(Part 2 of a 2-part series. In case you missed it, read Part 1: “What is the difference between RFID and RTLS,” here.)

As mentioned in our previous blog post, “What is the difference between RFID and RTLS,” RFID technology works well for tracking the presence or absence of objects where knowing the precise, instantaneous location is not required or where there are many thousands of objects that need to be accounted for in an area. On the other hand, RTLS technology works well for accurately tracking the location of hundreds or thousands of objects in a given area in real time. The price/performance ratio and potential return on investment of each solution needs to be carefully evaluated to determine the best solution for a given application and the desired benefits.

However, in some cases, the best solution may not be either RFID or RTLS, but both. PLUS has stepped outside the either/or box and has created the means of integrating both RFID and RTLS technologies into a single application.

Below is one manufacturing example of how this combination of RFID and RTLS technologies is being used to create operational benefits previously unattainable.

Combined RFID / RTLS Solution

In this example the asset cart, asset, inventory cart, tugger and worker have RTLS tags attached and are tracked continuously in real time to the level of accuracy required by the application using the most appropriate RF technology. Each of the inventory items on the inventory cart has a passive RFID tag attached to it, with RFID data being received by RFID scanners of various types. The RFID and RTLS tag data is processed and managed within a common database.

Here is a typical workflow for this example.

  • The RTLS tagged asset is placed on the RTLS tagged cart. The location of both the cart and asset are monitored in real time.
  • Each passive RFID tagged inventory item is scanned as the item is placed on the inventory cart
  • The RTLS tag on the inventory cart is scanned. This associates each of the inventory items to the inventory cart. When the cart is moved, the location of the cart is monitored in real time and the location of each inventory item on the cart is updated by the association of the multiple RFID tags to the single cart RTLS tag.
  • The RTLS tagged driver gets on the cart to transport the material to the appropriate location. Based on the overlap of the worker and tugger zones, the RTLS system verifies that the worker is certified to drive the tugger and sends an alert if needed. As the cart and worker move to the next location in the factory, their location is updated continuously, along with associated activity metrics defined by the management team (e.g. tugger maximum velocity, factory traffic patterns, tugger utilization).
  • When the asset is removed from the cart, based on geo-fenced zones defined in the RTLS system, the system indicates that the cart is no longer in use and can be reallocated.
  • As RFID tagged inventory is removed from the cart, each item is scanned, disassociating it from the cart and logging the location where it was removed from the cart.
  • All inventory activity is fed into the factory Manufacturing Execution System (MES) via a PLUS API.

In this example, a single, facility-wide RTLS platform simultaneously monitors the location and activity of RTLS tagged workers, tuggers and carts in real time. The same RTLS platform also monitors the location and activity of RFID tagged inventory in real time by way of the unique PLUS RFID-to-RTLS association process. This combination of RFID and RTLS enables facility-wide, real-time visibility to the interaction of inventory, assets, vehicles and workers, enabling a new level of operational optimization.

PLUS continues to develop the next generation of technology agnostic RTLS solutions, including the integration of RFID and RTLS. For more information about our RTLS platform, contact our team.