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French Utility Finds Turbine Components Fast

An RFID solution from Nexess allows Électricité de France to quickly locate replacement parts when a gas turbine fails, keeping downtime to a minimum.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 08, 2013

While most energy in France is supplied by nuclear energy facilities, at times of high load, utility company Électricité de France (EDF) relies on natural gas to meet those increased demands. When those (usually dormant) natural gas turbines are powered up to supply additional energy, it is critical that they function properly. The EDF's Centre d'Exploitation des Turbines à Combustion (CETAC)—Combustion Turbines Operating Center—is responsible for maintaining those turbines. To meet that mandate, the organization operates 13 production units at seven sites and stores spare parts at eight storage areas.

Recently, CETAC began employing RFID to ensure that if any piece requires replacement or repair, the necessary spare parts can be located within the shortest possible span of time. The technology, provided by Nexess, includes EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags from Omni-ID. Four months ago, says Olivier Roualt, Nexess' product manager, CETAC installed the technology at its Champagne-sur-Oise and Brennilis sites.

CETAC workers can use a handheld reader's Geiger counter functionality in a storage room to locate the parts they seek.
Typically, CETAC reports, if the energy company switches on a gas turbine in response to spikes in demand for electricity, the system functions fine. However, because the turbine has remained dormant for some time, it is possible that a part may fail, in which case the problem must be quickly diagnosed and the replacement part identified and installed. Traditionally, if such a process is required, personnel must view Microsoft Excel spreadsheets in order to determine where replacement parts are located, make phone calls and, in some cases, walk to the storage area to visually seek a particular item. CETAC wanted to be sure it knew each spare part's exact location at all times.

The solution chosen needed to be easy to use and enable goods' locations to be ascertained without the need for eye contact, says Claude Veau, CETAC's technical director. Removing the need to visually check every item and serial number printed on it would make the process of locating a replacement part considerably faster, the company explains. In addition, however, CETAC wanted to reduce the amount of data-entry time required for an employee using an Excel file to input the latest location of a part any time it was moved.

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