RFID refers to a kind of ID technology that helps machines to recognize items by using automatic data capture. These kinds of technology utilize radio waves to recognize, check, as well as administer items as they move between physical locations. There are various methods for identifying items with RFID; the most common method is by storing a serial number that identifies items with their related products information. RFID machines including the software must be enhanced by an advanced software component that would aid the collection and distribution of location-based information in the current world. This study will mainly look at RFID and barcode technology which are competitive machinery but complementary. The difference between RFID and the bar code is that RFID does not apply the line-of-sight technology. On the other hand, barcodes have to be scanned for them to institute the line- of- sight, for example, an object in the grocery, on the other hand, RFID tags have to be within reach for the reader to scan. The RFID and barcodes technologies offer the same services but RFID can be said to be more advantageous as compared to the bar technologies.
The barcode, as well as the RFID technology, plays a key role in the food industry and this has revolutionized the manner in which trade is conducted in the world. It is noteworthy that in the past few years there were cases of calamities in the food industry, this was mainly because of the ingredients added to the products thus making the product more artificial whilst the customers demanded products that a high percentage of naturalness in them. These extra ingredients added to the food products were mainly genetically modified giving rise to queries about the safety of these foods and this demanded accountability in terms of identifying the components found in a food product. This is where the RFID came in to check this problem. The impact of this is that food chains have become global as technology continues to improve. The increase in the laws governing food production has contributed to the development of technology that traces unwanted materials in foods (Opara and Mazau, 2001).
Advantages of RFID
RFID ensures that one can read tags swiftly, items in large quantities as well as simultaneously for example products in a store or a container. Secondly, tags have a long shelf life as compared to barcodes and can survive harsh conditions like heat as well as chemicals that would damage the labels located in the barcodes. Thirdly the tags in RFID can be restructured due to the capabilities it has to update. The information contained in barcodes is inert and no updates can be made unless the user reprints the code. Fourthly tags have greater memory as compared to barcodes and thus are very vital in storing a lot of information needed by the manufactures as opposed to the bar codes whose information is static and can only inform the product information as well as the manufacturer’s information. Lastly, while barcodes require a person’s input for it to function, RFID tags do not need this kind of intervention and thus making work easier.
RFID is as important as it is useful in cases where large data to be collected is present as well as in appliances that require classification. Although RFID has several advantages its main disadvantage, however, is that it is very expensive. However, the barcode, as well as the RFID technology, have to maintain co-existence in order for them to respond to the requirements that are so wide in the market. In response to the expanding markets, RFID comes in handy to fill in the gap that cannot be accommodated by technologies such as optical technologies as well as barcode technology.
We find that various items have been used to track food in countries all over the world. In the first place, it is beef that first had the traceability systems being used in countries all over the world to monitor the supply chains. Most countries in the world have their own traceability mechanisms, which they have adopted in order to conform to the standards set by importing countries like the EU member countries as well as Japan. These importing countries have the best quality traceability systems. Countries exporting beef like Australia, Brazil. Argentina, as well as Canada, have adopted traceability systems as demanded by the beef importing countries. However, their traceability systems are not as effective as the traceability systems in the beef importing countries. By the year 2005, the US had not the compulsory traceability systems set by the world trade organizations. Nevertheless, they have some systems running to trace any unwanted materials in foods. Detection of any foreign traces in the animal products relies on the successful recognition of individual animals or groups of animals first, as well as the origin of the animal products, plus the kind of movement involved before the animal product gets to the consumer. This information is then kept in the records so as to monitor the activities taking place after the product gets to the consumer (Smith et al, 2005).
The weaknesses existing in the food industry is that few people in the supply chain get information on the available traceability systems. This situation is brought about by the fact that players in this industry do not share the information about the available traceability systems while others simply have no access to this kind of system. A well-incorporated traceability system should have the capability of passing on word that the food products in the market are of high standards, come from a trusted source, and are safe for consumption. The main features of such systems include required information about the products, enough storage space for data concerning the quality of the food, and the steps being taken to ensure these standards are maintained for example systems like HACCP, ISO, and GMP), synchronization with the international codification standards EAN- UCC as well as harmonization with the internet standards and the current technologies. An example of the HACCP plan is FoodReg which ensures that a product can be traced well. Another system used is the Food Trak which incorporates the course as the sequence in traceability (Madge, 2005). The Food Trak was created in Great Britain and it helps the retailer trace the account of the product in terms of the activities preceding the manufacture of products from their raw form. The internet is very important in passing on data. There are however problems that come up in the process of utilizing these programs (Pettitt, 2001).
