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RFID Tracks Assets at Canada's Oil Sands

Atlas RFID's Jovix system is being used to expedite the tracking of materials and tools at industrial construction sites, enabling one customer to reduce its staff by 70 percent.
By Claire Swedberg

At the onset of each project, Atlas RFID meets with project managers to determine what it calls the Materials Responsibility Matrix. The managers can create a Materials Management Plan by assessing which objects will need to be tracked, at what point they should be tagged and what type of technology should be used.

"We consider ourselves a solution provider," Chesser states. "We aren't there to sell RFID tags." Therefore, he says, the company instead considers the most cost-effective solution, which could mean that some goods would not require tracking, some would require only bar-coded labels and others would need passive HF, UHF or battery-powered tags. Atlas RFID also determines the type of data that should be collected, and how it is then disseminated. For example, project managers may require alerts when a specific item has or has not arrived at the work site as expected.

Regarding the oil-sands industry in Canada, Chesser says, the need to reduce the number of man-hours employees spend looking for missing materials is paramount. Highly paid and skilled workers can often spend hours searching for something that may or may not be located onsite. Not only does this consume man-hours, but a missing item can also result in a construction delay. For that reason, materials are frequently reordered simply to reduce the need to search for them.

One such Canadian oil and gas customer, Chesser says, had reported that prior to the Jovix system's installation, its supervisors spent more than 40 percent of their time searching for lost materials on its 2-square-mile site. Atlas RFID installed RFID readers at the construction site's entrance gates, and deployed vehicle-mounted tag readers and mobile handhelds with GPS coordinates that link to tag reads, in order to locate those items. Because the search time was reduced thanks to the Jovix system's installation, the firm has since decreased its staff by 70 percent, down to 12 crewmembers and three supervisors.

The system is not simply designed for large, complex supply chains and construction sites, says Paul Mitchell, Atlas RFID's senior process engineer. During the past few years, it has also been deployed for smaller projects. "We're able to reach a lower-tiered customer," he states, by offering a scalable solution that could utilize fewer tags, or bar-coded labels, to keep prices down.

Approximately 25 percent of Jovix users prefer to use the software on their own database, Atlas RFID reports. The company also offers a cloud-based solution with the Jovix software managing read data from a Jovix-hosted server.

Atlas RFID recently announced that its Jovix system now integrates with engineering software company Intergraph's SmartPlant Materials construction-management software. While SmartPlant manages all data related to the construction materials required on a project, construction companies can also use the Jovix system to add RFID, bar-code and GPS functionality to Intergraph's software. According to the company, several construction sites are currently using the integrated solution.

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