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Gammon Steel Tracks Modular Components for Buildings

The company is using an RFID solution from Tecton to record when prefabricated units leave its factory and are installed at construction sites, thus ensuring that mistakes are not made.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 07, 2013Large buildings are often constructed using prefabricated pieces that arrive onsite shortly before being incorporated into a new structure. Such modularization of construction projects shortens project times and lowers labor costs. However, mistakes made during this scenario—such as the installation or delivery of an incorrect modular piece, or an item's failure to arrive onsite when needed—can be costly. In the construction industry, most assets and their usage are monitored simply via paper invoices and manifests—a manual process that can enable errors and take time to complete.

For the past few years in Hong Kong, building information management company Tecton Ltd. has been providing an RFID solution to track modular construction assets that is intended to reduce the incidence of errors and ensure that assets are onsite when required. Tecton's Integrated Project Quality Management (IPQM) system operates with EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags or bar-coded labels and handheld readers, as well as software residing on a user's back-end system. Since 2009, the company has been employed by Gammon Construction Ltd.'s Gammon Steel division, a Hong Kong provider of structural steelwork services, for the construction of the Opus Hong Kong property, as well as at the HSBX Headquarters Building, in central Hong Kong. The firm is now testing the solution to track steel products as they are produced at Gammon's Dongguan Pristine Metal Works steel factory and are then shipped out. Gammon did not respond to requests for comment.

The system solves multiple problems, says Ron Ng, Tecton's building information modeling (BIM) assistant manager. For one thing, construction companies typically lack a centralized site at which details regarding all assets and their in-project use are stored. Paper records kept onsite can become lost or be incorrect, and are often not timely since they can only be recorded into a computer system after being brought to the office. In the event that an error is made during construction—such as an incorrect piece of framing being erected on part of the building—that mistake may not be caught until the concrete is poured. IPQM, on the other hand, electronically stores location and status data about the assets being used during construction, so that onsite construction managers, or staff members at remote locations, can view which items are being stored or installed as construction takes place.

Additionally, the Hong Kong government has issued recent requirements for builders to track several types of building components, such as precast concrete facades, aluminum windows, timber doors and metal gates. At present, additional components are being considered.

With the Tecton system, Gammon Steel first attaches a Xerafy Bric tag to a beam in the steel frame, via a zip tie. The tag's unique ID number is stored in the IPQM software residing on Gammon's back-end system, and is linked to details pertaining to that asset. The tag is typically read via an ATID AT570 or AT580 handheld reader as it leaves Gammon's factory for the building site, and is then interrogated again using a similar handheld once the product arrives at the construction site.

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