Most manufacturers will at some stage look at ways to move from paper job sheets, to a more digitised process of tracking orders. Often this will lead them into the world of bar-code systems, and maybe even QR code and RFID based systems. However, one technology that is often overlooked is near field communication (NFC).
What is Near Field Communication (NFC)
If you’ve ever used made a contactless payment, or used an oyster card, you’re already familiar with it. NFC is a type of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), that operates in close proximity, hence the need for you to ‘tap here’. When two antennae are in close proximity a code is passed that allows information to be shared, such as your banking information to a reader.
Why is NFC useful?
The great thing about NFC is that you can both write and read it using the majority of Android phones and the latest Apple devices. This means that you don’t need a printer to print codes, and a purpose-built device to read them, you can do everything with one device that you already have in your pocket. And because you’re using a mobile phone, this means other inputs like text, photos and even GPS can be used to enhance the information captured.
As NFC uses a simple antennae, it means that it can be imbedded in any object. Search for NFC on Amazon and you’ll see cards, stickers, wristbands, tags and keychains. Furthermore, unlike bar codes or QR codes, NFC is completely rewriteable, which means that once you’ve finished with a tag or card, you can use it again and again which makes it great for use cases with a high turn over of processes.
How can it be used in manufacturing?
Our first use of it has been for order tracking. Using NFC ID cards and order cards/stickers, it allows operators to pull up a digital job sheet on a phone and record when tasks have been completed, as well as take photos and leave comments such as test results.
By using NFC, operators can pick up any phone tap their ID to log on, and log into the job with another tap. This means that manufacturers don’t need to choose between saving time and issuing devices to everyone, and saving money and making operators log in and log out each time a device is used.
We’re currently implementing NFC within our Inventory software, using NFC as part of the process for updating stock levels and improving picking processes. We’re also working on using NFC to improve supply chain communication, using it in the hand-over process.
Is it costly?
Not at all, in fact NFC is the cheapest technology to set up and has minimal (if any) ongoing costs. As described above, you only need one device rather than a separate reader (such as a bar code scanner) and writer (a printer), and that device can be a £75 Android phone. Even our recommended phones (Samsung Xcover4) cost ~£200. In terms of cards/stickers/tags, if you reuse your order cards, for a manufacturer with 50 staff and 50 orders going at any one time it will cost you less than £40 for 100+ cards.
Want to see it in action?
To see how NFC order tracking could be used in your factory, sign up for a free account today or book a demo with one of our friendly team. You can download the Android app from Google Play, and our iOS app will be released later this Summer.