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Implementing technology to track shipping containers has proven to be an effective part of a well-managed supply chain. Tracking can reassure both producer and consumer, and many businesses have already implemented inventory tracking systems – for efficiency’s sake, and as a security measure.

In recent years, the use of radio-frequency identification systems has become more common, though they are often selected because they are “the latest trend,” rather than a real intention of making the most of their power. Radio-frequency identification systems, or RFID systems, can be a powerful tool for not only reusable container tracking, but for internal inventory management as well.

One of the most powerful advantages of RFID tags is the fact that they are programmable. Tags announce their presence, or “beacon,” when passing checkpoints, but can also be programmed to do so when certain external conditions are detected. This means with the right infrastructure – typically a “choke point” antenna set up to detect tags at specific locations – tag read events can be used to trigger automated functions to improve inventory tracking in the following ways:

  1. Automated Invoicing – If an antenna is placed near a dock door, detecting an RFID tag attached to a reusable container is indicative that it is about to be shipped to a supplier. This event can be configured to generate an automated invoice to be sent to that supplier.
  1. Inspection Requirement – A tag read generated from an antenna placed near the exit of a repair bay can indicate that the reusable container associated with the tag is ready for a final inspection before it is ready to go back into circulation.
  1. Automated Replenishment – Vendor-managed inventory tracking can be driven with readers integrated into shelving units and RFID tags placed on reusables containers holding inventory items. “Replenishment” orders can be generated automatically when tags are read by a reader placed on shelves specifically intended to contain empty containers.
  1. Alerts – The same “reader in zone” practice cane be used to generate a variety of alerts – for example, if a container has been placed in a staging area reserved for another type of container, you’ll know immediately and can take action to correct the mistake and reduce confusion.

With the right deployment and logic, RFID tags can trigger essentially any business function you can think of. RFID tags can to detect how full a container is, automatically order new containers when inventory gets low, alert you to status changes, or remind you to inspect goods. Simplify your supply chain loop and make your job easier by using RFID – where reusables tracking meets the order fulfillment process.

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