The best way to know why you have arrived somewhere is to look back from where you came. So, that being said, I thought it would be worthwhile to look back on the history of inventory management. As is the case with most things inventory management evolved step by step by developing solutions to problems. We trace back the steps of history to understand how we arrived to modern inventory management.
The Hand Count Era
The hand counting era probably dates back to the stone age when lines were scratched into the sides of cave walls to account for things. And the method continued until 1948 when a student of Drexel Institute of Technology, Bernard Silver overheard a conversation between one of the deans of his college and the president of a local food chain called, “Food Fair.” The president was searching for a way to streamline the check-out process, via some kind of machine readable means.
Cashiers before Barcodes memorized product numbers, or keyed in numbers stamped on the on the product which allowed the product to be looked up. The barcode was a giant leap forward by allowing cashiers to much more rapidly, and accurately account for a customer’s groceries.
As the turn of the century approached businesses began to purchase and implement tailored software solutions. Hundred of software platforms were started with the goal of aiding business owners in managing everything from accounting, HR, and of course inventory management.
Early inventory management software was barcode based, as it was the standard. These software systems were helpful at some inventory tasks, but fell short at delivering comprehensive inventory success, since it was based off of a technology for which it was not developed.
Barcodes Intended Purpose
The biggest problem with using Barcode technology for most inventory management functions is it’s like using a shovel in place of a spoon to eat soup, it’s the wrong tool for the job.
Firstly it’s important to understand what information is captured by a barcode. Barcodes typically identify only SKU level information. This means that each item can only be scanned once, and everything must be scanned. And anyone knows how easy it is to make a mistake when performing any monotonous task. How easy it is to forget your place and scan the same item twice, or miss an item all together. And large inventories required many employee hours to methodically move through ones inventory using this “line-of-sight” technology.
Over the last few decades these software systems have improved, moving into the cloud, integrating more easily with other software platforms, and offering more specialized solutions for your unique business model. But the overall improvement was incremental since they all still relied on a technology to capture the information, for which it was not intended.
The right tool for the job makes the job seem easy
Imagine how crazy it would seem to eat soup with a shovel, or dig a pit with a spoon. But that’s exactly what we do when we use Barcodes for a task they were never intended.
Modern Inventory Management
To properly solve the challenge that is inventory management a dramatic shift was needed. This meant that the right tool was needed to make these labor intensive tasks such as inventory auditing, confirming Purchase Orders, verifying the accuracy of customer orders, or even locating missing items easy.
RFID – The Paradigm Shift
On January 23, 1973, Mario Cardullo patented the first true ancestor of modern RFID. But RFID was a long way away from being commercially viable.
It was take decades for the technology to be truly feasible for any and all inventory based businesses.
Early days of RFID tags cost several dollars, and was mostly theoretical. Even in 2001 the cost of a single RFID tag was still $1.10, hardly a price point justifiable to tag any product. The price of tags has slowly fallen over the past two decades and now tags range in price from 5-10 cents.
The cost of tags wasn’t the only impediment to implementation. Hardware devices were expensive and bulky. They were programmable and looked like your high school calculus calculator. And far from user friendly. Hardware installations required deployment inside the customer’s LAN which typically required on-site, or at minimum access to IT professionals.
RFID data can be communicated through easy to use, downloadable “Apps” run on platforms from Android, and iOS, to Windows. This has allowed software to be written which simplifies the process of gathering the data, as well as the ability to upload this fresh inventory data from anywhere you have internet access.
Today is the dawn of the new era of inventory management. And it will be only those companies that employ technologies such as RFID to gain efficiencies, cut labor costs, and better buy and sell product.
Simple RFID is a RFID solutions provider with years of RFID experience. Operating a private network we are able to help you deploy comprehensive RFID solutions rapidly, anywhere across the globe your business operates. We offer cloud-based tools including fixed readers, fork-lift and push-cart models, hand-held readers which communicate through Android and iOS, as well as private printing network which allows for world-wide printing. We also offer an integration tool which allows you to continue using all of your current software simply adding the benefits of RFID.