McDermott Sees Gains From RFID Tracking in Indonesia
The oil and gas construction company tested the use of RFID to monitor and track pipes being fabricated onsite, with preliminary results showing that the technology reduces the labor required to track inventory, while improving work-in-progress visibility.
Managing project and work execution can be difficult due to limited information or materials, the company reports, and is further complicated when multiple projects are underway at any given time. In some cases, work may be pulled ahead of schedule or out of sequence—for example, if the materials necessary to make a specific item become available, in which case that item could be created and then wait in the laydown yard. Locating pipes, however, was not always easy. Printed bar-coded labels were sometimes difficult to read, due to the pipes' orientation.
While developing the RFID solution, McDermott spent several months carrying out preliminary testing of hardware and software, in order to ascertain the appropriate mix. In designing the pilot, Smith says, the group sought RFID tags and handheld readers that would enable staff members to locate tagged items quickly within the 300-plus-acre facility, whether in the shop or in laydown areas. The team selected Alien Technology's Squiggle EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags, as well as Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL) CS101 handheld readers with GPS receiver modules.
The RFID-based data was collected by STATS software, developed by McDermott and integrated into the project's SQL database. That information, including the location at which each item's tag was read (based on the handheld's GPS reading), along with the tag's unique ID number, was linked to its description in the back-end system. For work execution and capacity planning, McDermott deployed software supplied by Global Shop Solutions.
When a pipe work order was released, RFID labels were printed and encoded with a Datamax-O'Neil M-4210 Mark II printer, while information about that pipe was stored in the company's back-end database, along with the ID number. The tags were then read as the items moved from one work area to another—for example, to a different workstation. Workers interrogated the tags using a CS101 handheld reader, and input any necessary updates regarding the process underway on a particular part.
The system was tested within the facility's steel pipe shop, where pipes, flanges and other materials are processed according to each work order. The pipe-fabrication process typically includes pipe cutting, fit-up (in which pieces are fit together), welding, inspection, blasting and painting.
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