RFID vs QR Codes – Which Tracking Tags are suitable for Inventory Management

QR Code

The reason RFID tags versus QR code tracking is still a debate in this day and age is because there’s no easy answer. Which technology is best for you will depend on your needs and uses. A comparison between the two types of tracking technology reveals RFID may be better for managing large inventory where you need greater efficiency while scanning in bulk. QR Codes can store complex data and don’t need programming like RFID tags do, but they may be more expensive to use in retail environments.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these technologies for inventory management.

RFID Tracking Systems: How they work

An RFID tag is a small plastic or paper-wrapped microchip that can store data. You can store simple data in these tags, such as the dimensions, weight, etc. of the product the tag is applied to. To read the tag, you need a scanner that has the capability of near field communication (NFC.) When you bring a scanner close to the tag, it activates the tag using radio waves. All the data is stored right in the tag, instead of online. So you don’t need to connect to the internet in order to read the data on the tag.

What’s great about RFID tracking systems and what makes them suitable for high volume inventory tracking is their ability to track in bulk. Radio waves don’t need line of sight to activate the tags. Even if your boxes are out of the way, on shelves that are hard to reach without pulling out a ladder, you can use the scanner. Your warehouse employees don’t need to crane their necks and limbs in awkward angles to get the scanner to scan. They won’t need to waste time getting the boxes down to scan them.

On the flip side, RFID tracking software won’t work with most phones, so you’ll need to get the scanner. The scanner is by no means inexpensive, though costs have come down significantly since the technology first came out. In other words, only medium to big businesses may be able to afford RFID tracking systems. Most mobile phones don’t come with NFC capabilities. It may not make sense for many businesses to invest in an RFID tracking system if their inventories are small.

Some of the other downsides of RFID is due to the microchip. Malicious parties can hack the microchips and steal product information. RFID tags can also be a bit reliable if there is liquid, magnets or metal surfaces that block or interfere with radio waves.

Who can benefit from RFID Inventory Tracking?

If your warehouse is processing large volumes of inventory daily, it can be inconvenient and not to mention expensive to scan each item manually. That’s where RFID asset tracking systems will come in most useful. Many companies these days are using RFID for inventory management and beyond, increasing efficiency and reducing errors in supply chain management and distribution systems as well.

The most efficient way to use RFID scanners would be to place them at points around your warehouse where the items can be scanned as they are moved. An RFID tracking system will eliminate human error and allow your warehouse employees to process more items each day. Retail stores can benefit from RFID inventory management. RFID tracking can make it easy for employees to check which products are available or out of stock when customers visit the store.

RFID Tags for Inventory Management: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Can scan in bulk
  • Can store all product data
  • Durable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Unpredictable in the presence of metals, liquid, magnets
  • Vulnerable against hacking

QR Code Tracking Systems: How they work

QR (Quick-response) Codes are a kind of three-dimensional bar code. These square printed codes are composed of tiny black and white pixels that just require a camera and simple software to read.

Unlike barcodes, which are able to store very limited data such as dates, names and prices, QR codes can store more complex data. They can lead the user’s device (usually a smartphone) to an app or website. You can store complex binary code for pictures in the bar code. There’s space to store as much as 4,296 characters of text on a QR code.

QR codes are printed, just like bar codes. This makes them inexpensive to create and print. You may or may not know that only thirty percent of the QR code needs to be readable in order for the cellphone to pick up the data stored. This means, a damaged QR code may still be readable.

QR codes are heavily used around the world for POS systems. But they were originally developed for the management of large inventories, as upgraded bar codes, with the capability to store more complex data. They are used today across logistics systems and warehouses for managing large product volumes. They can be endlessly customized and read both horizontally and vertically. Most new Android and iOS devices are able to directly scan QR codes with the camera.

Who can benefit from QR Code Inventory Tracking?

QR code-based inventory tracking systems can be particularly useful for businesses that work heavily with Asian manufacturers. QR codes are more widely used in Asian countries like China, Taiwan and Singapore than in the US. Using the same tags will make it easier to communicate with suppliers and vendors, and there will be fewer instances of errors in stock management.

QR codes can also benefit businesses whose product tags tend to get easily damaged, due to long transits or inhospitable environments. RFID tags, the other alternative, don’t do well in the presence of liquids, magnets and certain thick metals. QR codes can come in handy in environments where these substances are present. RFID microchips are durable. But QR codes are even more durable. You don’t have to worry about wrinkles, tears, or water damage affecting your warehouse employees’ ability to scan the products.

QR Code for Inventory Management: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Can store complex data
  • Easy to scan even when damaged

Cons

  • Requires line of sight
  • Inefficient for bulk tracking
  • Can be expensive to implement in retail

The Verdict

Depending on your needs, based on the volume of products, type of products and other factors, either RFID tags or QR codes may be more suitable for you. QR Codes are suitable for situations where RFID tracking systems aren’t, such as where water, magnets or metals are involved. On the other hand, RFID tracking systems are excellent for bulk tracking. If you have large volumes of fast-moving inventory, and a larger budget, you can benefit from installing RFID scanners at various points around your warehouse.

You may also benefit from RFID tracking systems if you work with local vendors or suppliers in Australia, where RFID systems are widely used and becoming increasingly popular. Many breweries keep track of their wine, beer and alcohol stock with RFID tags, and enjoy lower keg losses. Installing RFID scanners at various points across the distribution and supply chain can increase efficiency and bring you peace of mind. Once used largely for military applications, RFID is slated to become the inventory management system of the future as costs fall. But QR codes aren’t going away anytime soon.

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