1.Why is planning and designing a closed and open loop supply chain/value network so hard?
2.Supply Chain metrics – does that matter?
3.Identify supply chains that demonstrate best practice
4.Why should supply chains be sustainable, and the role of reverse supply chains and circular economy concepts in managing sustainable supply chains?
5.How global and domestic partners can maximize efficiency and mitigate risks through leveraging 3PL for optimised services.
6.How are businesses from different industry sectors consolidating their businesses and their supply chains in search of value creation.
Technical Issues with Barcode and RFID Technology
Supply chain management is the management and organization of all information and materials within the logistics procedure varying from attainment of the raw materials to delivering to the customers. Within the chain of supply management, barcode is a popular and significant factor that is being utilized for tracking the products for a long time. This technology is an automatic identification technology. A thorough investigation of the popularity of barcode in the supply chain management indicates to different factors within the chain management. As opined by Beier et al. (2017) the Radio frequency identification technology or RFID technology is also a suitable substitute. This technology is also gaining much popularity as the barcode technology is causing multiple technological issues for the businesses. It has also been said that with this much rising popularity of the RFID technology, it is quite distinguished that the barcode technology is coming to an end. The past evidences regarding the barcode technology also indicate that the barcodes tend to have some limitations and technological issues (Purcell and Levy 2016). However, the RFID technology is a comparatively new technology that is being adapted widely, yet it is not dominating the business sphere. Within the supply chain management the digital ubiquity and the data analysis tools are major factors to track the products, as the producer of the products is capable of tracking their products, especially its reach to the customers at the end of the supply chain (Wong and Guo 2014). However, there are several factors that also act against the proliferation of the RFID technology. This article will target the related factors with the barcode technology and how the technology is failing due to its primary technological issues and failing to maintain the institutional factors. This article will also discuss the issues with RFID technology. Recommendations will be made accordingly.
While an emerging technology is being successful, it tends to start with the quantifiable advancements, especially considering the technical capabilities. The barcode technology involves several early developments that make the barcode technology more advanced and user friendly (Irizarry, Karan and Jalaei 2013). These factors include the easier usage of barcodes, LOS or the line of site properties and reliability of the technology. The technological progress of the further technologies tends to spark interest from the businesses in the technologies. The major factors are:
The barcode technology has been popular within the business sphere due to its simple usage. Since the inception of the technology, the production cost of the barcode printing has dropped to a great extent. Two major ingredients that are necessary for the barcode printing are the paper and ink (Dabbene, Gay and Tortia 2014). These are comparatively less expensive than the other alternative technologies. The RFID technology uses the silicon chips which make it more expensive than any other technology. The labels in barcode can also produce major media savings for any organization because the conventional paper forms tend to be larger than the typical barcode labels. Li (2013) also indicates that if a company has already developed the barcode technological infrastructure, the printing costs come to nearly nothing. Therefore it can also be indicated that the barcode technology has already matured with the course of time, therefore it has turned into more affordable choice for the organizations. For any small scale applications, the only required ingredients are a small database, the software for barcode and barcode scanners that can monitor the usage of tools. Therefore this make the barcode technology makes a low cost and helpful solution for tracking the products (Musa, Gunasekaran and Yusuf 2014). For example, the development of the liner less barcode labeling has decreased the media costs to almost twenty five percent while it also increased the production of barcodes in each roll, therefore it also results into less wastage as well.
The most important factor in making the barcode usage successful is its easy usage. The labels of barcode can be easily printed, therefore it offers great automation and it also reduces as much as it is possible (Irizarry, Karan and Jalaei 2013). With the right hardware, software and proper infrastructure, the barcode system also provides automation which also simplifies the collection of information, processing them and tracking. The automation also provided more productive gains for the organizations such as Procter & Gamble (Loy et al. 2016). The gathered information from the barcode usage can also be tracked and distributed throughout all the levels of the organization, even to the partners of the organization for any advanced management processes. Moreover it is a lot easier for the organization to interact with the barcodes. Therefore this technology has the capability of being implemented to different business applications.
The barcode technology has evolved continuously which has also helped the technology solving different kinds of business challenges and problems within the supply chain management. Until the 1900s, the barcode systems were only capable of reading single symbols as it could only read the storage limitations and the hardware. In recent times a huge innovation has taken place with the technologies of barcodes, therefore now the barcodes can also capture the remote controlled data through scanners by utilizing wireless technologies. Chong, Chan and Ooi (2014) have indicated that the famous supermarket chain, Wal-Mart had arranged more than 300,000 wireless scanners. However the remote data capturing system was only limited to their specific network range, but the mobile phone scanners do not have much limitation. This wide-ranged supply chain management would permit all the employees scanning the items within the supply chain in spite of their region and location. Ramanathan, Ramanathan and Ko (2014) has opined that there is no such limitation in the innovation procedure of barcode technology. In fact, it was quite ironic to state that at the RFID Australasia Exhibition in the year 2005, barcodes were used for delegating the registration. Therefore it can be said that the continuous developments are acknowledged within the contemporary business world.
