Can We Use RFID in Lieu of Bar Codes to Cost-Effectively Tag and Identify HVAC Equipment?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan We Use RFID in Lieu of Bar Codes to Cost-Effectively Tag and Identify HVAC Equipment?
RFID Journal Staff asked 3 years ago

Our company, Enervise, manages HVAC maintenance, repair and replacement for building owners and managers. Our 90 service technicians update asset information in our ERP system via their Android-based phones. We track thousands of PM and repair work orders down to the equipment level for all maintenance clients we serve, which include education, property-management, industrial and owner-occupied office buildings.

The myth on the street is that RFID is too expensive to be deployed by service providers to tag equipment. Our contracts may last just one year, or they could last 10-plus years. We have a 90 percent renewal rate, so initial and ongoing asset tagging and tracking is a cost of doing business. We still manually tag a unit with a sticker and a Sharpie marker, then assign a number and enter data for the equipment into our ERP.

Some competitors are deploying bar codes. If RFID were cost-effective, it would seem to be a more efficient way for us to assure we are collecting asset data up front and then tracking service maintenance and repair history by unit to our ERP system. If RFID technology is cost-effective now, would there be any resources you could recommend that we could contact to beta-test solutions?

—Thomas

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Thomas,

If your service company needs to scan a single bar code to identify the model and year of a piece of equipment, RFID might not offer a big increase in efficiency. However, if the service provider needs to read dozens of bar codes, which are sometimes in difficult-to-access locations, RFID might make the process more efficient. If the bar codes are often damaged to the point that they can’t be read, RFID might be an option as well.

RFID could prove more efficient, since it would allow you to write some data to the tag. For example, if a technician made a repair, the date, time and nature of the repair could be written to the tag. This information would be instantly accessible to the next technician working on the equipment, even if he or she had no Internet connectivity. RFID might also be helpful if the technicians need to bring certain high-value parts or tools in a truck with them each time they go out. RFID would allow you to read all the items in a truck quickly, and to know that you have all the right parts and tools.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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