60 Seconds with Aileen Ryan, president of RAIN Alliance

Modern's staff sat down with Aileen Ryan, President of RAIN Alliance to discuss RAIN Alliance and RFID in the warehouse.

Aileen Ryan

RAIN Alliance

Title: President and CEO

Location: Wakefield, Mass.

Experience: More than 25 years of leadership and engineering roles with technology companies and industry associations.

Modern: You joined RAIN Alliance last fall as its top staff executive. What is the alliance’s purpose?

Ryan: Our goal as a non-profit alliance is to serve as the gathering point for industry players looking to drive and enable broader adoption of RAIN RFID technology, formerly referred to as ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID. We focus on raising awareness of the benefits of RAIN RFID and removing barriers to adoption across multiple industries, including logistics, warehousing, manufacturing and health care.

Modern: How is RAIN RFID being used in warehousing?

Ryan: Since RAIN RFID excels at location tracking and identification of goods, assets or other things that can be tagged like a storage location or equipment, it can be applied to improve many processes, including the inbound flow of shipments. Companies want a better understanding of when materials are going to arrive, what is in each shipment, and where it has been on its upstream journey. Having a better understanding of these inbound flows with RAIN RFID solutions can help an operation better prepare the space it needs to store goods or prepare them for their next step in getting products to the customer. These insights can start early on, when partners ‘tag at source,’ which is the idea that the earlier you get a tag on something, the more intelligence you can glean with it.

Modern: Is the use of RAIN RFID in warehousing at the pallet or container level, rather than with uncased items?

Ryan: The tagging can be at either an item or pallet level. It largely depends on the nature of the product being tracked, the value of each item, and the data you want to gather. Many food stuffs, for example, tend to be tagged at the pallet level, while with a truck tire or piece of computing equipment, it can make sense to tag at the item level.

Modern: What are some emerging use cases for RAIN RFID?

Ryan: RFID tags can be placed on storage locations to enable accurate knowledge of where things are stored in three dimensions. In hospital surgery rooms, it’s being used to track equipment and materials so that everything needed for a procedure is certain to be on hand, and similarly, goods or assets can be tagged in warehouses or factories to avoid delays in operational processes. Another important area for RAIN RFID is to support sustainability and a more circular economy, using it to track how products are disposed of or recycled.

Modern: Does RAIN RFID compete with bar code scanning?

Ryan: No. They are complementary technologies that typically provide value in different ways. Near Field Communication, for example, is an RFID technology, but works within a much shorter range—for example, tapping to pay or using your smart phone for identity. With RAIN RFID in a warehouse however, it’s super helpful to be able to know the identity and location of every tagged item within a 15-meter radius, with just one read request. 

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About the Author

Roberto Michel's avatar
Roberto Michel
Roberto Michel, senior editor for Modern, has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, mainly as a former staff editor and former contributor at Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to Modern since 2004. He has worked on numerous show dailies, including at ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics show, and National Manufacturing Week. You can reach him at: [email protected].
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