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Concrete Slab Maker Uses RFID to Track Netting

Structural Metal Decks employs passive RFID tags to track the safety nets it installs at job sites where it constructs composite decking.
By Claire Swedberg
Galway says he began his search for a tracking system on Google, by typing in "electronic tracking." The search results eventually led him to radio frequency identification, he says, noting, "RFID looked like a really good solution, and CoreRFID seemed to know what was needed."

There are several scenarios in which records of the nets would be required. Governing agencies might request the records, as could the company itself when determining whether a specific net is safe to be sent onto a work site. In addition, customers at a site might ask to view records of the safety nets in use at that location.

With the new system, staff members utilize the handheld interrogator to read a net's tag ID number when a net is first used, inputting data related to that net in the back-end system. Then, every time the net's status changes—when it is sent to a job site, for instance—an employee interrogates the tag and inputs that work site's location. A worker again reads the tag when the net returns, when it is inspected, and when it is sent to a repair area, or to a stock area to remain in storage until the next time it is used.

Safety nets typically have a three- to five-year life span, Galway says. By tracking the nets' usage and repair history, he explains, the company will have better control of how the nets are used, and be better able to maximize their usage before the lifetime expires. What's more, the system tracks how long it takes to repair a net, as well as what led to its breakage or damage.

"We can also run a report to see which nets are due for an annual test," Galway notes. Whenever the firm attempts to send a net to a work site, it receives an alert notification if that net is due for inspection within the next 45 days.

"Training the users was easier than expected," Williams says. "Mainly, we think, because the system is much less cumbersome than the previous manual one, and the point-and-click approach we use seems to be liked by the site staff. The only unexpected item was that mobile network coverage at one site was less than anticipated." That, he says, was because the readers were using a GPRS connection with a SIM card to transmit data to the back-end system. According to Galway, SMD is now switching to a Wi-Fi connection to achieve more reliable data transfer. "Since the software supports that, too," Williams states, "it wasn't really a problem."

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