Though the busy festive period is usually profitable, for many companies it also spells the biggest losses of Reusable Transport Items (RTIs) they’ll suffer all year.

Extra sales mean more stock to ship, but in the rush to get those Christmas orders out, RTIs such as roll cages, pallets and totes are at their most vulnerable to damage or loss.

With the new year upon us, now is the perfect time to look at how Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can help you keep track of your RTIs, saving precious time and money.

Why track RTIs?

RTIs, used to transport stock and goods from one location to another, are essential assets for virtually all manufacturing and logistics companies. Visit any retail outlet, warehouse or factory floor and you’ll spot loaded roll cages being pushed around by staff, or shrink-wrapped pallets of goods ready to ship or unpack.

Yet despite our reliance on them, many businesses lack visibility over the availability, whereabouts and quality of their RTIs and find themselves shelling out considerable sums each year to replace those which have been lost or damaged.

For instance, one retailer estimated an annual shrinkage of 7% due to the loss of roll cages alone, and with many organisations lacking any data at all on how many RTIs they are losing, it’s easy to see how costly a problem this can be.

What’s more, with no visibility over the quantity and whereabouts of RTIs, there’s a far greater risk that they won’t be available at the time and location they’re needed, causing significant disruption to production and supply.

Having accurate data about the availability of your RTIs not only helps to mitigate against these risks, but also allows you to use your existing pool more efficiently, removing the need for unnecessary backups.

In addition, with tracking data protecting RTIs against loss, companies can consider investing in better quality stock which is less prone to damage and so won’t need replacing as often.

How RFID can help

RFID works by placing tracking tags on each individual RTI. Each tag contains a microchip with a unique identification code which transmits a signal. Signals are picked up by local readers and information is transferred to a central database, allowing items to be tracked and data to be collected and analysed.

Unlike manual tracking techniques, which are notoriously time-consuming and prone to error, integrated RFID allows multiple RTIs to be tracked at once, providing quick and highly accurate data.

Companies using RFID have reported a rapid reduction in damages. Better visibility and transparency of RTIs throughout their lifecycle means that better care tends to be taken by those who come into contact with them, resulting in fewer losses and breakages. If RTIs are not returned when expected, tracking data makes it possible to quickly pinpoint their location and contact the relevant company to retrieve them.

Being able to uniquely identify RTIs also helps you to weigh up the cost of repairing damaged stock against the cost of replacing them.

For example, the wheels on roll cages are frequently prone to breakages, and often require repair. By recording the repairs needed against each roll cage, you’ll be able to see which types of roll cages last longest, how long repaired items last, and what the cost of repair was.

Using this data, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s more cost-efficient to buy cheaper roll cages, or invest in more expensive ones and repair them.

RFID also contributes to a more secure production line and supply chain by vastly reducing the likelihood that RTIs won’t be available when needed.

Tracking RTIs is a simple but reliable way to provide a quick return on investment. One major supermarket chain reported that RFID has allowed it to remove 10% of its roll cages which were being kept as a reserve pool.

Over time, for their total of 250,000 roll cages, this frees up a staggering £3m in capital, and reduces annual shrinkage by 10%, saving a further £210K each year.


Though often neglected, RTIs are an integral part of the infrastructure for any company in the business of producing or transporting goods.

Using RFID to collect data about the quantity, location and condition of RTIs is a proven way to quickly reduce shrinkage rates and cutting the costs associated with replacing lost or damaged stock.

RFID can also provide detailed information about the regularity and cost of repairs needed on different types of RTIs. With this information, you can decide whether it’s worth investing in better-quality stock, or accepting the outlay associated with repairing or replacing damaged RTIs.

Finally, tracking RTIs allows you to ensure that they’re always available at the right time and place, preventing costly disruption to the supply chain.

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