Which is Better - Barcodes or RFID?
When determining which type of auto-ID data capture system is better, the answer is a resounding… IT DEPENDS. There are a number of considerations that will determine which system is most appropriate for your customers. The following are just a few of the variables that can affect the choice between RFID or barcode.
Value of the Items to Be Scanned
Generally speaking, the higher the value of the asset, the more useful an RFID label becomes. If the cost of the item being tracked is less than the cost of an RFID tag, then barcodes would most likely be the best choice. As the cost of the item goes up, so does the value of RFID.
Size, Shape and Location of Items Being Scanned
Is it easy to access the tag for scanning with either a handheld or mounted reader? For example, are all of the tags or labels facing roughly the same direction? Are the items to be scanned inside crates where they would need to be removed to access the tag? Can items be scanned individually, or is there a benefit to scanning entire pallets? Due to the way that barcode and RFID labels are read, the answers to these questions can play a large part in determining which tracking method will work best.
Information Being Tracked
Barcodes work very well for providing basic information such as an SKU, price and whether an item is in stock. RFID tags can encode considerably more information, on a per unit basis. For example, when a barcode label on a retail nutraceutical product is scanned it can provide the item name and number and price, and add or remove the item from inventory. An RFID label could provide additional specifics to the individual item such as when and where the product was manufactured, where it’s been since then and any possible recalls.
Supply Chain Considerations
There can be significant benefit to utilizing an information process that utilizes the same label format and tracking system throughout the supply chain. RFID has grown in popularity and use, but it is still not as widely used as barcodes. If a company is working with a vendor or supplier who does not yet have RFID capabilities, this may limit the group of supplies and vendors they can work with.