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Large Entertainment Co. to Try RFID for Tracking Spare Parts in Its Data Centers

The company wants to use passive UHF tags to determine which items it has in storage and when they are removed or returned, in order to increase inventory visibility and reduce shrinkage.
By Claire Swedberg
The entertainment company is initially installing the system at two sites: a midsize data center with a single storage cage containing approximately 100 bins, each holding 10 to 100 spare parts, and a considerably larger data center equipped with nine small cages, each holding 20 to 30 bins.

At the onset, the company is using bar-coded labels, each printed with a serial number and attached to each of its parts. The firm scans those serial numbers and stores that information in the LightsOn software, in order to create a list indicating which equipment is at what location. When removing or returning a spare part, a worker uses a bar-code scanner to read the bar-code label, and then indicates in the LightsOn software whether he or she is borrowing or returning that part.

By conducting a test of the system via bar codes, the company hopes to gain an understanding of which spares are being removed and returned most frequently, after which it will commence a strategy of applying the comparatively more expensive RFID tags to those items first. Once RFID tags are in use, he firm intends to install a reader portal at some of the storage areas, thereby enabling the items to be removed without being interrogated via a handheld reader. Reader manufacturers have yet to be selected, though Vizualiiz has provided DoTel DOTR-900 handheld RFID readers for its existing LightsOn RFID customers. The company's solution typically utilizes RFID tags supplied by Omni-ID.

In the case of fixed readers, a portal would be installed at some storage cages, in order to capture each tagged item's removal and return automatically. The entertainment company indicated that it was not interested in tracking which individual employee has a particular item, and thus would not be providing RFID tags to personnel.

The system is now available for other data centers, Cartright says, adding that he envisions data centers varying in how they use the LightsOn Spare Management system. "For example, most commodity-type spares [the type of bulk spares stored within a bin] would not be scanned when the spare item is received, but would be scanned when the spare is deployed," he states. "Conversely, non-commodity or higher-value spares—as defined by the customer—would typically be tagged and scanned when received into the cage and upon deployment."

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