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Landscaping Company Keeps Tabs on Tools

Environmental Management adopted an RFID asset-tracking solution to eliminate losses and monitor inventory.
By Michael Belfiore
Jan 25, 2016

In the U.S. Marines, everything has a process, says Brian McGrady, Environmental Management, Inc.'s assets and facilities manager. He should know. McGrady served 21 years in the Corps managing logistics, including an eight-month tour in Iraq, where he helped supply a battalion of 1,000 Marines. And, says McGrady, "A good process is vital in the Marines." Now, he sees RFID-enabled asset-management processes as the key to EMI's success.

But before McGrady came on board, processes were sorely lacking at EMI, a $25-million-a-year business, based in Plain City, Ohio, that provides landscaping and grounds-maintenance services to homeowners and businesses across central Ohio. EMI's managers wanted to double the company's revenues within a few years, but managing inventory was a hindrance to growth.

The team used epoxy to attach tags to some tools and electrical tape to attach them to others, based on tests conducted at EMI to determine which would be least intrusive when using a given tool, while also staying in place without damaging that item.
"We had no accountability," McGrady recalls. When tools inevitably went missing, there was no way to track down where they ended up. Often, the company had no choice but to re-order the mislaid equipment, wasting money.

Leaders of each landscaping crew were required to perform inventory counts once a week, McGrady says, but the manual process was broken. Crew leaders filled out paper forms, and it took McGrady and an assistant a minimum of three hours each week to update spreadsheets. "Many of the forms were illegible," he explains. "Often, you couldn't even read who the guy was." Even worse, to stay on schedule, crew leaders would sometimes estimate rather than verify the quantities of shovels and other items, which would lead to a shortage of crucial tools on a job.

Now, only a year into his job at EMI, McGrady has overhauled how the company tracks tools and equipment, by implementing an RFID asset-management solution from Silent Partner Technologies (SPT), based in Lutz, Florida. He estimates EMI has achieved roughly a 240 percent return on its investment during the first year of its use alone.

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