The chemical industry is one characterized by thin profit margins and vulnerabilities related to raw material supply and demand. As a result, efficient handling and distribution of assets is key in maintaining an edge over the competition and maximizing profits. Powerful chemical industry asset traceability software and hardware solutions are needed to control asset flow; without them, modern chemical industries would not survive. The benefits of such an asset traceability solution are many across a broad spectrum of specializations, from food and beverage to life sciences. There are a few main types of asset tracking and traceability systems, each with their own pros and cons.
RFID is a short-range broadcast hardware tracking solution leveraging electronic tags affixed to an asset and tracked at various stages via electromagnetic readers. Each tag contains tracking data, and when combined with asset traceability software will provide a full picture of the asset’s movements across the supply chain. The main benefit of RFID tracking systems is that they do not require line-of-sight to read the tracking data, which can allow smooth, fast movement through the chain.
The second main type of tracking system is the barcode, which consists of a representation of tracking data printed or etched to an asset and read optically. There are many types of codes, not all of them consisting of printed bars; there are also 2D codes which may be expressed in a variety of shapes. The main benefit of barcode systems is readability though a variety of optical systems, from dedicated barcode readers to smartphones. With such flexibility of data capture, consumers can more easily track products throughout the supply chain. Barcoding is also more flexible in terms of application than RFID, as anyone with the proper software and an inkjet printer can create these codes.
The software component of an asset traceability system generally refers to an application consisting of data capture and database components. The capture system is responsible for reading the data from RFID or barcode systems and storing that information in a database to be referenced later. This data can be processed in a reporting system to create a picture of the asset movement through the supply chain.
Using an asset tracking and traceability system allows a manufacturer to efficiently manage assets both onsite and after it leaves the warehouse. Onsite metrics gained from internal tracking can allow a business to measure and modify production efficiency by checking where an asset lags in the production flow. Once an asset leaves the production facility, offsite tracing can help shape logistical efficiency by providing data on transportation such as travel time and movement through checkpoints.
For the chemical industry, traceability is key to maximizing profits on what can be razor-thin margins by correcting inefficiencies in manufacturing, transport, and storage. Moreover, regulatory bodies may require such data to ensure that rules are being adhered to throughout the manufacturing process. Having a well-functioning tracking and tracing system can easily provide for these needs.