start, regaining confidence will be an uphill struggle.
Productivity and cost are a key part of the overall capital investment in the system. It would be crazy to imagine investing in a solution with an open ended cost to it, wouldn’t it? If you can’t precisely gauge the total cost of the tagging element of an RFID implementation how can you forecast the total project cost.
The tagging process is manual repetitive labour, some people take to it and some do not. Some are considerably faster than others with an equal level of effort, some are willing to put everything into the task, some are not.
Gauging the productivity before you begin is essential to cost the process, can you afford to start a project that you can’t cost?
Both points above are partially managed by providing the complete tagging guidelines / manual.
If you’re implementing RFID we would suggest a thorough analysis of your assets and the technology being used, how to implement across all your assets is an essential part of the project. Learning as you go is not a viable option, planning ahead thoroughly should ensure that the essential elements of the tagging process are in place, then you can manage the implementation successfully.
The Tagging Team are happy to provide an RFID Tagging Needs Assessment from an expert in the field, whatever industry you are in the application of RFID tags is an industry on its own. As any new implementation of RFID technology is a new process for the end user it makes absolute sense to source someone with the requisite skills, whether to complete the task on your behalf or simply to consult on the process required.
For a Tagging Needs Assessment visit The Tagging Team Home Page