Transact and Transcend
How is this technology platform integrated with Ascent Solutions to transact business events and how will future platform capabilities enable companies to transcend current operational bounds?
First, a brief RFID primer for those who are unfamiliar with the technology:
RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, has been around since WWII. It was created by the British to clearly differentiate the Allies’ aircraft from those of the Axis. Even today, the safety, routing, and efficiency of the world’s Air Traffic Management systems rely on RFID technology. As they say, “you can’t manage what you can’t see.”
Unlike the aircraft’s bulky transponder, the RFID tag that Ascent Solutions deploys is contained within an adhesive label or other small form factor construction. There is no battery. Just an onboard capacitor, when within the range of a RFID sensor, stores enough energy for a pen tip-sized chip to power up. The RFID sensor, or reader, is what generates the energy field, powers up the chip, and identifies the tag’s unique code. In a distribution facility, for example, each item can be uniquely identified and tracked as it is processed through a RFID station or as it passes by, usually within 7 - 10 feet, a RFID observation point.
Now, how does Ascent Solutions integrate with the RFID platform?
Ascent Solutions deploys an Edge Server on the client’s premises that runs our RFID Middleware. The RFID Middleware is configured to manage all of the RFID sensors in the client’s facility. To transact a business event with RFID, Ascent Solutions triggers a specific RFID station via the edge server. In turn, the middleware activates the RFID sensor, identifies the tag (s) within the field, and returns the unique code (s) to Ascent Solutions. All this happens within a few seconds whether there is 1 or more items in the field. Unlike handheld barcode readers that can read one item a second and require item manipulation for a line of sight reads, RFID sensors can read up to 1000 items per second regardless of the items’ orientation as long as all items are within the confined energy field. So, for business events where one or more items need to be added to a transaction, RFID does it fast and accurately.
Is anyone using RFID with Ascent Solutions, if so, how?
One of our customers is using it within a closed loop B2B and B2C apparel rental operation. Each rental item in their operation has an embedded RFID tag. All business events from returns to shipping are transacted using RFID stations.
Here is quick insight into a few of the business events that are utilizing RFID:
Bulk Inventory Receiving
RFID tags, supplied by Ascent Solutions, are embedded into the inventory items during the manufacturing process. Upon arrival at the distribution center, Ascent Solutions reads every instance of a SKU that is associated with a PO line item without having to open up a box. The RFID cabin reads hundreds of items at a time making this item level operation quick and efficient. Once the operation is complete, the boxes are moved out of the cabin through the outbound door.
order is usually made up of around 8 distinct SKUs. Once the items are
picked and bundled together, they are validated for accuracy against the Sales
Order and quality inspected prior to shipping. The operator hangs
all the bundle in front of the RFID station, this station is made up a vertical
mast with several sensors attached. Using Ascent Solutions, the operator reads
the barcode on the Sales Order, triggers the validation process and does a
quality inspection of each item. Ascent Solutions notifies the operator of
any discrepancy found. Without RFID, the process of manipulating each
item to find and read the barcode can take up to 20 seconds which results in
more focus on scanning and less on quality inspection. With RFID,
the operator focuses on quality inspection while the Ascent Solutions and RFID does
The bundle of items that make up an order eventually makes its way to the shipping station. At shipping, the operator places the items into a shipping box, performs one final validation of the contents, weighs the box, and applies the shipping label. This second validation provides final confirmation that the sales order to complete before it is picked by the courier. Using Ascent Solutions, the operator reads the barcode on the Sales Order, moves the box to an outlined RFID zone on the tabletop, and triggers the validation process. Within seconds, the operator receives the final confirmation and the package is then ready for pickup.
The warehouse has three levels of racking on which to store the apparel items. Ascent Solutions designed a mobile cart with onboard power, onboard Wi-Fi connectivity, and two masts, a telescoping mast that contains one sensor for the top rack and a fixed mast that contains two sensors for the bottom and middle racks. Using Ascent Solutions, the operator can perform a wall-to-wall count of all three levels at one time by simply pushing the cart down each aisle. Using RFID, inventory counts are faster than traditional counts and can be performed with just one operator. RFID makes more frequent counts possible, which brings discrepancies to light sooner so that timely action can be taken. This is key to minimizing unnecessary ‘out of stocks’ and reducing and potentially eliminating item search time.
So, what is the future of Ascent Solutions’s RFID platform?
In addition to RFID stations and en route Observation points both of which are triggered or activated by either an operator or a motion sensor, Ascent Solutions will be adding wide area, ‘always on’ monitoring and geolocation capabilities. These capabilities will permit a new level of visibility to an operations professional. Like the air traffic controller who has near time visibility into an aircraft’s’ position and trajectory and with it can ensure timely flow of air traffic while avoiding potential mishaps, the operations professional will be able to visualize the position of tagged objects (merchandise, equipment, personnel) as well as their trajectory, or value flow. This insight is used to identify non-value activities that impede value flow so that the operations professional, armed with objective information, can spearhead continuous improvement while monitoring its impact on the operation. “You can’t manage what you can’t see,” so Ascent Solutions RFID Platform will help you see, understand, and act like never before.