Within the supply chain, accuracy is a paramount factor. Most of the organizations tend to claim that the barcode technology provides around 99.99% accuracy. On the other hand, the manual data collection process can only offer 80-85% data accuracy and a slower process (Bruno 2017). In this respect, barcodes are more advantageous than the RFID technology. This has been found out at the San Francisco International Airport, while they were barcoding the luggage. However, another organization that has been using the barcode technology for monitoring their tool using also found the barcodes to be damaged after a point of time. In order to counter such issues the organization started engraving the barcodes on each tool, so that they can later manually read those codes if they are damaged. This innovative step may save the barcodes to be replaced by RFID technology. Therefore it can also be emphasized that such manual techniques are still necessary for possible failures of the system.
The barcodes require having barcode labels that are visible clearly for making the scanning process easier. Therefore this may also lead to potential damaging of the barcodes. For preventing possible damages, the barcodes should be comparatively clean and should be handled in a gentle manner within an abrasion free surrounding and should not be exposed in the harsh environment (Aung and Chang 2014). In addition to that the barcodes users should also have a clear and clean optics for reading the codes. Furthermore, there are several ways that can damage the barcodes easily through usual every day usages. Therefore such situations have led the organizations to opt for the RFID technology for tracking the products through supply chain management.
For any successful consumption of any new technological activities, standards should be maintained, especially related to regulations. With the continuous evolvement of the barcode technology, several companies have adopted the barcode technology in place of any other alternate one. This has also played a major role in upgrading and uptake the technological innovations that had caused significant effect on the international supply chain. Well-established companies such as Wal-Mart who had been struggling for a long time with the influenced barcode system and standards, they had also convinced their associated partners for adopting this technique (de Almeida et al. 2015). The major reasons of adopting barcode over any other technology are:
Barcode standards have been widely accepted in the supply chain management due to its acknowledged quality standards. Even if the technology had been invented in the year 1949, it took the technology few years to be accustomed with the global supply chain management. The two most well-established standards of barcodes are UPC or Universal Product Code and the EAN or European Article Numbering. The later is mostly utilized for the retail sector. These two systems have been prevalent in the barcode technologies, which later also led to the formation of the system that incorporates both the standards. The UPC and EAN standard has been dominant all over the world, mostly for the retail applications (Fernie 2014). Therefore this also ensures that the organizations are adopting a universal standard that concerns all the associated parties. Therefore the other stakeholders can also reuse the information engraved in the barcode all through the supply chain which also adds value to the products.
The barcode technology has experienced continuous improvements in the quality standards, therefore this technology has been considered as the most accepted auto identification process within the supply chain. Different industries such as AIAG or Automotive Industry Action Group, HIBCC or Health Industry Business Communications Council and EIA or Electronic Industries Alliance have developed their own standards that are industry specific (Ramundo, Taisch and Terzi 2016). Therefore these standards also allow the global compliance in the specific industries which also allows the product shipment identification among different partners within the supply chain. The success of the particular barcode technology can also cause serious concern over the potential of running out of the numerical space in the barcodes as multiple organizations are registered in the specific UPC code for their product identification. However, there is a major limitation for the barcode technology that the code is not capable of including a large amount of information. Even though the standard organizations have ensured that they align their technologies with their supply chain model, however the new organizations fail to do so (Bernhardt 2017). For instance, it can be said that the 2D barcodes can accumulate millions bytes of data within the barcode which is almost similar to the entire U.S constitution. The easily readable scanners, efficient usage and error free information due to the inbuilt technology for detection and checking for the errors have made the barcode usage more comfortable and user-friendly. For instance, General Motors have facilitated the development of 2D barcodes for not only recording the incoming products, but also providing sufficient information to the employees for directing to move them in different positions. Therefore it creates a huge cost savings as well.
After the established institutional and technical systems, the organizations tend to put more efforts for improving the control and efficiency of the supply change management system. The large super market chains such as Wal-Mart had adopted the barcode technology and forced their associates to do the same (Parreño-Marchante et al. 2014). In this section, the factors that have played an important factor for adopting the technology over the RFID technology will be discussed. The major factors are the continuous attempts for increasing the efficiency of the supply chain management, lower expense and gaining the competitive edge in the international market (Smith-Ditizio and Smith 2017). There are other returns of the technology as well, such as utilizing the assets, enhancing the quality control procedure etc.
Most of the organizations have adopted the barcode technology so that they can manage the resources in an effective way. The labels of barcodes contain the serial numbers that can be considered as the nameplate identification; therefore it is easier for the management to track their products. The barcodes can be associated with the database of the organization for holding the additional data regarding the products such as the maintenance schedule, cost, physical features and conditions and several other factors (Hu et al. 2013). There are several organizations that use their barcode systems for monitoring their tools. Before implementing the system, the company did not have any control over the borrowing of the tools. Therefore they were not capable of tracking or tracing whether any contractor or employee had borrowed the tool. Therefore this has resulted into a great loss for the company as they had to buy a number of new tools over and over again. After the successful implementation of the barcode technology, the management of the tools is easier. The company can track their tools and they now also have the capability of charging any employee or contractor for borrowing tools. In this way, several product packages can also be tracked while they move through the supply chain. Utilizing the barcode system has made their tracking of the objects much easier. If these items are not managed in an effective way, they tend to be lost at the facility of the customers and cannot be removed. Therefore the barcode technology empowers the organizations for identifying the products permanently and scans them through recoding of the location information and any other related information so that they can move freely.
