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Bechtel Tracks Man-Hours at Copper Mine

The company's timekeepers will employ EPC Gen 2 RFID readers to capture the identities of construction workers, and to clock their hours at a Chilean mining site run by Anglo American.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 21, 2008Construction company Bechtel is initiating an RFID system designed by RFID Chile to track contracted workers as they construct a new mine at Los Bronces, in the Andes Mountains. Once fully deployed, in September of this year, the RFID system will enable the company to track thousands of workers as they clear the site and then build the copper mine, owned by Anglo American. That, says Jaime Ramirez, Bechtel's information sciences and technology (IS&T) field manager for the Los Bronces project, will allow his company to track thousands of man-hours on the site in less time, with fewer errors.

Bechtel tracks workers not only at Los Bronces, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Santiago, but also at the Las Tortolas ore-processing plant, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Los Bronces. At present, the sites have a total of 500 construction workers, supplied by a variety of independent contracting companies. Los Bronces is where most of the construction work is currently underway. Once winter passes in Chile, around September, Bechtel plans to fully deploy an RFID system that will track approximately 6,000 workers at Los Bronces on a daily basis for the entire three-year project.


Los Bronces, in the Andes Mountains, during winter.
To verify the number of hours the workers complete, Bechtel utilizes one timekeeper per approximately 200 employees. The timekeeper walks through both construction sites with a pen and paper. With winter underway in the mountains, at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, timekeepers currently walk through rough terrain—sometimes as much as 17 hours per day—stopping each worker and recording that person's name and ID number on a piece of paper. Just writing down the names can be difficult, as timekeepers usually wear gloves since the temperature can dip to -10 degrees Celcius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter. A Bechtel employee then transposes all of those names to a single handwritten list. The entire process takes an entire day to accomplish.

While contractors punch in at time clocks upon arriving at and leaving the site, it is the records kept by timekeepers that list which crew, foremen and supervisors are located on the site, and where they are working. At the office at the end of the day, those handwritten names, locations and hours are input into the back-end ERP system by the office staff. The names are often difficult to decipher, mistakes can be made in the process of transposing them, and there is a delay between when the names are written on the job site and when they are input into the computer system.

The company had considered using a bar-code solution, since contracted workers already wear an ID badge on site that includes a bar code and is used to purchase food in the Anglo American cafeteria. But such a solution would require the timekeeper to maintain a clear a line of sight with the badge's bar-coded number, and the construction worker would typically have to stop his work and hand the badge to the timekeeper for scanning. In addition, the bar codes often become dirty or faded.

With the system designed by RFID Chile, the company claims, the timekeeper's job is made easier. As a matter of fact, Bechtel hopes its timekeepers will be able to sweep through the construction site twice daily to track man-hours, both in the morning and in the afternoon, using Motorola handheld RFID interrogators.

USER COMMENTS

Reader 2008-07-29 04:57:56 PM
RFID Technology Technology was invented by mankind and now we see how technology is controlling mankind in a way which could affect their living (work hours, pay, food). It is amazing how different perspectives on this article can bring out a number of humane related issues. I am a reseller of Wi-Fi based RFID equipment and I have served clients in various industries including healthcare, logistics & transportation and retail. Since I have been quite active in the RFID sector I am aware of the powers of this technology and am keen on seeing how it would evolve in different ways in turn affecting us. yogesh@infint-tech.com http://www.infinit-tech.com/Aeroscout-RFID-Tags.php

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