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Byrne Group Automates Asset Management, Orders
The U.K. construction firm, which is using 125 kHz RFID to expedite shipments of equipment and supplies to its workers and track usage, expects to recoup its investment by next year.
Apr 01, 2010—Three years after deploying passive 125 kHz RFID tags to track its tool usage, the Byrne Group, a British concrete substructure construction firm, has expanded its use of the system to identify users of its 16,000 assets—including tools, excavators, trailers and other heavy equipment, as well as consumables like gloves and boots—across its numerous construction projects. The company is also using the technology to manage the online ordering of those items.
By introducing RFID-enabled ID badges for each of its up to 2,000 employees, the Byrne Group can maintain an electronic record of which personnel utilize which assets. In this way, the company can prevent an unqualified employee from operating equipment for which he or she is untrained, as well as track which consumable assets have been used on a particular project, and identify workers who use too many of a specific consumable item, or that take an asset without returning it.
Based on the reduction in theft alone, as well as improved efficiency, the Byrne Group expects to recoup its cost of expanding the RFID system by next year, says Paul Brooks, one of the firm's managers.
In 2008, enterprise asset-management solutions supplier 4H Solutions provided the Byrne Group with its original RFID-based tracking system which included 4H's Assettagz software, which interprets RFID read events and provides information and alerts based on those events. Independently, 4H Solutions provided Byrne with COINS' Plant Manager software, an application for asset-managing application running on a server hosted by 4H. Byrne used Plant Manager to compile an electronic catalog of all of its equipment and consumables, enabling job site staff to order equipment and supplies from the central depot via the Internet.
The Byrne Group has projects throughout the United Kingdom, including in Heathrow Airport and at the London Olympics Stadium. Prior to using RFID, the company manually tracked assets on its various sites, using pen and paper. The firm estimated it was losing £100,000 ($153,000) worth of consumables and other small items annually. Not only were assets misplaced or stolen, identifying what was needed for a particular project and recording that transaction was a flawed process, the company reports, since each engineer or foreman had his or her own way of describing those items. Furthermore, consumables such as gloves, helmets and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as timber, small tools and signs, were not being tracked at all.
Initially, in 2007, the company attached low-frequency (LF) 125 kHz RFID tags to all of its products. The tags, which operate via the proprietary RFID air-interface protocol, come in several forms: plastic credit card-style tags for PPEs, glass tags embedded in tools and molded plastic tags for lifting gear. By using Psion Teklogix's handheld readers at the company's central depot in Mitcham, where all equipment is stored before being commissioned to construction sites (currently, there are 11), employees could store data regarding which items were checked out, and when that occurred. Those assets are then moved to "mini stores" on the construction site, to be distributed as necessary. In August 2008, each staff member at the Mitcham depot was issued an RFID-enabled ID card containing the same type of 125 kHz RFID tag.
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