Post By :- admin Date:- July 4, 2017
The RFID technology has been around in some form since World War II, chances are that youthink of Wal-Mart’s supply chain initiative when you hear the words
“radio frequency identification,” or “RFID”. Since January 2005, the retail giant has required suppliers to place RFID tags on palletsand cases. Wal-Mart is already seeing a return on their investment, such as gaining the ability torefill out-of-stock products three times faster than before.
Now the question we like to address is that “Does RFID technology make as much sense for asset management as it does for supply chain management? While senior executives may pay close attention to product inventory, theysometimes underestimate how the cost of purchasing, maintaining, and disposing of assetscan affect the bottom line. Engineering directors, IT managers, and maintenance personnelunderstand the impact, but they typically have had ineffective tools – time-consuming,error-prone manual systems and spreadsheets –
that prevent easily and quickly tracking,measuring, and reporting on the status and performance of these assets. For manufacturersalone, according to ARC Advisory Group, just improving asset performance by a fewpercentage points could be worth billions of dollars annually across the industry.
RFID technology enables the automated gathering and sending of asset information – including location, meter readings, maintenance status, and much more – without a person needing direct line of sight or contact with that asset. Not only does RFID provide a fast, accurate method ofobtaining this valuable information, but the types of information it enables asset managers to gathercan help companies do such things as reduce costs by implementing a need-based maintenanceschedule rather than an arbitrary calendar-based schedule, increase revenue by accurately valuingassets being sold, and increase equipment longevity by identifying usage patterns and the need foradditional user training.This article describes the basic RFID technology components and how they work and alsoprovides real-life examples of how RFID technology is being used by enterprising organizations todayto gain significant time savings and enable better asset management.
HOW RFID TECHNOLOGY WORKS
RFID technology consists of two basic components: a tag (or “transponder”) that is affixed to the
Asset being monitored, and a reader (an antenna and transceiver). When the reader transmits asignal in a specific radio frequency, the tag is activated and sends the data back to the reader. Thereader passes information to the control system, but also can write information back to the tag.RFID tags are described as “passive” or “active.” A passive tag is one that does not contain abattery; the power is supplied by the reader. When the reader transmits a signal, the tag’s built-incoiled antenna forms a magnetic field. The tag draws power from the field, energizing its circuitsand enabling it to send the information encoded in its memory. An active tag is equipped witha battery that can be used as a partial or complete source of power for the tag’s circuitry andantenna. Some active tags are sealed units, while others contain replaceable batteries, thusextending the tag’s useful life.
Key factors in selecting a tag for a specific application include the likely distance between thetag and reader, and the amount of data to be stored on the tag. Passive tags must be close to thereader – generally within a few feet and have less memory than active tags. Active tags may behundreds of feet from the reader and have more storage capacity than passive tags.
There are two types of RFID readers also exist: “fixed” and “portable.” A fixed RFID reader is a device thatautomatically detects RFID tags without any user interface or mobile capability. These readerstypically have a direct Ethernet connection and intelligence built into the unit to enable tag captureand basic data transfer. Fixed readers are primarily used to track such information as location andwork in process. They are typically implemented as a “pass through” station, such as the doorway toa tool crib. RFID portable (or “mobile”) readers typically are Pocket PC/Windows® CE devices, whichlook similar to today’s familiar barcode readers. They can be carried by personnel or attached tovehicles, such as forklifts.
Once the RFID reader gathers data, the information is passed through middleware to theorganization’s enterprise asset management application. As a result, the systemmay trigger an alert, release a work order, create an invoice, locate an asset, or do whateverelse is required.
RFID TECHNOLOGY IN REAL-WORLD APPLICATIONS
To fully understand how RFID can make a difference, it is important to explore some real-lifeexamples. Two that will be discussed here include fleet management and utilities.
A management services firm currently oversees a large fleet of forklifts, cranes and trucks for aclient. This includes everything from rental or leasing of equipment, to maintenance and disposal.
The firm recognized that fleet maintenance alone, if improved, could save significant amounts ofmoney for its customer. The manual collection of equipment usage data was expensive and timeconsuming. Gauges sometimes were faulty or inoperable, providing inaccurate data. The firm alsorecognized that, just because a key was in a vehicle’s ignition, it didn’t necessarily follow that theequipment had been used or required maintenance.In an effort to help its client manage these assets better, faster, and cheaper, the firm began usingRFID technology to capture actual forklift engine-hour readings. Rather than someone manuallyrecording this data for each piece of equipment in the fleet, as used to be done, someone now walksabout the facility with a handheld recorder. Data from any forklift within 200 feet of the readeris automatically captured. As soon as the handheld recorder is placed into a docking station, theinformation is fed into an asset management software program. The program then creates an assetutilization report for the management firm and its customer.The benefits are immediately obvious. Data collection is fast. It is accurateand those peoplewho need the information in order to make decisions no longer must wait for someone to keydata hopefully without error into the system.The management services firm is now considering other key measures it wants to capture withRFID, including the number of times a vehicle’s forks move up or down (a sensor would beplaced in the hydraulic system), or the number of times and frequency a forklift or rather theoperatorcrashes into something (which would be recorded with the help of a G-force sensor).By easily capturing key pieces of data with RFID technology, the company feels it will be able todetermine which make and model of forklift works best in their environment and for certain typesof jobs. It will be able to implement a preventive maintenance program based on actual vehiclecondition rather than on an arbitrary schedule, much like how people change the oil in their carsbased on actual mileage rather than “every six months.” They also will be able to determinewhether they need more vehicles, or whether they just need a few rapid battery chargers.In addition to mobile equipment management, the firm anticipates implementing facilitiesmanagement and process management applications in the future. It’s all about helping theircustomers find better, faster, and less expensive ways of doing business.
A small US municipality has outfitted its residential water meters with RFID tags. To gathermeter readings for water usage, a city employee simply drives by the households. The tags sendinformation back to the reader in the city’s van, which passes information to the billing system.
For the city, data is captured quickly and accurately. For the home owner who need not bepresent or call in the reading, it’s convenient.This system also helps the city manage assets: it can identify whether a meter is working improperly.By having this information sooner rather than later, the city reduces potential revenue loss fromfaulty equipment and can track asset lifecycle trends.
Fleets and utilities aren’t the only ones interested in better asset management throughRFID technology today. Mosthospitals currently cannot track the whereabouts of equipment, theytend to over-purchase equipment to ensure they can find it when needed. Pharmaceutical groupsare also strongly eying RFID to track the movement of expensive drugs.Some companies even are using RFID to track personnel. For example, RFID tags may beplaced at different points on a security guard’s route throughout a building. Rather than having tostop at given stations to confirm his presence, the guard can instead concentrate on monitoring thebuilding, allowing the reader at his side to automatically perform the confirmations for him.
The costly, time-consuming nature of data gathering in the past meant that organizations limited howmuch asset-related information they gathered and how frequently they gathered it. With today’s RFIDtechnology, more data can be gathered faster and less expensively than ever before – information thatcan be used proactively to prevent problems, to schedule maintenance based on actual conditionrather than on an arbitrary calendar date, and to optimize the value of all the enterprise’s assets.