The barcode technology also acts as an effectual tool for tracking the primary inventory. Therefore the issue of technological issues can be solved through the barcode technology. Chong et al. (2015) has shown that a baking company has reduced its distribution and inventory costs by around $3 million within the first year of implementation of the products and it had also permitted the organization to have accurate information within time for their inventory.
The primary purpose of using barcode technology within the supply chain management was to control the inventory of the organization. At the higher level, the barcode technology also allows the organizations to minimize the product searching timing as the barcode includes the information of quantity and location information. This technology also allows the companies in ensuring whether they can have sufficient quantity of products in their inventories while it also helps enhancing the efficiency and productivity of the organization. With the right usage of the barcode systems the companies can incorporate the BTO or built to order system and JIT or just in time inventory management practices (Bottani et al. 2014). However the organizations should be equipped with the computers for meeting the demands as they also reduce the labor costs to a great extent as it also reduces manual steps. Barcodes also offer a definite method for the organizations for meeting all the necessary requirements for tracking the products in the inventory. The barcodes tends to assist the organizations to reduce the levels of the operational inventory and increase the working capital (Purcell and Levy 2016). For instance, in terms of barcodes using, Wal-Mart has made significant efforts. This organization uses the wireless scanners so that it can benefit both the consumers and the organization. This also means that the store timings can be flexible as the employees can make changes in prices, view the history of sales and place orders through the online system. Adjusting the fixed prices of the popular items is a vital ability within the global supply chain. Therefore this also helps the management to know and track whether any particular product quality is running low.
There are several organizations that incorporated the RFID technology but later they realized that the barcode technology was a financially saving. Once the barcode deployment in the supply chain management has been approached, the organization can make larger saving by reducing the level of errors, increasing visibility and reducing the labors.
There is no such doubt about the fact that barcode technology is way to faster than any other technological entries, especially the manual keyboard data entry that tends to dependent of the manual labor. Therefore it can be inaccurate, slow and expensive. However, on the other hand, the information included in the barcode can be read in a second, therefore it gives the employees and the organization to collect immediate information about any specific products. Li (2013) has noted that the manual information gathering is a lot time consuming that the barcode as the initially the information should be recorded, later it had to transcribed properly and entered into the computer system appropriately.
Even after the prolonged discussion, it can be said that it is very difficult comparing the mature and established automatic technology like barcode and the emerging technology such as RFID technology. These differences mean that these two technologies are not on the same level as one of them has an extensive testing within the commercial sphere; on the other hand the other one has a limited exposure in the commercial field. Regardless of the inherent information, there are several disadvantages and advantaged of both the RFID and barcode technology. It should also be noted that there are several factors that can be considered as the positive sides for the RFID technology as well.
The RFID technology uses a Non line of scanning and is capable of multiple automatic readings. However on the other hand the barcode technology is not capable of using multiple reading at the same time. The RFID technology also includes an enhanced forecasting and visibility of the products therefore it is easier for the organizations to track their assets through this technologies. As this technology is an improved version of asset tracking, it also uses an item level tracking and enhanced asset utilization. It involves rich information as it can store more information than the barcode technology. It is a durable and robust technology that enhances the security system and improves the management of inventory. Therefore, it is more helpful for using the RFID technology as it provides a better and great experience for the organizations while tracking their inventories and products. However, there are several disadvantages of the RFID technologies as well. The cost of using the technology is higher as the company has to implement new infrastructure and tags along with providing proper training and development sessions to the employees. This technology is not yet dominating the market as it is an immature one. There are several deployment issues and limitations in the infrastructure for RFID technology. In addition to that, this technology can also enhance the privacy concerns of the customers.
On the other hand the barcode technology is an already established system that is easier in using and is affordable in price. In addition to that, the continuous improvement of the technology for tracking the inventory and established standards of quality enhance the barcode use within the business sphere. However, the restricted traceability and limited visibility are two factors that made several companies to opt for the alternative technologies such as RFID technology. This technology is also prone to errors; therefore it can increase the costs of usages as well.
However, it is quite difficult to opt between both the technologies. Evaluating the trends, it can be said that it is quite important for the organizations to have a thorough insight into how the relationship between RFID and barcode will evolve in the future. Most of the organizations have already invested a large amount of money in implementing the barcode systems. Other than that, the early users of the RFID technologies have faced larger amount of risks already. Evaluating the results, it is quite evident the RFID technology may rule the supply chain management industry in future but in the present times, barcode does not have much competition. The companies which are adapting the RFID technology should be well aware of the risks that can be prevalent soon. Moreover these two technologies have some kinds of advantages and disadvantages, but both the automatic IF technologies can enable these for using as conjunction. As a result to that if any organization uses both the technologies simultaneously, will be in a favorable position. Therefore, they can utilize he inbuilt advantages for yielding the best results.
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