Members of the 96th Logistics and Readiness Squadron optimized Air Force logistics systems with their inventory technology here.
The project, Real-Time Inventory Management, focuses on new methods of inventory tracking within one of the squadron’s warehouses, using radio frequency identification tags. RFID tags are used on a daily basis from tolling cars to department store security. For example, hospitals place RFID tags on newborns for security measures.
The tags work by using radio waves to communicate information to an RFID reader. These tags do not have a power source of their own, so they rely on the energy transmitted from the reader to work. When the reader sends out a radio signal, the tag's antenna picks it up and returns a unique identifier to the reader.
“These tools assist the Air Force with a better way of tracking, inventorying and issuing out property,” said Tech. Sgt. Gary Harris, the project’s leader. “Using this technology could improve the way we conduct business.”
The RFID tags are on almost all equipment that can be checked in and out of Eglin’s Readiness Center warehouse. Items include helmets, protective gear, weapons, etc. Before deployments or exercises, Airmen report to the warehouse to be issued their gear.
These items are scanned in and out by supply Airmen using the RFID tags. Any inventory items that are not scanned out to a customer will signal an alarm, similar to department stores. In addition, warehouse personnel are notified when issued items are overdue on return.
Before RFID tags, the warehouse’s personnel were required to physically count each piece of property. If the inventory was off, the squadron would have to recount and research any discrepancies, taking hours to accomplish. Now, the use of the RFID tags provides real-time visibility of assets in inventories and transportation.
Without the RFID system, Airmen would manually check serial numbers on inventoried weapons, taking up to two weeks to complete. Now, the entire weapons supply can be inventoried in a day with the system. The RFID reader begins counting within a six-foot radius of the tags it is told to read, populating the inventory within seconds.
After implementing this system in 2021, the squadron wanted to help other units throughout the Air Force streamline their inventory processes. The squadron networked with the 96th Test Wing’s Innovation Office to materialize this idea.
The team successfully pitched their tracking optimizations at the AFWERX Spark Refinery in 2022. They hope to see this tracking system implemented Air Force wide in the future.
“RFID can affect the enterprise as a whole by providing real-time visibility of assets in inventories and transportation,” said Staff Sgt. Rochelle Gold, who presented the project. “The goal is to accelerate new ideas and projects to maturity so that they can eventually provide operational capabilities to the larger force.”