The legalization of cannabis products in various states across the US has raised important compliance-related issues for growers and retailers who are tasked with tracking and reporting the movement of their highly regulated products. The challenge for suppliers and sellers is to track item-level inventory movement accurately and efficiently from seed to sale. Many, of course, have turned to technology solutions to keep pace with the patchwork regulatory requirements of the growing industry.
At every level of the industry, it’s essential to have systems in place that allow for precise tracking of inventory. In the highly regulated cannabis industry, anything that creates inventory discrepancies—poor inventory practices, human error, employee-related shrinkage—can lead to punishing fines. Large-scale errors and repeated problems even have the possibility of leading to the loss of a business’s license. That makes it essential for growers and retailers to use track-and-trace technology that delivers a high level of accurate inventory information.
One technology solution that fits the bill perfectly is radio frequency identification (RFID). With RFID, businesses can establish processes that track and report inventory information at a granular level without requiring excessive amounts of labor. RFID tracking systems are also far more accurate than other inventory solutions, routinely achieving 99% accuracy in warehouse, transportation, and retail operations.
What sets RFID apart is the use of radio signals to transmit data and record product movement. Using radio signals means RFID tracking doesn’t require line of sight like a conventional barcode scanner.
There are two basic pieces in every RFID system, a tag and a reader. The tag stores data and information about the tagged asset, while the reader captures the data and transmits it to various applications such as a warehouse management system or point-of-sale system.
Often, the data stored on an RFID tag is much more detailed than the limited information that can be stored in a conventional barcode. This makes RFID ideally suited for applications like cannabis product tracking, which require granular data at every step of the product journey.
To understand RFID, it also helps to know that there are two categories of RFID tags: passive and active. Passive RFID tags have no power source of their own; they’re powered by electromagnetic energy emitted by a nearby RFID reader. Active RFID tags have their own power supply (usually a battery) that they use to power transmissions. The lifespan of an active RFID tag is limited by the lifespan of its battery, but the useful life of passive RFID tags is essentially unlimited. The battery vs. no battery distinction also leads to passive tags being less expensive than active tags.
The specific type of RFID used for any application will depend on a variety of factors. So, it’s best to consult with an expert to determine which solution best meets your requirements.
Whether you end up with an active or passive RFID solution, one of the key benefits will be your ability to track a high volume of detailed product information with very little associated labor cost. Depending on your workflows, you can even build a system that tracks cannabis product movement automatically, with no human intervention at all.
For example, imagine a worker moving cases of products off a delivery van into a retail cannabis store. The cases and the individual products within can each be labelled with a passive RFID tag. As the boxes go through the loading dock door, a nearby RFID reader can be configured to automatically capture detailed information from every tag that moves past, allowing managers to track each case and product in detail without any manual intervention.
And, even when manual processes are used to track inventory movement, RFID still offers the potential for significant labor savings. With conventional barcode scanning, each label must be visible to the scanner beam. But RFID does not require line of sight to capture data from a tag RFID, and it can capture data from hundreds of tags with a single trigger event, so much less time is required to scan a batch of products. With the right system, instead of conducting a painstaking item-by-item inventory, a cannabis retailer could scan the entire RFID-tagged contents of a display case or storage shelf in seconds with a single scan using a handheld RFID reader.
While RFID can be complex technology, it’s relatively easy to get started. AllBiz offers a complete lineup of Zebra RFID printers, tags, and readers to help you get started. So, if you’re looking for an inventory tracking solution that will help you comply with the regulatory and compliance requirements of the legal cannabis industry, contact AllBiz today.