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Utility Services Company Tracks Construction Tools via RFID

Pike Corp. aims to reduce the cost of tool replacement and ensure the right tools are on the right work site, thanks to an automated RFID- and GPS-based system from Silent Partner Technologies.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 18, 2018

When electric utility vehicles travel to construction or maintenance sites, they carry thousands of dollars' worth of tools, and the tracking of those items can be a challenging distraction for the crews assigned to build and repair power lines. Pike Corp., which provides construction, repair and engineering services for powerlines and substations across the United States, uses RFID technology to ensure all trucks are properly stocked, as well as to view tool usage and prevent shrinkage. The RFID Tool Tracker solution, provided by Silent Partner Technologies (SPT), is being installed in vehicles by equipment supplier Altec.

Pike Corp. is a national utility electric contractor with thousands of employees and thousands of utility vehicles—with a total of hundreds of thousands of tools loaded onto them—and serves more than 300 investor-owned utilities. The firm builds new power lines, as well as maintaining existing ones, using crews and trucks deployed all over the United States.

An open bin door with an antenna attached.
"Our challenge was finding a way to manage the tools on those vehicles," says Cliff Edwards, Pike Corp.'s special projects VP, in order to minimize loss and increase efficiency in the tracking of tools. "Our job is to safely build power lines while being productive," he says, and manually tracking assets took time away from that critical effort, both for management at company headquarters and for crew at work sites.

Typically, when a loaded utility truck leaves Pike Corp. for a customer's site, it may not return for years. The vehicle will serve the construction needs at one location, and often then be sent to another site in a neighboring area. Therefore, tracking what is on the vehicle, as well as its condition, required some manual effort for tool counting and the inputting of data into a database. If workers found that a new tool was needed, they would then place a request for that item. Losing track of even one or two tools can be costly, and the company may end up replacing tools that have merely been misplaced—for instance, they might merely be on another vehicle.

Additionally, there's the matter of ensuring that all tools are available when they're needed. One utility company may require different sized tools than another, so it's important for the dispatcher to understand what is aboard each vehicle, as well as whether it will meet the requirements of a specific project.

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