Why We Created the First, Commercially Available, Fixed Portable RFID Reader
One of the world’s largest online retailers, which has used our products and solutions for many years, needed a passive RFID solution that would quickly and efficiently count and manage its returnable transport items (RTIs) and packing materials that were not part of its product inventory. The company had been counting these items manually — which was labor-intensive, slow, and frequently inaccurate. This led to the online retailer testing handheld RFID devices. The handhelds were effective, but not optimal, for read performance, operator comfort, and safety. The online retailer asked us to create a portable RFID reader to optimize read performance and reduce cycle count times while boosting speed, efficiency, and accuracy in the process.
Bringing Portable Scanning to New Heights with a Portable RFID Reader Like No Other
To accomplish this, we leveraged the innovative ergonomics and functionality of our popular monitor workstation — which provides a workstation on wheels for laptops, printers, monitors, handheld computers, and scanners — into a powerful RFID-based supply chain asset tracking tool. We equipped the monitor workstation with a 10-foot telescoping antenna pole, four VESA adjustable antenna brackets, and attachment points for additional accessories. The high-gain RFID antennas are capable of side and top-down reads, and the hot-swappable battery solution enables 24/7 operation.
Further, users can dial in the read zone to optimize read performance through the individual reader programming filters and gain adjustments. This allows operators to effortlessly push the workstation down aisles of racks to capture tag reads both left and right and top-down, making for a highly effective and comfortable scanning process. The solution was designed to supplement, not replace, handheld RFID readers, giving operators another tool in the RFID workbench to improve inventory count accuracy and increase count speed.
From concept to prototype, we developed the RFID solution in about eight weeks. The proof of concept was put to the test at five of the online retailer’s sites in the summer of 2020 and has been successful in streamlining its inventory counting processes.
Portable RFID Reader and Workstation Comes Up on Top in Evaluation
After a thorough evaluation over nearly six months, comparing its manual inventory counting processes to the RFID reader-based handhelds, the online retailer found that its manual processes were 70 percent accurate, ultimately resulting in additional cycle counts. They tested handheld units and again fell short of a more optimal RFID solution. The portable RFID workstation gave them the read performance they were seeking, and perhaps more importantly, gave management much-needed and more accurate visibility into inventory on hand.
Online Retailer Paves the Way for Portable RFID Reader & Workstation Use for Asset Tracking Across Industries
Because of the success we achieved with the online retailer’s challenges, we decided to make the portable RFID workstation commercially available through our partner network. Those partners can configure the RFID PowerStation to meet the unique needs of their own customers. It can be used in any inventory-counting application for warehouse environments, fulfillment centers, IT and data centers, stores, and manufacturing facilities.
Its modular, vendor-agnostic design makes it compatible with most RAIN UHF RFID four-port readers, including but not limited to, Alien, Impinj, and Zebra. The integrated power system also supports other equipment, including laptops, thin clients, and printers. And like all of DTG’s mobile workstation solutions, the RFID PowerStation is highly agile, and our ergonomic designs eliminate the risk of worker fatigue, which corresponds to fewer workplace injuries and improved workplace safety.