RFID Ensures Equipment Is on Hand for Poker Tournaments

By Claire Swedberg

Alpha Logistics Europe is leveraging a UHF RFID system from Real Asset Management to gain visibility into each piece of equipment that goes to poker tournament sites, and to ensure that they are then returned when the event ends.

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When poker tournaments take place across the United Kingdom and worldwide, a large amount of equipment comes with each event, whether it’s a matter of a few tables or thousands of items. That equipment can include chips, tables, chairs and the machines used to shuffle cards.

Alpha Logistics Europe, a company that specializes in managing that equipment, has a complex task of ensuring that the proper equipment is on hand for each event and is then returned. The Kent-based company is now using RFID technology to accomplish this task, with a solution provided by Real Asset Management (RAM), owned by real estate software applications firm MRI Software. The system consists of UHF RFID tags affixed to items, as well as handheld RFID readers from Zebra Technologies and RAM‘s cloud-based software.

Poker tournaments are hosted by a variety of companies and can range from as few as two players at a single table to hundreds of tables with thousands of participants. At a typical event, Alpha Logistics delivers four articulated trucks loaded with furnishings and play equipment. Some of these items are disposable, such as chips, while some are high-value and reusable.

Keeping track of what is delivered and returned had typically been a manual endeavor involving pen and paper, but that method left room for error and failed to provide the real-time information the headquarters required. “We often have a number of live events taking place at the same time, so having complete traceability of the equipment is key,” says Joe Page, Alpha Logistics’ live events manager.

The solution is RAM‘s cloud-based software, which captures data regarding the movement of goods via RFID and then shares that information with Alpha Logistics’ management. RAM is a U.K.-based solutions company that provides fixed asset, maintenance and facilities management software to public and private businesses. One of its solutions is asset-tracking software that works with either bar codes or RFID technology.

Alpha Logistics’ partners organize poker tournaments across the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, as well as in the United States. These tournaments, either open or invitational, are held at a variety of venues and include both amateur and professional players who could win, in some cases, millions of dollars. The events are often televised, and a live audience watches the action onsite as well.

With the RAM solution, location data becomes accessible to both management and those in field, says Sachin Naran, Real Asset Management’s account manager. The solution consists of adhesive UHF RFID tags applied to assets—or, in some cases, to pallets or cases filled with smaller items, such as chips. Each tag’s unique ID number stores data about that item in RAM‘s cloud-based software.

When goods are required for a tournament, personnel load those items onto trucks, and the driver or another operator then uses the Zebra handheld to read the items’ tags, thereby identifying what is unloaded onsite. The reader forwards the tag data to the cloud-based software, which can then be compared against the shipment order to confirm that all necessary items are onsite.

Once the tournament is complete, the assets are packed and loaded back onto the truck, and are then interrogated again via the handheld reader. If the software determines that a specific item delivered to the site is not being packed for return to the warehouse, an alert is displayed on the handheld. That information then allows the staff member to locate that asset before the truck leaves.

The system also works for in-house stock-taking, Naran says. Manual audits of goods in the warehouse would be time-consuming, he explains, and also prone to errors. With RFID, the company can quickly capture an audit of all goods onsite at any given time, and gain an up-to-date view into when any specific item may have gone missing. “Auditability is a key benefit for them,” Naran states.

RAM‘s software provides us with a full audit trail and visibility of the exact location of each piece of equipment,” Page says, “with a record of its expected return date.” The system also enables the company to maintain a central record of key details, such as equipment purchase date, cost and supplier.

With the technology, the company is able to reduce the number of man-hours that would otherwise be spent manually counting goods as they are transported and returned from tournament sites, while also ensuring that the absence of an asset is detected quickly and can thus be addressed. The system was taken live in early 2018, and the company has applied tags to 1,600 items to date.

The solution was put to the test this summer, Alpha Logistics reports, during a warehouse fire that destroyed most of the company’s assets. The loss could have been worse, Page says, if the firm hadn’t had clear audit data regarding what was onsite during the fire, and was thus destroyed. “The detailed and accurate inventory list which we have been able to provide to our insurers has enabled a very smooth claim process.”