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Indian Aluminum Company Tracks Deliveries

Vedanta is using a UHF EPC Gen 2 RFID system to track the arrival and departure of contractors and employees at its smelter, as well as the weight of coal delivered to its power plant.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 14, 2010Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. (VAL), a subsidiary of metals and mining company Vedanta Resources PLC, is employing an EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system to boost efficiency and prevent theft at its power plant and aluminum smelter in Jharsuguda, Orissa, in eastern India.

The system helps Vedanta protect itself from pilferage of coal or ore, the company reports, and makes the movement of the hundreds of contractors and employees who pass into and out of the facility every day more efficient. The EPC Gen 2 system replaces a previous RFID system in which ID cards with embedded RFID tags needed to be positioned extremely close to a reader, forcing drivers to stop their vehicles and hand their cards over to be read by the security staff.

The Vedanta site produces 500,000 tons of aluminum annually, but also includes a 1,215-megawatt power plant, for which contractors deliver truckloads of coal. The identities of the driver and his or her truck must be confirmed before each vehicle is authorized to enter the facility. Then, the truck must be weighed twice—once upon arriving and again when leaving—to determine how much coal was delivered.

The company sought a solution that would allow the trucks and employees to travel through the gate quickly without creating queues at security. It also wanted to be able to provide real-time data regarding which individuals were at the site at any particular time, as well as the amount of coal they delivered.

With Vedanta's previous RFID system, the tags embedded in the ID cards were difficult to read, says R.K. Shantosh, the assistant manager of Vedanta's IT division, and all data—such as driver and company information—was stored on the card's tag itself, rather than in a back-end system. As such, Shantosh explains, the system did not provide the company's management with vehicle arrival and departure data. So in March of this year, he says, the firm contracted for a new RFID solution, which it began installing in April.

On average, 3,000 trucks enter the area each day, bringing coal and bauxite. Employees also enter the complex on a daily basis. In the first phase of deploying the new system, Vedanta mounted RFID tags on the windshields of cars and trucks, in order to track employees and coal deliveries en route to the power plant.

Because of the highly metallic environment—including the presence of metal in the windshield glass itself, to make the windshield more rugged—obtaining a sufficient read range for each tag to be interrogated by a reader mounted at a gate was especially challenging. A read range of up to 50 feet from cars traveling up to 21 miles per hour was accomplished by customizing the reader, which has a built-in antenna. The transmission between the antenna and the interrogator is digital, rather than the traditional analog signal through a cable, the company explains, thereby resulting in a higher-quality transmission.

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