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Industrial Companies Use RFID-enabled Washers to Track Heavy Equipment

Holland 1916's solution allows a user to simply install a washer onto a bolt on each item, eliminating the need to drill screw holes or weld RFID tags onto an object's exterior.
By Claire Swedberg
The common element among all of the lifting products was that each one contained at least one bolt to fasten its parts together. However, says Zack Barron, Holland 1916's sales executive, because the bolts used by its client come in a variety of lengths and thread counts, it was not practical to embed a tag into the head of every type of bolt. Washers, on the other hand, are more uniform, with just a few sizes commonly used for a variety of bolts. With the RFID tag embedded in a washer, the clamp could be RFID-enabled without requiring the clamp to be redesigned or manufactured differently, or necessitating that a tag be attached somewhere on the clamp's exterior.

With that in mind, Holland 1916 began embedding a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tag into the washers, for use by that customer. Because inspection is performed with a worker standing directly in front of the lifting clamp to which the washer is attached, HF technology was preferred, in order to ensure that each tag was read during inspection or servicing.

While the lifting-clamp company required HF technology, many of Holland 1916's other customers, such as oil and gas companies, prefer to employ UHF RFID tags to track the locations of items within a large area. In a laydown yard, for example, a company may be searching for certain pieces of heavy equipment. By carrying a handheld reader around the yard in Geiger-counter mode, a user can locate the items, or simply inventory them to maintain a record of which assets are on which work site.

During the past three months, about five pilots involving the RFID-enabled washers have been launched within the United States and Norway. Holland 1916 is currently working with a variety of Xerafy tags, including the Nano-iN, Dash-iN and Dot-iN XS models. The smallest Xerafy tag, the Dot, measures one-quarter inch in diameter. That, Barron says, is small enough to fit inside the sorts of washers typically found on heavy industrial equipment and other assets on which large bolts are commonplace.

According to Barron, the RFID-enabled washers are commercially available now.

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