Manufacturing RFID basics

Brush up on your manufacturing RFID basics with this guide. Learn about the RFID definition, how to build an RFID business case, and find answers to common questions about the basics of RFID.

Manufacturing RFID guide

When Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) became a requirement for suppliers of stores like Wal Mart Stores, Inc., organizations rushed to adopt the technology, which uses radio waves to track objects. However, companies should be careful in taking on RFID too quickly, as understanding how RFID works, how to gain ROI from RFID and whether it is the right fit for you is important for its success. This manufacturing RFID guide addresses...

the following:

  • An introduction to RFID, including the RFID definition, manufacturing RFID basics and how to build an RFID business case.
  • How RFID fits into the SAP market, including the its Auto-ID technology and how other companies have used SAP RFID
  • Common RFID problems and challenges, such as how to know whether your company is ready for RFID
  • RFID in supply chain management, how RFID and SCM work together and the pros and cons of using RFID in SCM

Read the other sections of this guide on Manufacturing RFID

Manufacturing RFID basics
SAP RFID guide
Guide to manufacturing RFID problems and challenges
Supply chain management (SCM) RFID guide


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that allows objects, animals and people to be recognized by radio waves and is increasingly becoming a popular alternative to the bar code.

In his introduction to RFID, Steve Winkler of the SAP Developer Network describes the technology in the following way: An RFID reader sends an interrogating question (e.g. "who are you?") to an RFID tag. The tag can then respond with an answer to the reader (e.g. I am product XYZ from company ABC). In this manner, similar to other sensing technologies, e.g. bar codes, RFID allows objects to be identified.

Here are some other quick notes about RFID basics:

  • Radio waves can be transmitted directly through objects, so RFID readers don't require a line of sight to read the RFID tag
  • The radio waves have a minute electrical current that is used to power the tags
  • An RFID system consists of three components: an antenna, transceiver (often combined into one reader) and a transponder (the tag).
  • Unlike bar codes, advanced forms of RFID make it possible to determine certain aspects of an object's physical state, such as temperature.

How is RFID used in the manufacturing industry? Manufacturing RFID can greatly increase efficiency and save time and labor costs by tracking items as they move throughout the supply chain.

However, it's important to build a business case for RFID and assess if it's the right fit for your company, as Virgin Atlantic did with a pilot program for using RFID to track airplane parts.

In her guide to building an RFID business case, Charna Mamlok addresses some of the following questions:

  • How do you choose the right RFID software vendor?
  • Will RFID benefit your business?
  • What factors are holding up adoption of RFID?
  • How do you calculate ROI of RFID?
Here are some other resources to help you start learning about RFID basics:

RFID product database: Browse a variety of RFID products and manufacturers in this database.

Frequently Asked Questions about RFID: Get your questions answered on popular RFID topics including implementing RFID, RFID costs, RFID compliance mandates and RFID considerations for certain industries.

Preparing for Enterprise RFID Learn how to prepare your current systems for RFID and go about implementing RFID technology in this article from Linux Insider. Like it or not, RFID is coming: Read this FAQ with the CEO of Philips Semiconductors,from BusinessWeek for a look back at initial thoughts on RFID pricing, privacy, RFID in mobile phones and more.

How RFIDs work: In this article, you'll learn about the types of RFID tags past and present and how these tags can be tracked through the entire supply chain.

Genesis of the versatile RFID tag (RFID Journal): Learn how RFID got its start when Mario Cardullo came up with the idea for the RFID tag in 1969.

This was first published in March 2010

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