Did you know that radio frequency identification (RFID) hit the scene in 1945? It was even used during World War II! Electronic RFID tags, which utilize radio waves, can be used to monitor and track objects when scanned with an RFID reader. Barcodes date back to 1949, when Joe Woodland, inspired by Morse Code, patented the idea of “article classification . . . through the medium of identifying patterns.” Although his original design was a bullseye symbol with lines of varying widths, the computer-readable code eventually evolved into the rectangle used around the world today. Compared to traditional barcodes, RFID technology provides a significant increase in processing speed because it can read information from all items in the working radius simultaneously. However, RFID readers and labels are also more expensive than barcode readers and labels.

These two technologies, barcode and RFID labels, are similar in application and use. Although they haven’t changed dramatically over the years, they have evolved to meet customer demands. Today we’re exploring some of the current barcode labeling and RFID industry trends for warehouses.

Closeup Barcode sticker with red laser beam. Vector illustration

Barcode and RFID Industry Trends for Warehouses

Automatic Identification

More and more warehouses are using automatic identification technology, like barcodes and RFID labels, on products for greater stock visibility and transparency. In addition to aiding with inventory accuracy and speed, this can reduce theft and increase overall productivity. Although barcodes and RFID technology are incredibly important and useful tools for warehouses seeking to improve their efficiency, they’re still underutilized overall. Luckily, the cost of these types of software is decreasing, so more warehouse managers are choosing to invest in them (source). According to Zebra’s warehouse vision report, the use of barcode scanning by warehouses will increase from 68 percent to 84 percent by 2020 (source).

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Manufacturers are adding more content to their barcode labels to fulfill customers’ requests. Labeling requirements have increased in complexity, so labels have increased in flexibility to support the data demands. Often, business users are able to make label changes on their own and create automated labeling processes. For example, a warehouse leader can choose a label design format that meets their facility’s specific needs. This can increase efficiency and reduce the need for countless label templates.

Mobile Readers and 2D Imaging Technology

In many industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, and logistics, we’re seeing an increased demand for mobile devices to read barcodes and RFID labels. This allows for more flexibility and ease of use. In addition, many companies now prefer 2D imaging technology for barcode scanning. It offers versatility, as it can read barcodes from different angles and off multiple surfaces. In addition, it can sometimes piece together information from damaged barcodes (source). Both of these barcode and RFID industry trends improve efficiency and productivity.

Wide Area RFID

Another increasingly popular development, Wide Area RFID systems involve the installation of an RFID reader on the ceiling. Mounted overhead, the technology can monitor the location and movement of inventory within the warehouse. This is especially popular in industries like manufacturing, distribution, and retail. When combined with the installation of multiple antennas, Wide Area RFID can monitor a very large area for a relatively low cost.

Drone Technology

In the future, some hope to combine RFID technology with drones that require little or no human intervention. RFID readers will be attached to drones to further automate the inventory process and increase the speed of cataloguing. This can also save space on the warehouse floor, as products can be stacked high but still be read by the scanners on the drones (source).

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What do you think of our list of barcode and RFID industry trends for warehouses? Have we forgotten an important emerging trend?

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