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CCC Expands RFID Pilot Projects

Consolidated Contractors Co., which is employing radio frequency identification to manage personnel using a combination of passive and active RFID badges, plans to launch new deployments to track pipe spools at industrial construction sites.
By Claire Swedberg

When goods are tagged, employees input information about the spool, such as its dimensions, and store that data, along with the tag's ID number, in the Pipe Guard software. A network of readers have been installed around the laydown yard and processing areas (such as the paint shop). Each tag also comes with a motion sensor. When stationary, the tag remains dormant; however, if the sensor detects that the tag is moving (for example, if an item is lifted by a truck to be delivered to another area), the tag begins beaconing, thereby providing its ID number. The readers capture that ID at a distance of up to 50 meters (164 feet), and the software determines that tag's location based on triangulation, as well as by the strength of the tag's signal as received by each reader.

The Pipe Guard software can then display the real-time locations of items within the laydown yard or processing areas. The software also stores status data about each part, based on its location. For example, if a spool's tag is no longer read in the paint shop, the software can update that spool's status as having been painted. In this way, management can view which parts may be delayed, and which are ready for the next phase, such as being built into a construction site's structure.

The company intends to use the system to track more than 10,000 items at a Siberian construction site beginning in May 2013.

To date, based on all of the projects underway, Al Shami says the RFID technology shows promise as a means to automatically identify materials and personnel. "I'm very motivated when it comes to RFID," he states. The major concern for which the company continues to test is the hardware's durability. The harsh conditions, including temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) in Qatar and -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit) in Siberia, pose a challenge both for tags and readers.

CCT presently seeks a partnership with a company that could assist with the further development of solutions in material management. "We don't need an (RFID) manufacturer—we want a solutions provider," he says, noting that developing a working system requires some work onsite that takes into account the conditions at that location and the processes used by workers. "If you just buy an RFID system without knowledge [about how it will be used], it will not be deployed properly and it will fail," he states.

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