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Engineering Firm Ludwig Pfeiffer Uses RFID to Keep Track of Tools, Workers

The German company says that its HF system from Reutemann.net and Panmobil has simplified the records-keeping processes for 6,000 pieces of equipment used on construction sites across Europe.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 12, 2014

Ludwig Pfeiffer, a global structural and civil-engineering firm based in Germany, eliminated the need for its construction foremen to manually track the company's 6,000 pieces of equipment at dozens of European construction sites, and reduced the amount of time needed for its annual inventory check time by 50 percent, by adopting an RFID-based solution provided by Advanced Panmobil Systems and Reutemann.net. Ludwig Pfeiffer reports that the solution has saved its workers time in tracking equipment, has reduced the incidence of errors related to items' locations, and is now being used by employees to clock in and out at the job site.

The company, headquartered in the city of Kassel, has approximately 60 active construction sites throughout much of Europe, where its personnel are working at any given time. According to Frank Menzel, Ludwig Pfeiffer's CEO, the company also provides 6,000 pieces of equipment—including cable drums, excavators and excavator shovels—to those sites, and must monitor when those items are used, inspected, repaired or moved from one location to another, or back to the headquarters.

Ludwig Pfeiffer attached passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags, supplied by Reutemann.net, to thousands of pieces of equipment.
To track all of the collected equipment-based data—both location and maintenance—the company's staff manually wrote the details on paper and provided that paperwork to the office to be entered into a computer. Each time a piece of equipment was moved, the construction site manager filled out a dispatch note, which was also transmitted to the main office to be transcribed. This process was slow, requiring that employees wait for the paperwork to reach the office so they could input data electronically, and errors were sometimes introduced because digits were transposed or handwriting was illegible.

After reviewing a variety of technology options in fall 2009, Ludwig Pfeiffer selected an RFID-based solution from Reutemann.net and Panmobil. The company attached a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag, made with NXP Semiconductors' Icode chips compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, to each piece of equipment. For most of the equipment, the tags were glued on, but some tags were screwed or riveted on, for items requiring an especially robust attachment. The tags vary in size from 15 millimeters (0.6 inch) in diameter to 30 by 40 millimeters (1.2 to 1.6 inch) in width and length, says Jens Reutemann, the head of sales at Reutemann.net, which provided the tags. The unique ID number encoded to each chip is linked to the equipment's description, serial number and history in the Reutemann.net software.

Ludwig Pfeiffer's Frank Menzel
Project foremen at each construction site are equipped with Panmobil Scanndy handheld RFID readers that also serve as bar-code scanners. When not being used, the devices are placed in onboard docking cradles installed within work vehicles—typically, the project foremen's trucks.

When a piece of equipment is being moved or inspected, or if it has a problem that needs to be reported, the foreman first interrogates an RFID tag in his own ID badge, and then reads the ID number on the tool's tag. Once he returns the handheld to the vehicle's docking unit, that unit transmits the tag ID numbers, along with its own GPS-based location, to Ludwig Pfeiffer's server via a GPRS or UMTS connection, says Stefan Leske, Advanced Panmobil Systems' head of marketing and PR.

The Reutemann.net software, residing on that server, receives those tag IDs, and retrieves that tool's maintenance and usage history, which appears on Scanndy's display screen. The foreman can then enter additional information, such as any defects on the equipment, any inspections being conducted and their results, or the equipment's movement to another site.

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