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Bairstow Tags Rigging Products

The company has begun tagging rigging and other fall-protection equipment requiring inspections, thereby allowing its customers to use RFID to track items electronically.
By Claire Swedberg
Growing demands from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other agencies mean users must not only inspect safety equipment regularly, but also provide easily accessible records of those inspections. "We were looking at what were more efficient ways for them to do that," Hanson says.

Bairstow manufactures its products in Atlanta, which is where the RFID tags are being attached. The tags are enclosed in a heavy plastic film designed to help them withstand shock, sunlight, and high and low temperatures and moisture, says Rod Coward, Marnlen's manager of new product development. Each tag has the Bairstow name printed on the front, along with its batch number, serial number and unique ID number encoded to the RFID chip's memory.

The non-metal version—designed for use on synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and rope—is attached to the back of Bairstow's products via adhesive, and is then stitched on. The tag for metal products includes a layer of proprietary RF-absorbing material, Coward says, in order to separate the RFID inlay from the metal on which it is then attached. The tag is attached to the item with a length of wire cable, crimped to create a circular metal band.

"We realize most customers still have no idea about RFID technology, or maybe don't care yet," Hanson says, "but inspections are becoming more prevalent." The need to inspect more often and provide more records, he says, is pushing many equipment users to seek a better solution than manual record-keeping using pen and paper. Companies looking into RFID, Hanson notes, have found that to attach tags to their products would cost, on average, $10 to $15 per tag. Bairstow, on the other hand, provides those tags already attached to the equipment, for what he calls "a nominal price increase."

For those who want to add tags to their products, Bairstow can sell them the tags at $2.50 apiece for non-metal items, and $6.50 each for the metal versions. That price, according to Hanson, would drop with purchases at larger volumes. "The point isn't for us to make a fortune," he says. "It's to offer a higher-quality product"—that is, one that can be tracked via RFID.

Bairstow tested its RFID tags using software and handheld readers provided by one of its rigging products suppliers, The Crosby Group, a Tulsa, Okla., company that employs RFID technology for some of the items it produces. The Bairstow RFID tags, Hanson says, can be read with any HF interrogator that supports the ISO 15693 standard, and could be used in a variety of ways.

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