RTLS technology is a new progression in the realms of data tracking and management. Using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging, the location of tagged items can be indicated through the use of RFID transmitters and receivers, which relays this information back into a computer system. RTLSs are already making headway within the medical industry, being utilised in hospitals to ease the pressure on staff and resources during times of intense activity, such as in the aftermath of disasters with a high rate of casualties (Ma et al., 2011). The introduction of RTLS enables doctors to track patients, equipment, even being able to triangulate their position. Essentially, what this means, is a more dynamic response, enabling more effective mechanisms to be put in place during times of intense labour. If one hospital is full, an automated computer service can indicate this, whereas in the past, hospitals would have had to rely on data collected by doctors and services within the wards. But how do RTLSs translate into the warehouse environment? Quite easily, it is basically stock control software. If they are effective in terms of offering medical attention to disaster injured patients, which inevitably have an array of unpredictable variables, then the possibilities within a controlled warehouse environment are extremely impressive.
The Introduction of RTLSs Within Warehouses
The smooth operation of moving and mobilising stock within a warehouse is very reliant upon human interaction. This can be anything from locating a certain palette, scanning a certain product or entering a certain numerical value. However, mistakes are often made when it comes to manual procedures. RTLSs eliminate this as a cause of lost labour hours. Read here to see how implementing a Real Time Location System saved Zebra 451 staff hours a month, primarily through reducing item location times and, presumably, reducing human error. These improvements are due to fact the use of RTLS removes the need to physically scan items. Through using RFID technology, the whereabouts of items is constantly known. The investment in a Real Time Location System has far-reaching rewards. This even includes increases in safety, due to computer services being able to react to impending danger. For example, two RFID tagged forklifts are about to crash into each other, but due to operating in a busy warehouse environment, the drivers are unaware. Through the use of a RTLS, the drivers can quickly be made aware of the danger they are in, thus avoiding any costly accidents.
Real Time Location Systems are a very flexible entity. RTLSs can operate within Wi-Fi frameworks, meaning any device capable of accessing the 802.11x network can be used to receive data. Essentially, this allows the system to be accessible via a plethora of formats, including both stationary and transportable computer and communicational devices, resulting in a level of versatility previously unseen within the logistics of warehousing. As the drive for modernisation accelerates, the introduction of RTLS can lead to improvements in the utilisation of warehouse space, due to the construction of a warehouse map database, which leads to improvements in storage, security, the handling of goods and the overall efficiency of the warehouse (Chen et al., 2008).
To explore the points of Chene et al., RTLSs improve storage due to encouraging more logical and pragmatic solutions. Palette location is no longer at the mercy of warehouse employees. It is near impossible for stock to go missing, and in addition to this, space requirements and information can be calculated much more efficiently. This then means stock checks and counts can be executed in seconds; RTLS technology compiles data which would otherwise have to be collected manually.
To summarise, the use of Real Time Location Services in a warehousing environment encourages a boost in control and productivity. Information about the stock and storage facilities can be relayed around the compound in a matter of seconds, with 100% accuracy. The technology electronically locates tagged items, thus reducing the need for cumbersome human interaction. The result is a more streamlined logistical experience.
Written by AIDC Solutions UK based IT Solutions Company specialising in stock management systems and warehouse tracking software.