RFID for Chemical Inventory Tracking [Data & Expert Insight]
If you’ve ever scanned your ID badge to open a door, driven through the E-ZPass lane on a toll road, or used tap-and-go to pay at the gas station, then you’ve used RFID.
Today, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology is used in various ways in everyday life because it makes tasks like the ones above faster and more convenient.
For this reason, RFID is also gaining popularity as a tool for chemical inventory. In this article, we’ll look at how RFID chemical inventory tracking works, as well as some reasons why you might consider using RFID for chemical inventory.
How does RFID work as a chemical inventory tracking solution?
RFID is a technology that uses radio waves to transmit information. First, small RFID tags are attached to individual chemical containers. Each RFID tag transmits a unique ID number, which is linked to a record in a database containing information about the item. This information can include details such as chemical name, expiration date, manufacturer details, and more.
These tags can be read using handheld RFID readers or scanners, which emit radio waves that communicate with the RFID tags.
When tagged items come within the range of RFID scanners, the scanners read the ID number stored in the RFID tags. This eliminates the need for you to scan each individual container, allowing you to reconcile your inventory in a fraction of the time it would normally take.
But don’t just take our word for it: In the retail sector, for instance, 93% of North American companies are using RFID technology for inventory tracking. Of these businesses, those that have fully adopted RFID are reporting more than 10% return on their investment.
Benefits of RFID for tracking chemical inventories
RFID tracking is — not surprisingly — more accurate than manual barcode scans. By automatically scanning containers, RFID readers remove the potential for manual errors. You don’t have to worry about typing in numbers correctly or reading each individual barcode. The RFID reader does this for you!
RFID also reduces the chances of you missing inventory items. How so? Unlike barcodes, RFID tags don’t need to be visible to be scanned. This means that tags can be read even if they’re inside cabinets, packages, or hidden from view.
On average, companies that adopt RFID see their inventory accuracy go from 63% to 95%.
Real-time inventory visibility
Even with an accurate inventory, it can be difficult to locate a specific container in a lab or storage area that may have hundreds or thousands of different bottles. However, RFID technology can streamline this process by enabling precise and efficient container tracking.
Once containers have been tagged, handheld RFID readers can be used like a metal detector to locate a specific container. All you have to do is enter the tag ID for the container you need, and the reader will alert you when you’re in proximity to the tagged container. Think how much time this would save you!
RFID also makes it easier to manage your chemical inventory in real time. By strategically placing scanners near disposal areas, you can track the transition of containers from “active” to “disposed” status. This information can help you monitor inventory levels, optimize purchasing, and reduce waste.
RFID delivers huge benefits in terms of cost and time savings. Studies by Auburn University have shown that using RFID expands inventory count rates from 200 to 20,000+ items an hour. In other words, employees are able to complete their inventory counts 100X faster. Just think how this could impact your chemical inventory! When you consider the hourly cost of FTEs, the potential for savings is enormous.
And there’s more good news: Until recently, RFID was a luxury reserved for retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. But as RFID has grown in popularity, prices have gone down considerably— making it a cost-effective solution for chemistry labs.
According to McKinsey, the cost of RFID readers has fallen by nearly 50%, and the cost of tags has fallen around 80% With a host of affordable RFID scanners and tags on the market, this technology is poised to become a standard part of the chemistry lab’s inventory management arsenal.
A few other suggestions to keep costs low:
- Opt for RFID tags with printed tag IDs and optical barcodes. This way, you can use less expensive barcode scanners for routine inventory tasks, and share pricier RFID readers among groups for reconciliation or locating containers as needed.
- Consider implementing a chemical RFID solution for only a portion of your inventory, such as high-hazard areas and/or chemical areas with the most varied and dynamic records. (SciShield’s ChemTracker software can accommodate a mix of RFID, barcoded, and non-labeled containers.)
With RFID, you can see where chemicals are stored within your lab and in what quantities. This makes staying in compliance with regulations easy.
RFID tags attached to chemical containers enable accurate tracking of each container. This aids in maintaining an up-to-date record of where chemicals are located, ensuring compliance with storage, handling, and disposal requirements.
RFID also allows you to keep tabs on how much of each chemical you have on hand. For instance, you can see when there are multiple containers of the same chemical. Not only does this help you avoid purchasing duplicates, it also helps you stay within regulatory limits by ensuring that everything present in your lab is accounted for.
On the flip side, RFID technology can also help to ensure that chemicals that are no longer physically present are removed from inventory records. Why is this important? One of the most common errors in chemical inventory happens because users forget to remove inventory records from the system when chemicals are consumed or discarded. This results in overreporting of chemical quantities, which can make it seem like chemical storage areas are out of compliance with hazardous material limits when they are actually not.
RFID is becoming a popular method for chemical inventory tracking — and for good reason. Using RFID offers many benefits, including accuracy, real-time visibility, cost savings, and improved compliance. To learn more about the options available to you, check out our free guide to chemical inventory software or request a consultation with our expert team.