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RFID for supply control and asset management

25 Feb 2021 6:41 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Kate Jamison, Marketing Manager, Operative IQ

Inventory and asset management is essential to public safety preparedness. Law enforcement, first responders and emergency response providers must have enough of every essential item to ensure they can respond to each incident properly. However, this is more difficult than it sounds.   

It is time consuming to count every single item in the supply room to inventory the quantities and expiration dates of items on each ambulance, fire apparatus, police squad car, dive team or SWAT vehicle. Without managing inventory, however, you run the risk of not having what you need when you need it. This can also cause problems with re-ordering if you do not know how much supply you have on hand. Creating an order based on a quick glance of your stockroom or an educated guess of what is on your shelves may leave you with too much of one item and not enough of another.  

RFID is here to help

We know that cycle counting your supplies is time consuming but may be a necessary evil in the spirit of response readiness. Pairing RFID technology with a digital inventory management system can make monotonous tasks much quicker and easier.  

RFID, or radio frequency identification, is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically locate and track tags attached to objects. The RFID reader sends out a signal searching for responses and can pick up a signal from a variety of tags in various locations quickly. Similar to barcoding, the RFID-identified tags are scanned into a software where stock levels are managed, but the difference with RFID functionality is tags can be captured from a distance and without scanning every individual tag.  

There are two types of RFID systems for inventory and asset tracking: (1) handheld and (2) fixed.

A handheld RFID reader is portable and mobile and can capture tagged items and update counts on demand. A fixed RFID reader continuously reads RFID tags to account for items and posts changes for missing assets. You can install fixed RFID readers in a supply room, ambulance, or other kind of vehicle for constant monitoring of items and handheld RFID readers can read tags periodically to provide a snapshot of available assets and inventory in each area.

How to use RFID   

To use an RFID tracking system, you need to apply a RFID tag to every item in the supply room (or boxes of items that you don’t want to tag individually, like gloves). Then you can use the handheld RFID reader or fixed RFID reader to pick up a signal from each of the tagged items giving you an accurate count of your supply room. Yes, it may be a hassle to tag every item at first, but after touching it once to tag it, you never have to touch it again until you go to use it.   

You may be wondering ‘what is a RFID tag?’ More than just a sticker, RFID tags contain a microchip and antenna that allows them to be located by a RFID reader. The tags do not require a line of sight to be seen by the reader, they can be captured from a few feet away, meaning inventory checks can be done quickly and without touching each of the items.  

Benefits of RFID

There is a huge opportunity for time savings with RFID. Cycle counting inventory to include expiration dates in a room where all or most of the items have RFID tags can be done in minutes. Quicker cycle counts mean you can be sure you always know how much you have of everything in the supply room. It also means that crew members don’t have to manually log their usage because you can easily see how much was used when and what needs to be reordered.

Digitized inventory management allows you to set par and reorder points to send alerts when you are running low of anything. A web-based inventory and asset management tool like one provided by Operative IQ or other systems provide access to your data at your fingertips. Moving to electronic operations management tools and away from paper checks and spreadsheets gives you the information you need to make good decisions. RFID technology is the next step to automate the labor-intensive tasks and reduce human error.  

With Operative IQ, quartermasters, operations managers, logistics staff, directors and chief officers have an organizational tool to optimize their inventories and asset tracking. You can leverage software and technology to save time, improve inventory accuracy, reduce waste due to loss and expiring supplies and streamline supply levels to improve your bottom line. 

About the Author

Kate Jamison is the marketing manager at Operative IQ, an Operations Management Software company. She is a graphic designer and tech marketer. She can be reached at  

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