RFID Vs. Barcode: Which One Is Better for Manufacturers?

Warehouse employee using scanner

The purpose of the supply chain is to fulfill customer demands, improve responsiveness, and drive customer value in the most effective and efficient way possible. With the growing intricacies of manufacturing processes, tracking products and operations manually is no longer an option.

Manufacturers and distributors have implemented barcode scanning and RFID technology to increase productivity and accuracy in results. Depending on how you plan to use barcode or RFID technology, each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your requirements around durability, cost, security, and implementation of the system can help you evaluate the best option for your business.

This article will define RFID and barcoding and explore their pros and cons.

How Does Barcode Technology Work?

Barcode technology has two components: printed barcodes and a light scanner. The scanner reads barcodes through a beam of light and converts the code into data. This data is then decoded and sent to a computer with readable information.

Cash registers are a common example of this technology in action. When you pay at grocery stores, cashiers scan the barcodes on the products, which then relay the information to a computer. That’s how stores obtain details on each  product’s name, description, and price.

How Do RFID Solutions Work?

Like barcodes, RFID systems have two main components: RFID tags and RFID readers. However, unlike barcodes, RFID tags are invisible. They do not need to be in close contact with RFID readers to scan their data.

Instead of a beam of light, RFID technology uses radiofrequency in a similar way as aircraft friend-or-foe identification systems in World War II. If the tag is within the range of the RFID reader, the data can be read and sent to a computer or RFID printer. This data is translated into human-readable information.

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RFID vs. Barcode: Pros and Cons

It’s common for people to compare barcode and RFID technologies side by side, but which one is better for manufacturers? Let’s find out.

Advantages of RFID vs. Barcode

Many large-scale manufacturing facilities see RFID technology as a clear winner. Below are a few top reasons:

1. Ability to Scan Multiple Items at Once

Unlike barcodes where users need to scan one item at a time, RFID readers can scan multiple items simultaneously. This can save manufacturers plenty of time and open the possibility to scanning and tracking automation.

2. Durable Devices

Manufacturers like Zebra Technologies build RFID solutions to last. They design RFID devices to work in busy manufacturing environments, including outdoor amid various hazards. RFID technology can endure harsh conditions and may not need frequent repairs or maintenance, saving manufacturers expenses in the process. 

3. Greater Security 

While RFID systems do not have inherently strong security, information can be stored better than in barcodes. The high capacity of RFID tags for data can also mean plenty of opportunities for high-level encryption. 

4. Signal Transmission through Various Materials 

RFID signals can go through materials like plastic and cardboard. This makes it easy for users to hide tags while negating the need for a line in sight during the scanning process.

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Advantages of Barcode vs. RFID

In the competition between RFID and barcode technologies, many forget that barcodes still exist and remain widely used. They also have a range of benefits, making them more suitable for certain uses. Let’s take a look:

1. Barcode Scanning Almost Never Fails

Even though scanners need a clear line of sight to read barcodes, they are accurate and rarely fail. Barcode scanning has an error rate of one in 3 million, which is almost zero. This is nowhere close to the 0.01% average error rate of RFID systems.

2. Cheaper Tracking Solutions

Since barcodes are usually printed directly onto paper or plastic material, the only cost involved is the ink. This makes barcodes a less expensive option than RFID tags.

3. Easier Implementation

The components required for barcode technology are readily available. This means that anyone can put them together to create a reliable barcode solution for their manufacturing business. 

The Perfect Choice for Both RFID and Barcode Solutions

Your choice of asset and inventory tracking technology ultimately depends on the size of your manufacturing business and its requirements.

Olympus Controls and Zebra Technologies have a wide range of RFID and barcode solutions that suit manufacturers of all sizes. We have high-quality barcode scanning and RFID products whose proven solutions are used by manufacturers across different industries today. Contact us to learn more.