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Northwest Masonry Company Expects Rock-Solid Benefits From RFID

Mutual Materials is gaining efficiency via an RFID-based solution from Zonar to track the movements, inspections and performance of 43 vehicles in four states and Canada.
By Claire Swedberg

Consequently, Mutual Materials replaced the Qualcomm onboard system with an Android-based solution from Zonar. The new system, which was taken live last month, consists of a Zonar 2020 tablet and an app that will share data with the OTM software. That integration with the OTM software is planned for completion by April 2015.

The Zonar 2020 tablet contains an LF RFID reader, a GPS unit, a camera and cellular functionality, and is docked on a vehicle's dashboard. About seven button-sized passive 125 kHz RFID tags, known as Zone Tags, are affixed to each vehicle, each representing a specific inspection area—such as the rear tires. Approximately four tags are attached to every trailer, and two more to each moffett.

Tim Johnson
Upon beginning his shift, a driver proceeds to the tablet and uses its touchscreen to manually enter his user ID number and password. The system also allows drivers to read an RFID-based ID card, though Johnson says the company opted against using RFID ID cards, so that there would be one less thing for the drivers to potentially forget.

By entering his ID and password, the driver creates a record of when he began his shift. He can then proceed to each Zone Tag, tap his tablet against it and follow prompts indicating the results of his visual inspection. The driver can utilize the camera to take pictures of any problems, such as a flat tire, an air leak or a malfunctioning marker light. Any item that would make equipment illegal to operate on public roads according to U.S. Department of Transportation standards must be tracked, explains Mike Jones, Mutual Materials' director of distribution and branch operations. Upon completing his inspection, the driver returns the tablet to the dashboard dock, and the device then transmits the inspection data via a cellular connection, along with the GPS data, thereby indicating where the vehicle and driver are located.

The tablet, via the docking station, is connected to the vehicle's engine and also collects function data, such as temperature levels or any operational problems. All data is forwarded via the app to Zonar's hosted server, which distributes the information to Mutual Materials' maintenance staff as needed. For example, the Oracle system can automatically route data regarding engine trouble to Mutual Materials' maintenance staff, as well as to the company's third-party maintenance provider.

When a user finishes his shift, he next inspects another vehicle, trailer and moffett, by reading the tags and entering the necessary information.

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