Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to research and design a feasible automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) system for a manufacturing small to medium enterprise (SME) that is able to facilitate the flow of accurate and real-time data throughout the manufacturing process. Design/methodology/ approach - The processes and operations conducted at a manufacturing SME were critically analysed in order to identify areas, where the use of an AIDC system could be used to improve the efficiency and visibility of the processes throughout manufacture. The areas for improvement could then be identified and solved through specific applications and/or systems of which a cost benefit analysis could be conducted. Findings - Significant cost savings are found through the implementation of a radio frequency identification (RFID) system based on the reduction of safety stock, the elimination of manual job tracking and the reduction of the manual input and written data throughout the process. Research limitations/implications - The read range of the technology outlined in this project was found to be limited due to the metal interference of the products, which should be aimed to be improved through the detection of other RFID transponders or a better adhesive medium used. Practical implications - The most common limitations were found to be the lack of IT infrastructure, limited knowledge on the benefits of the system and also cultural resistance to change. However, appropriate training is to be provided to overcome any problems. Originality/value - AIDC systems utilising data carrier technologies have been successfully implemented within many large multinational organisations but research into the implementation of AIDC systems within SMEs is far more limited.