Strategy

Get More from RFID with Machine Vision in the Mix

November 10, 2022  |  Kargo  |  7 min

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What You Need to Know

Many companies have invested in radiofrequency identification (RFID) systems for their ability to strengthen tracking and traceability. 

With the emergence of machine vision, companies can elevate the value of RFID, connecting the benefits of end-to-end tracking with the power of complete accuracy and contextual data.

Kargo delivers on this potential with machine vision systems that advance what’s possible for logistics. Kargo Towers capture freight data at docks, flag exceptions in real time, offer network effects across warehouses, and integrate with your systems. 

For more on how Kargo works with RFID, email info@mykargo.com

How RFID and Machine Vision Work Together

As the supply chain industry grows its data use, artificial intelligence becomes increasingly important. The success of RFID points to ongoing demand for exact management of huge datasets at once.

The enormity of this demand allows us to expand our understanding of data beyond the realm of text and graphical marks like barcodes or QR codes. 

This expansion represents a profound evolution of logistics: We can begin to see everything as a data source, including people, objects in motion, environmental background, and context.

A broader concept of data is where artificial intelligence, like machine vision, can bring companies to the forefront of logistics visibility and efficiency. 

Kargo has identified ways in which early adoption of machine vision enhances RFID programs to create competitive advantage for logistics providers.

Transform Visibility

In a controlled setting, RFID can quickly capture a massive amount of data, but warehouses aren’t always perfectly controlled settings. 

Interference with radiofrequency can come from a number of sources in a warehouse, including metal, cellophane, liquid, and even humans, due to the amount of water in our bodies.

Additionally, the proximity of RFID tags to multiple RFID readers across dock doors can create confusion and error. A busy warehouse may have 50 dock doors in a row, causing readers to capture a tag from the wrong door, count the same tag twice, or miss tags altogether. 

These factors make RFID less reliable at loading docks, right where warehouses have a high need for accuracy. 

In this case, machine vision takes over for more complete coverage and visibility.

For example, Kargo Towers capture any freight data a human could see. Materials that interfere with RFID aren’t an issue for machine vision. 

Since towers are placed at loading dock doors, they capture and upload data from freight that passes through that door. This data can be communicated to your ERP, WMS, or other system of record. 

You can also use machine vision to clarify and confirm events and exceptions by referring to visual proof in the Kargo Platform. Images and video show exactly what transpired at the loading dock. 

Together with RFID, you get the complete picture you need to ensure accuracy. 

Strengthen Decisions

RFID and machine vision can help strengthen your decision-making, too. 

Data from both sources can give you a comprehensive understanding of your warehouse operations and partner accountability.

Machine vision is a new stream of data for many warehouses. It empowers you with more information to improve a range of decisions because it covers multiple freight attributes and environmental context.

For example, RFID lets you know freight is in your warehouse. With Kargo Towers at your loading docks, you can discover more, like whether freight is inbound or outbound and whether it’s damaged or not.

This greater context combines with greater coverage to help you streamline dock door assignments, resolve claims for overages, shortages, and damages (OS&D), maintain shipment accuracy, and negotiate new contracts with visual proof on your side.

Boost Profitability 

By creating a logistics technology mix that fits your warehouse needs, you can get equally strategic about accelerating your return on investment and boosting overall profitability.

One clear example is the prevention and resolution of OS&D issues. With RFID, you may have data inconsistencies that make it hard to gauge shipment accuracy. Many companies just pay OS&D claims due to uncertainty. 

By comparison, Kargo Towers flag exceptions at the loading dock, so that you can catch errors before you accept freight or before an outbound misshipment occurs. 

When claims do arise, you have visual proof of responsibility. The images and videos in the Kargo Platform show loading and unloading events, so you can pay with certainty and take measures to improve processes as necessary—or reject claims that don’t originate with your warehouse.

Additionally, as you build network effects across dock doors and warehouses, it becomes easier to optimize your shipping and receiving as a whole. More complete visibility allows you to limit areas of cost bleed and find opportunities for expanded partnership.

Understanding the features and benefits of RFID and machine vision can help you define a technology mix that brings your warehouse to the next level of growth. 

More on RFID: What Is RFID?

In logistics, RFID is a contactless way to track inventory with high levels of speed and accuracy.  

RFID systems comprise tags and readers:

  • RFID tags and smart labels contain transponders. They store and communicate multiple data attributes, similar to barcodes. 
  • RFID readers capture tag data, either automatically, when a tag comes within range of the reader, or on demand, like when staff use handheld scanners.

Each item that needs to be tracked gets an RFID tag. In warehouses, readers are typically placed at entry and exit points, like loading docks. 

Tags are findable and trackable across the supply chain for multiple purposes, like faster warehouse retrieval, loss prevention, analyzing transit and dwell times, and ensuring the flow of goods to meet customer demand. 

One of the highlights of RFID is that some systems are able to capture data from all tags within a given area at once. 

This can multiply the amount of data transferred to a WMS or other platform for exceptional scalability when compared to item-by-item capture.

More on Machine Vision: What Is Machine Vision?

Machine vision, in comparison to RFID, allows for broader capabilities. Some of these include real-time updates to WMS and other platforms, exception flagging at the loading dock, contextual data from the environment, and visual proof of logistics events. 

For example, Kargo Towers use two wide field-of-view cameras to build contextual awareness, detecting dock doors, pallet count, and pallet damage. 

High-precision cameras form a vertical stack and run at 144 million pixels per second to record and identify freight as it passes the loading dock. The towers can read barcodes, labels, logos, and any other attribute a human could see. 

Freight data is shared to the Kargo Platform, where you can confirm freight quantities and condition, see exceptions, track performance across partners, and discover opportunities for efficiency across warehouse networks.

Creating Value with Logistics Tech

Your logistics technology mix may be one of the most important supply chain decisions you make.

The value gained from leading technology can help you earn advantages over your competitors and increase market share:

  • Higher accuracy can improve on-time shipping and reduce cost to serve.
  • Greater visibility can resolve exceptions, improve accountability, support customer service, and reveal trends.
  • New data can sharpen strategic decisions and boost negotiation power.

Even 3PLs that don’t directly handle freight can realize these benefits by booking with partners that invest in innovation. By setting the bar higher for your providers, you set the bar higher for your customers, offering transparency and accountability that others can’t.  

With a well-planned technology mix, logistics providers can uplevel their strategies, operations, and partnerships. 

If you’re ready to see how Kargo can help you discover the right mix for your goals and objectives, request a demo.