For some time now it has been problematic when you attach data that is traceable through a product since the standard codes are rarely used despite their existence due to lack of proper traceability systems that are efficient. It is due to this problem that RFID comes in to check this problem.
The role of the barcode and RFID in the supply chain management
When it comes to RFID, a tag made up of two parts is fixed to the invention. One of the parts contains a microchip containing memory as well as extra electronics plus an antenna which operates by use of an electromagnet combined with a microchip plus a reader device. The memory contained in the tag is used to store information about the product; which can be accessed from the database. The tags available today have a memory that can be reprogrammed such the available content cannot be altered as well as get any additional parts to the product chain. In order to ensure the security of the data from altering data to illicit alteration of the tag memory, the constituents of the tag memory could be protected by altering the password. The data lines in the RFID tag can read through the materials for packaging hence it is not necessary to have a line that can be seen between the tag as well as the reader
The RFID systems are very useful as they help reduce costs since no manual scanning operations will be needed. This is due to the RFID efficiency where it is able to scan several tags at a go. It is also fast and easy to use RFID plus it is efficient and thus helps in reducing losses that would be brought about by the customer or employee or mistakes by managers in a food company. RFID is useful in the food industry as it helps monitor the management of perishables and thus contributes to reducing waste as well as improving customer service (Regattiari et al., 2007). It is also long-lasting as it can manage to read data in dirty and cold conditions, which is almost impossible when using bar codes. The fact that it has a huge memory ensures that individual products are recognizable.
RFID has its dark side in that the tags used in RFID are costly and thus it would be expensive for small food companies as their food production capacity is low (Madge, 2005 et al., 2007). There has been a lack of standardization for all technical systems could it be numerical or tags or bar codes but this situation has progressed. By the end of 2004, an ISO- standard 18000- 6C came into force for the UHF tags used in RFID technology. The standard is regarded as EPC- Gen2 and it has led to an increase in the utilization as well as the sale of UHF tags leading to a reduction in their prices. The inductive tags utilize 13,56 MHz frequencies, the standards are much older, they were just included in standard 18000- 3 2003.
The utilization of this method will increase substantially in the US in the near future as predicted by the IDC research. Though the research took place in the US a similar trend is likely to take place in Europe (Anon, 2004). By the year 2005 Wal- Mart the biggest retailer shop in America expected its trade partners to utilize the RFID technology. The majority of its partners conformed to this requirement despite the fact RFID is expensive. Other retail shops in America and Europe have also adopted the RFID technology (Smith et al, 2005). An example of a European country that has adopted this technology is Finland where RFID has been used in a brewery known as Sinebrychoff. The benefit of utilizing the RFID technology in this brewery is the fact that it can identify a single beer basket making the withdrawal correct as well as making the detection of beer crates easy.
Since the occurrence of the food crisis in the early 21st century, there has been a need for the utilization of efficient traceability technology. This efficient technology would ensure that the food going into the market is of high quality and standards. At the onset of the 21st century, it was stipulated there was a need for food legislation to ensure food safety, for this to happen there had to be a traceability system that was standardized to check food products from their raw form up to their finished products where they would get to the consumers safely. A regulation was put in place by the EU and Japan which are beef exporting countries to ensure the safety of beef. These countries had high-tech traceability systems as opposed to those of the beef exporting countries. It was imperative for these countries to have standardized traceability systems in order to ensure food safety from the source of these products such that their safety regulations do not differ from the countries to which they are exporting. Most of the traceability systems that were used were not efficient and not standard and thus prompting the need for traceability technology that was standardized and efficient. RFID came in to solve this problem making traceability fast and easy. The RFID traceability system has been adopted all over the world and affected the supply chain positively. This is seen in the fact that consumers get quality products, manufacturers can also manage their products such that there are no cases of theft from the employees or consumers and thus ensuring a stable price that will not be a burden to consumers.
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