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Tracking Construction Cranes in Real-Time

Stafford Tower Crane is using an active RFID system from AssetPulse to track the location of cranes and components at construction sites.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 02, 2007Construction crane leasing company Stafford Tower Crane of America is using a radio frequency identification system to track its cranes and their large components throughout the United States. The crane leasing company, the U.S. division of Dublin, Ireland's Stafford Tower Crane Ltd., has tagged its 15 cranes and numerous individual pieces on those cranes with active RFID tags. At present, the company is gathering data about the locations of those cranes and parts. The system was developed by AssetPulse, a San Jose, Calif., company offering customizable asset-tracking software.

Stafford Tower rents cranes to construction sites throughout the United States and needed a system that would assist in locating crane parts quickly. Until six months ago, when it began piloting this system, Stafford tracked its cranes and their many 20-foot-long components using paper and pencil, says Patrick Stafford, president and owner of Stafford Tower Crane of America. "It was really a nightmare," he recalls.

Vijay Sarathy
The trouble occurs when construction projects require first a crane, then additional tower components to make the crane taller as construction progresses. On many construction jobs, components can be ordered and shipped to a site three to five times or more. Many towers, in fact, have as many as 16 added components by the time construction is completed.

Components are often transported directly from one construction site to another, while others return to one of Stafford's holding and maintenance yards. When a crane needs to be erected, the proper crew needs to be in place and the construction site needs to be readied. Crane components are occasionally missing, putting the entire project on hold.

"We have to be able to keep track of the components," Stafford says, "so that such an event doesn't happen."
Crane parts themselves are expensive, and so is their use. Cranes can cost up to $700,000 apiece, with individual components valued at about $17,000 each. Rentals can cost a construction company $25,000 per month for the crane and its components. For all these reasons, it's imperative that Stafford track the precise locations of all its cranes and parts at all times so it can quickly know if a piece is missing, as well as where to obtain the piece it needs.

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