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Hoist-Ring Manufacturer Using RFID to Carry Life-Cycle Data

Jergens is fitting passive HF RFID tags to hoist rings for industrial cranes. The tags will store safety-testing and repair data, which the company plans to use to improve its products.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 26, 2007Jergens is a Cleveland-based company that manufactures hoist rings, which connect slings or chains used by an industrial crane to lift loads. Now, the company is adding RFID tags to the metal rings, as part of a cradle-to-grave tracking system it is offering in collaboration with its two main distributors. Jergens is partnering with Toronto-based systems integrator N4 Systems to design and implement the RFID tracking system, which uses passive high-frequency (HF) technology compliant with the ISO 15693 air-interface standard.

Sean Stapulionis, Jergens' general manager, explains that by adding tags to the hoist rings and (eventually) other lifting devices the company makes, Jergens is enabling its distributors to track the life cycle of those devices in an automated manner. This will ultimately help the distributors, who also provide safety-testing and repair services for the devices, to maintain more complete and accurate records than they can under their current manual record-keeping process. Eventually, Jergens hopes to be able to use the life-cycle data to improve the design and performance of its products, by studying a large body of repair records.

Hoist rings connect slings or chains used by an industrial crane to lift loads.
N4 developed a customized 13.56 MHz tag for use with the hoist rings, the metal content of which could interfere with RF signals and make reading most off-the-shelf tags difficult. To attach a tag to each hoist ring, a small notch is machined into the ring. The tag is then placed into that notch and secured with epoxy.

Jergens is adding a tag to each hoist ring, then encoding each tag with an identification number based on its existing serialization system. It will then use N4's FieldID system, which combines RFID and software to track the maintenance and safety inspection records of valuable assets. Each tag's unique ID is saved in a database in the FieldID software, which can later be accessed by the hoist rings' distributors and their end users. The distributors will then be able to access a hoist ring's ID by reading it with a handheld interrogator, and associate any data related to the recent inspection or repair of the ring with its ID in the database.

End users—the companies operating the cranes on which the hoist rings are installed—will be able to access the Field ID software to review the safety test and repair histories of each tagged ring. If these end-user companies perform their own in-house safety inspections or repairs, they can use interrogators to read the tags and save life-cycle data to the Field ID database themselves.

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