Active vs Passive RFID Tags in Manufacturing

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Graphic displays key qualities of passive RFID tags and active RFID tags.

This graphic shows the basic differences between passive RFID tags and active RFID tags.

RFID technology is becoming more and more prevalent to manufacturers. RFID asset tracking is just one way companies are able to utilize RFID technology to help mitigate losses and drive efficiency.

There are two main types of RFID tags; Active and Passive. Passive RFID tags only give off a signal when an antenna tells it to. Active tags are constantly producing a signal for antennas to hear, but require a power source. Other key differences are shown in the graphic on the right. Each type has a special place in the manufacturing process.

Should I Use Active or Passive RFID Tags?

Manufacturing is a messy and chaotic process. The sheer amount of machines, trucks, people and processes in a plant is astounding. This makes tracking each machine, its components, the products that go through it and everything else at your facility rather daunting. It’s important to understand which type of tag to use when deciding how to implement solutions for your company.

Solutions with Active RFID Tags

Machine Tracking

In a manufacturing plant, machines and their parts are constantly moving. They need repairs, they move from station to station, they get misplaced etc. It’s important to keep track of these items as they are expensive and integral to your processes. Adding active RFID tags and placing antennas in proper locations throughout your facility will allow you to track, in real time, the locations of these devices. Passive RFID tags wouldn’t work as well because the signal is too weak, and they are more susceptible to being damaged by moving parts.

Solutions with Passive RFID Tags

These goats are waiting to move trailers around the yard.

These goats are waiting to move trailers around the yard.

Yard Management

Big manufacturers and distributors often run into problems managing where trucks/trailers are within their yard. This passive RFID asset tracking solution provides near real time data of where each truck in the yard is located, what its contents are, and would give insight into where incoming trucks need to go. The passive tags placed on trucks would be read by the yard’s “Goat” or “Jockey”, which would have an RFID antenna attached. This greatly reduces the amount of time trucks spend at the gate and gives yard managers an easy way to locate specific trucks.

Product Assembly

Passive RFID tags can help track items that are “in progress” on an assembly line. By creating RFID antennae “checkpoints” throughout the assembly process, you can see where in the manufacturing process items are dropping off. This helps managers quickly diagnose recurring issues that are slowing production. The solution also reduces expenses in manually tracking assembly line problems. Using active tags would be too costly and unnecessary for tracking these bulk items.

At the end of the day there are lots of moving parts in a manufacturing facility that need management. Both active and passive RFID tags provide new ways to manage and track those processes. The days of manually tracking trucks in a yard, assembly line issues, and heavy machinery is over, but this isn’t the end of its potential.

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