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Inspections Made More Efficient for British Construction Firm

Magnor Plant is using RFID tags on safety and lifting equipment at British construction sites to expedite the inspection process, providing results in a matter of hours rather than weeks.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 27, 2010British construction equipment services firm Magnor Plant Ltd., a division of construction company Morgan Sindall, has shaved weeks off its safety equipment inspection documentation process with an RFID system that enables inspectors to carry out the process electronically, print a document on-site and have it signed on the same day. Without radio frequency identification, the same process could take weeks to complete.

Magnor leases winches and other machinery for lifting heavy construction equipment, as well as safety devices (such as gas detectors, chemical rebreathers and oxygen masks), vehicles and office trailers to Morgan Sindall, which uses the equipment at the many construction sites it operates across the United Kingdom, as well as to other external customers. With its RFID system, Magnor has a record of the location of each piece of lifting and safety equipment—approximately 4,000 pieces at a total of about 40 sites—and its inspection results on the same day that an inspection is performed, says Jonathan Hall, Magnor's general manager. The company is employing a solution known as Assettagz, from 4hSolutions, that includes handheld readers, RFID tags and a hosted server that Magnor can access in order to obtain inspection and location data.

An inspector uses a handheld device to read an RFID tag attached to the top of a fire extinguisher.

Morgan Sindall's projects include railways, highways, housing and commercial properties. The lifting gear and safety equipment deployed there must be examined every six months. To meet this requirement, Magnor sends inspectors to all of the sites throughout England, Scotland and Wales, to identify and inspect every piece of equipment used by Morgan Sindall's workers. If any device fails inspection, it is removed from service until it has been properly maintained, repaired or replaced.

There are as many as 600 pieces of equipment on each job site, many of which require regular inspections. Traditionally, inspections were documented manually, using paper and pen. Each inspector wrote down the serial number of each piece of equipment, inspected that device and recorded the inspection results on paper as well. That paper was then taken or mailed back to Magnor's office in Rugby, Warwickshire, where a records manager would read it over and begin inputting the results. If he or she had trouble reading an inspector's handwriting, a phone call would need to be placed to that individual for clarification.

The system not only allowed for errors, it was also time-consuming for the staff, and data about each inspection often did not become available electronically until many days after the inspection had taken place. It could take weeks before a construction site's manager received paperwork regarding the inspection of the equipment on his or her site. In addition, if proper records regarding the certification of a particular piece of equipment were unavailable at a job site during an inspection, the inspector had to remove that item from service—which, in some cases, caused inconvenience and delays for work crews that needed the safety equipment.

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