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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

CETAC has tagged 5,000 items to date, with a goal of tagging as many as 70,000 items across all of its sites. First, the Omni-ID on-metal Prox-NG tag, made with an Alien Technology Higgs 3 RFID chip, is attached to the item via an adhesive. The tag's unique ID number, along with details about the part to which it is attached—such as its lot number, serial number and manufacturer—is then stored in Nexess' NexCap Mobile Asset Tracking software, residing on CETAC's server. When the item is put away, a staff member uses a Motorola Solutions Psion Workabout Pro 3 PDA with a built-in UHF RFID reader to interrogate the tag. He or she then inputs the building and shelf number where the part is being stored, and this information is forwarded to the NexCap software via a Wi-Fi or cable connection.

In the event that a part is needed, workers access the NexCap software on a PC, or in the handheld's firmware, and enter the part number or description. The software then provides the locations of any items fitting that description or part number. Personnel can also carry the handheld while visiting that storage location, and use its Geiger counter functionality to identify the proper part. When the tag is read—within a distance of about 1 meter (3.3 feet)—the PDA displays the component's description. The worker then indicates that the item is being removed, by responding to prompts, in order to update the part's status.

In addition to tagging all items at all seven sites, CETAC hopes to have the NEXCAP software integrated with its own inventory-management software on its nationwide server. This will allow the staff to locate all items at any of the multiple sites.

Because the technology provides location data, CETAC's workers no longer need to conduct inventory checks at each of its storage locations on a regular basis, thereby saving the company money in terms of labor costs. What's more, the firm does not need to order excess stock that would otherwise be purchased if a specific item could not be found. Veau predicts that CETAC will see a return on its investment within less than two years, based on these benefits.

"The solution works perfectly," Veau reports. "In fact, it was needed to find a spare part in an emergency, due to a turbine failure." Staff members simply input the required part into the handheld reader, he says, adding, "The PDA located the spare part right away and gave us the location."

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