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Thread: Single software package for inventory, billing, barcode/rfid?

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    Site Administrator Paul Brewin's Avatar
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    Question Single software package for inventory, billing, barcode/rfid?

    (posted to the ListServe Wed 5/26/10)

    Joseph Pryor asked:

    We are looking to upgrade to a single software platform that can handle inventory, transportation and hopefully billing. Barcode/RFID compatibility is important. Does anyone have a product they can enthusiastically recommend?

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    Site Administrator Paul Brewin's Avatar
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    (taken from the ListServe) Bryan Cooke replies:

    Dear Joseph,

    There was an excellent session this week at AAM comparing RFID technology with Barcode technology. The upshot was that Bar Coding is a tried and true, reliable technology -- while RFID had some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks was the considerable cost differences between the labels for each technology. Bar code labels cost pennies, while RFID labels are much more expensive. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has conducted extensive testing of RFID technology. They wanted to know if they could track the movements of objects using sensors/readers embedded in doorways. The results were frequently inaccurate. Accuracy was guaranteed only when an RFID label was directly scanned with a reader at close range. But the same label reading accuracy can be achieved using barcode technology, and at considerably less cost. When we considered the options for our storage warehouses several years ago, we gave both technologies extensive review and finally decided on bar code labeling. At the time the RFID tag costs were close to $ 1.00 each and we required over 100,000 labels for objects in storage, with additional quantities for future inventory needs. Our cost for a case of 12,000 Bar Code labels is $80.00. At this pricing 2 cents will purchase 3 labels at 2 x 4 inches each. These are good quality labels with reliable adhesive. We ran tests on labels by subjecting various papers, label adhesives and ink formulations to some extreme conditions. Labels were attached to boards and left in the sun for two months to determine which ones would survive intact. We also scuffed and burnished printed labels to ascertain the resilience of inks.

    Our data base program is Filemaker Pro 10 and it easily handles input from bar code readers. Inventory controls take considerably less time than the old pencil and paper look/see methods. We are very pleased with our bar code system. We also use FIlemaker for our bills-of-lading. Filemaker is inexpensive and very easy to program. It will support photo records as well as bar code technology. I hope this information assists you. If you need more help or information you can contact me: bryan@cookescrating.com Best regards, Bryan Cooke

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    Chair of Publications Chris Barber's Avatar
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    (taken from the ListServe)

    As you probably know, RFID equipment comes with nothing but preinstalled operating systems. Handheld readers contain their own handheld computers, and portal readers are used in conjunction with separate computers, such as laptops. For the software, all you're really talking about is installing an appropriate and effective database system on the hardware. One option for you is the route taken by Fine Art Shipping, which is to develop your own proprietary RFID tagging software. A similar route is to integrate existing RFID software with the inventory database system of your choice.

    The RFID-based system here is in a late stage of debugging, and we have been using it with increasing efficiency for several months now. Our programmer designed the software from the ground up for this particular application. The primary database is in the clouds, making it securely accessible from any networked computer; including a smart phone on a 3G network. It is also backed up on our local network in the office, and it can operate remotely on site where there is no network connection by running on a single portable computer and syncing up with the primary database upon its return to the office.

    The Barcoding and Radio Frequency Identification for Collections Management session at AAM this past Tuesday included a presentation by Joseph King of Walker Art Museum. Under his supervision, the Walker has been using RFID for collections management for six years. Like any system, it requires human intervention both planned and unplanned. But I think that this is a realistic expectation of a tool, as long as cost benefit analysis is maintained and greater efficiency is continually developed. My impression from Suzan Sengoz's account of Los Angeles County Museum of Art's case study with RFID equipment is that it was anything but extensive. The testing period lasted three days, with half of that time taken up by setting up and breaking down the equipment. It left many of LACMA's questions unanswered. The museum happened to use the same readers that FAS uses, and we are seeing good results with them so far.

    Chris Barber

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    Chair of Publications Chris Barber's Avatar
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    (taken from the ListServe) Karen Kroslowitz replies:

    Joseph,

    Also essential to consider is that metal works interfere with RFID! We use barcodes on all of our physical objects and archives and they work great. Almost any software (including simple programs like Excel) can be used with barcode readers. So if your billing system can import/export to Excel you can probably just incorporate the barcodes and readers (www.barcodebonanza.com <http://www.barcodebonanza.com/> ) and get a programmer to develop a simple spreadsheet to upload a spreadsheet to your POS/accounting software.

    -Karen

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    Chair of Publications Chris Barber's Avatar
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    (taken from the ListServe)

    That's an important point Karen. Metal will block an RFID tag's signal if the antenna substrate is covered, as will water (including that contained in a human body). But mere proximity to these materials will not interfere with a reading. In one quick test, I successfully read a tag placed behind the adjacent legs of two pallet racks. But if a tag is completely shielded, its antenna needs to be at least partially uncovered by the intervening material. In the case of a steel plate wrapped in a slipcase, for example, the tag would have to be read from the side of the package on which it's placed. Any other tags being sought that are positioned behind a metal shield would also need their tags exposed, or scanned from the other side of the interference. You still don't need to scan a visual line of code, or expose the tag at all, as long as you can scan from a more effective angle. Worst case scenario, such interference reduces the RFID tag nearly to the limits of a barcode-only tag's readability. We also print our RFID labels with barcodes on their faces, so we can record their movements by either method. This could be an instructive setup for a case study if anyone is on the fence about which system to implement.

    Chris Barber

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