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Tracking Assets from Prairie to Peak

Within months of deploying RFID to keep tabs on its IT equipment, Colorado's vast El Paso County expects to soon recoup its investment.
By Bob Violino
The county conducts inventory assessments every few months, Dorpinghaus says. When it's fully deployed, RFID will give the county unprecedented visibility into many of its assets, Dorpinghaus says. "We didn't track this detailed a level of information about IT equipment previously, so this is data we never had before."

Previously, when inventory was done manually or via bar code readers, the county didn't always get correct counts on equipment on which devices it has in stock and how long the products have been in use. By having more accurate data, the county can order just the right number of new machines at just the right time, rather than guessing, as in the past.

In addition to taking stock of IT equipment and tracking where particular machines are located, the county will use RFID to trace the history of maintenance work performed on individual devices. For example, the system will keep track of how many times and when technicians have replaced the hard drive or monitor on a particular computer.

"The RFID system will know that a hard drive has been replaced because there will be a work order that shows what was done and what parts were used on it," says Dorpinghaus. "The title of our work orders will be things like 'replace hard drive,' so while the [tag] doesn't know that it's a different component, it should be able to list the work that has been performed." By storing information on maintenance history and associating that information with each tag, the county will also be able to more accurately keep tabs on when certain devices need standard maintenance checks.

El Paso expects the RFID implementation to pay for itself relatively quickly. The county is looking to get a 100 percent return on its investment for the RFID tags and readers within four to six months, Dorpinghaus says. This will come mainly from labor savings because of the more efficient process of tracking assets, according to Dorpinghaus. She declined to say how much the county is spending on the RFID tags and readers.

Executives in the county are optimistic that RFID will continue to play a significant role in improving operations.

"There is a future for RFID technology in specific departmental applications, particularly those that lead to cost reductions and operating efficiency," says Bill Miller, CIO of the county. "Because of our county's continued rapid growth, we are always looking for technology that allows us to do more with less."

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