Why Use RFID in Material Handling?


by  on March 3, 2014

RFID with shackle
Is there anyone out there who’s having to do more with less? Do you have a large inventory to manage or equipment to inspect, and all of it requiring thorough documentation to comply with regulations? Are you having a difficult time finding a good inspector or ensuring your inspectors are doing a quality job?

Well good news, RFID tagged rigging hardware and hoists can help with all these issues and more. Let’s start with what RFID is and how it works.

An Overview of RFID

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and it is now being used on almost everything. There are RFID badges for security and time clocks. There is an RFID chip in my dog in case he gets lost or stolen. RFID chips are even available in rigging hardware and on hoists. There are two main types of RFID chips: active and passive. Active chips are larger, have a longer read range, and are battery powered. Passive chips can be as small as a grain of rice, have a shorter read range, and are remotely powered.

There are many reasons why passive RFID chips are better suited to rigging hardware and hoists. Size is an obvious one. The smaller a chip is, the smaller the equipment it can be mounted in. The short read range makes the inspector actually touch the equipment being inspected, so there is no confusing the item being inspected with other nearby products. Passive RFID chips are also super tough and durable. Rigging hardware and hoists can be banged up, dropped and virtually destroyed and the chips still work flawlessly.

The Benefits of RFID Inspection

So how does RFID help you do more with less? One of the biggest selling points for RFID rigging hardware and hoists is how much faster and efficient it can make the inspection process.

Imagine this: an inspector merely touches the RFID chip in a shackle, chain sling or hoist with an RFID reader and he/she can instantly see the product’s serial number, description, traceability code, working load limit, size, certificates of compliance and origin (some material handling product manufacturers even associate this information with the chip and load it to the web for you). In addition to product information, inspectors can see previous inspections complete with pictures and notes, the next scheduled inspection date, inspection criteria, and even information on how to inspect the product.

The inspector can also use the RFID chip and reader to log information from the current inspection he/she is performing, complete with notes and pictures. Recoding the information can happen right at the point of inspection with a tablet or laptop. There isn’t any need to record information for someone else to transcribe or log later. That’s a huge time saver!

What about the issue of never having enough good inspectors?

We have already talked about how RFID-based inspection systems save time by allowing fewer inspectors to do more inspections. Have you thought about how much time and money it takes to train an inspector to acceptable levels? RFID systems can decrease training time while increasing inspection accuracy and detail. The ability to have a software package that walks an inspector through the inspection process is beneficial. The software can help identify things the inspector should look for during an inspection and provide acceptance/rejection criteria, pictures of concerns or wear areas from previous inspections for that specific product, and other reference materials to help ensure proper inspection.

Another issue inspectors can run into is not being able to read the serial number or tracking number on the hoist or rigging hardware. Sometimes the serial number can wear off or become difficult to read. With an RFID chip this will never be a problem.


RFID can also help with tracking and serialization of products. If you have a thousand pieces of rigging hardware or multiple hoists being rented or used in multiple locations, it can make the inventory process so much easier. When you scan an RFID chip, you can record the location of the product. This allows you to easily track its location later. Some RFID inspection software systems can also be designed to directly interface with your business system for automatic billing. There are so many time-saving opportunities!

Are you as excited by the possibilities of RFID as I am? Are you already using a RFID-based system to track the inspections for your hoists and rigging products?

Columbus McKinnon recognizes the value and possibilities for RFID technology in inventory and inspection management, as well as other applications. We’re excited to be introducing RFID on select shackles and hoists in a few weeks. Stay tuned for more information!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jams September 21, 2016 at 4:45 am

RFID tags can improve the efficiency and reduce the cost, so using RFID in Material Handling is a right decision.

Owen Ferris May 23, 2014 at 6:13 am

Hello Troy,

Thanks for posting a clear article which demonstrates your excitement in RFID and the benefits it can bring.

Often people have misconceptions about RFID when they hear that it will tell you the locations of the Equipment, view notes and pictures of the equipment. It is actually the related software that displays all this information based on the unique “RFID Tag” that is associated with that asset.
You have made this clear in your article which others often omit, (to stir up excitement about RFID) which we appreciate as people often get carried away thinking it has GPS built in!
Really, RFID tags are like a very rugged barcodes, but information can be “written” to be read by others with any type of RFID reader. The more indepth information requires you to have the same software that the tag was associated with.

Companies like CMCO putting RFID’s on equipment at manufacture stage is really turning point in the industry as now the end user has a solid line of trace-ability and also a means to identify equipment faster.

Best of Luck

Owen Ferris

John Sanford May 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

I was looking for a new inspection process for our rigging and came across this image. We here at EPRI (Electrical Power research Institute) are looking for a more accurate and identifiable method of inspection. I really like this idea and would like to have more info on it along with a price. Thanks!

John Sanford
Senior Lab Technician
phone# – 704-595-2539
Electrical Power Research Institute

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