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Belgian Company Gets an ROI from Its Warehouse-Management Solution

ENGIE Fabricom RFID-tracks nearly 90,000 assets at eight locations within the country.
By Bob Violino
Jul 31, 2016

For more than 60 years, ENGIE Fabricom has been providing specialized installation services—including electrical and instrumentation, piping and mechanical, and automation and process control—to customers in building, energy, industry, infrastructure, and oil and gas. The Belgian company, which operates a dozen branches, provides consumables, tools and vehicles to hundreds of project sites throughout the country.

ENGIE Fabricom has roughly 90,000 pieces of equipment, including 2,000 types of tools, such as drilling machines, generators, lathes and welders. The firm also has approximately 1,500 utility vehicles, including trucks and vans, and around 5,000 consumable items, such as work clothes.

For the most part, workers at warehouses and branch sites tracked the assets manually, a process that was labor-intensive and time-consuming, and that frequently resulted in errors, says Danny Janssens, the manager of ENGIE Fabricom's operations support services department, which is responsible for managing and distributing the items. To identify the tools and other assets, the company engraved them with a number or used labels and stickers.

But over time, the ID numbers became illegible, as the engravings faded and the labels and stickers became damaged. When that happened, the assets were identified via a new number, but that led to inaccurate information in the company's database. At times, for example, there would be several numbers in the database for the same tool.

Tracking the locations of tools was especially challenging, Janssens says, because they are frequently moved among the company's many projects and storage locations, and are used by many different people in rough and dirty environments.

In late 2009, ENGIE Fabricom began seeking a way to automate asset tracking and gain greater visibility into the movements of assets into and out of its warehouses. The company also sought to improve how it manages the lifecycles of these assets, which it values at roughly US$63 million. "The management of these tools and vehicles encompasses the entire lifespan: procurement, maintenance, control including legal, assignment to and return from projects, and end-of-life decommissioning," Janssens says.

In 2013, ENGIE Fabricom deployed an RFID asset-tracking solution in eight warehouses and storage locations geographically spread throughout Belgium, including a central warehouse in Antwerp. The solution has delivered a number of benefits, Janssens says, including improved data accuracy, enhanced processes (such as picking and receiving) and better inventory management. There is greater transparency for warehouse management, he adds, as well as less reliance on paper records and increased productivity among warehouse workers.

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