A forklift operator does an inventory count in a warehouse using a Zebra mobile pallet RFID reader
By Brendan Mckenna | January 30, 2023

Warehouse and Distribution Center Operators are Reaching for the Sky with New RFID Technology

Mobile pallet RFID readers are enabling forklift operators to conduct fast inventory counts on the high shelves amidst high traffic in high volume storage areas.

We’ve seen the impressive reach of RFID technology, both from a read range perspective and in terms of market penetration. Yet, everything has its limits, even the longest-range handheld RFID reader. That’s why a new type of RFID reader, a mobile pallet RFID reader, is sure to pique your interest if…

  • your team has struggled to see what items are located on the top shelves of your warehouse,

  • you have a high volume of RFID tagged inventory to manage,

  • you have a lot of forklift traffic in the aisles, and/or

  • your facility is simply too big for anyone to navigate on foot for cycle counts.

The mobile pallet RFID reader looks like a pallet, but it’s equipped with an integrated RFID reader and specialized antenna. (Hence the name.)

Zebra mobile pallet RFID reader

What I like about this RFID reader is that it’s so simple to use. A lift truck operator would pick up the mobile pallet like they would any other pallet, raise the pallet to the desired height (to get within read range of the highest-placed, RFID-tagged inventory in your facility), and then drive through all the aisles to confirm in-stock inventory quantities and locations. The mobile pallet RFID reader from Zebra can detect RFID tagged goods up to 50 feet away. That means you’ll no longer have to manually keep track of what’s on the top shelf or try to find another way to read RFID tags that may be out of range of other readers on the ground.  

Technically, this mobile pallet RFID reader could be used for complete inventory counts in your warehouse or distribution center (DC). Its value isn’t just derived from its ability to reach – and read – goods in multi-story facilities. The speed by which a forklift operator can confirm goods on hand and help locate missing items is remarkable. So, I believe you’ll receive a strong return on investment (ROI) no matter how high your storage shelves climb.  

I also think you would benefit from this mobile pallet RFID reader if you need to conduct more frequent cycle counts, as it will always be faster and more efficient for a forklift to get through all aisles than a person walking. If (or, perhaps, when) you start using autonomous forklifts into your warehouse or DC, you could potentially automate the entire cycle counting or inventory locating process with this integrated RFID reader. 

The Good, Better and Best  

It’s hard to find a downside to this mobile pallet RFID reader, mainly because of how quickly it can be brought online and how few resources are needed to deploy and manage it:  

What makes it such a good investment: The reason it’s called a “fully integrated solution” is because it is shipped fully assembled. It uses Power over Ethernet (PoE), so there really isn’t a lot of installation work required. It’s also compatible with private 5G networks so you’ll have reliable and constant transmission of read data as the forklift moves throughout your warehouse or DC. 

What makes it better than other cycle count options: It is comprised of Zebra’s FX9600 fixed RFID reader alongside specialized antennas that tune out crosstalk. This helps to reduce erroneous tag reads and give you a highly accurate read rate as the forklift is zipping up and down the aisles. And, yes, this is one of the fastest – if not the fastest – ways to count and locate inventory in warehouses and DCs, mainly because of the size of the facility, the volume of inventory that must be accounted for, and the numerous other tasks your team must complete in a day. 

The best part of choosing a Zebra integrated RFID portal like the mobile pallet RFID reader: All Zebra integrated RFID portals are fully compatible with Zebra’s broad portfolio of RFID and location systems and backed by our service and support teams throughout the solution’s lifecycle. If you ever need help with anything, you’ll be able to get it instantly – and that goes for everything from site assessments, use case mapping and RFID solution design to solution component commissioning, go-live technical support and post-deployment troubleshooting. We’re not going to leave you wondering if read rates are accurate. We’re going to help you make sure the solution is consistently delivering the inventory information you need to improve business performance and customer satisfaction as your operation continues to grow. 

If you’d like to learn more about the setup and capabilities of Zebra’s mobile pallet RFID reader, reach out to your local Zebra representative or contact us here. We’ll be happy to show you how this new forklift-based RFID reader can fit into your existing location system or serve as the starting point for more efficient inventory management processes. 


Related Reads: 

The Zebra mobile pallet RFID reader
Manufacturing, Retail, Transportation and Logistics, Warehouse and Distribution,
Brendan McKenna
Brendan McKenna

Brendan McKenna is currently a Product Manager in Zebra’s ALT business unit with responsibility for RFID overhead and RFID Portal solutions. These RFID components and solutions provide enterprises insights into their business operations by providing real time visibility into inventory, assets, freight, and associates. Brendan has more than 20 years of experience within the technology and systems industry and has managed multiple successful product launches in various verticals including telecommunications. 

Previously, he served as Sr. Product Manager at LSI Corporation where he managed a successful proprietary Network Processor solution for the Telecommunications industry. He began his career in Technology at AT&T Bell Labs. Initially working for the Microelectronics division as a test engineer, and then later at Lucent Technologies as Product Manager.  Brendan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Hofstra University, New York and a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.

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