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RFID Helps Florida's Seminole County Manage Equipment

The county has attached EPC Gen 2 passive tags to 10,000 of its most valuable assets, so that it can swiftly conduct inventory throughout its 130 facilities and offices.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 12, 2011The purchasing division of Florida's Seminole County is employing an RFID tracking system to manage its 10,000 tangible assets, with expectations that it will ultimately reduce the cost of managing inventory across its 130 countywide locations by 34 percent. The solution, provided by systems integrator Silent Partner Technologies, reduces the amount of labor required by the procurement department, as well as by the managers of other county departments that utilize those same assets.

Seminole County, located in the central part of the state, comprises seven cities and owns $90 million worth of assets, including electronic office equipment; tools used by the public-works department for road work, traffic engineering or mosquito control; and high-value firefighting gear utilized by the public-safety department. The purchasing division manages all pieces of equipment valued at $1,000 or more, and conducts a physical inventory of all items once annually, says Betsy Cohen, a county procurement supervisor. To accomplish this task, the division has traditionally used Oracle's JD Edwards software system and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to record what is on hand at each office or facility. Every year, the county sent a list of items that should be located at each facility or department, and supervisors or department heads were responsible for verifying which assets were indeed at those locations, as well as noting which were not. The procurement office would then follow up with investigating the whereabouts of any missing items.

For tools that are used outdoors and exposed to rough treatment, Seminole County utilized RFID tags designed to be especially rugged.

Until recently, the procurement division had a staff member assigned to oversee the county's inventory counts. Due to budget cuts, this position was eliminated, though it was later reestablished—but with greater responsibilities, leaving less time for inventory management.

"We needed to find a more-efficient way to get the inventory done," Cohen explains. Approximately two years ago, the department began looking into an RFID solution. Her office acquired six CSL 101-2 handheld RFID readers from Convergence Systems Ltd., but found the JD Edwards system could not support data from RFID readers, and thus began searching for a full RFID solution. The procurement division contacted Silent Partner in 2010, and commenced the process of attaching EPC Gen 2 tags to all 10,000 of its assets at the end of that year and into early 2011, according to Ted Kostis, Silent Partner's president.

The result is a system that allows spot-inventory checks to be carried out at any time of the year, with the procurement division sending personnel to offices or facilities in order to verify the locations of some pieces of equipment. During these spot-checks, they employ a CSL 101-2 handheld reader and captured the ID numbers of items at these locations.

The county will put the system fully to the test this fall, when it conducts its annual inventory of all of its departments. Instead of e-mailing a spreadsheet containing a list of assets to each department, the procurement division's staff members will make visits using a CSL 101-2 handheld reader. First, they will utilize the handheld device to download data stored in the Silent Partner software on the county's back-end system. The standalone RFID software stores and manages all data regarding inventory for each department, and interprets and displays information from RFID read events. The data on the reader lists all assets that should be located in the departments being visited.

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