RUD and Its Customers Track Lifting Equipment With RFID

By Claire Swedberg

The German company is tagging its lifting products with HF RFID tags from Neosid, making it easier for RUD to track inventory and manufacturing history, and for its customers to track inspection and maintenance.

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German lifting equipment and chain systems company RUD is inserting RFID transponders into all the products it makes, as well as providing access to data about each item for customers that wish to automatically track inspection, maintenance and other records. Ferrites and inductive components company Neosid is providing the tags, while RUD is using its own software for accessing data related to lifting products it makes.

RUD has spent at least five years experimenting with RFID technology solutions that would enable it as well as its customers to better track the history of the steel chains, rings and links used for lifting heavy objects, but in the past two years has begun tagging all of its new products, and offering access to data about each item on a hosted server. RUD’s software also makes it possible for its customers to use the RFID tag ID numbers to access and store data related to each RUD device it inspects and maintains.

RUD is one of the market leaders in chains and lifting equipment, in Europe as well as worldwide. About five years ago the company began exploring RFID options to automatically identify the equipment. Because the integrity and reliability of the equipment is so important to safety issues on a construction site, manufacturing facility or other industrial locations in which heavy items are being suspended, each item must be inspected regularly and records of inspections and usage must be stored about each piece.

Neosid’s Yilmaz Benzer

RUD stamps a serial number into the steel surface of each piece of equipment it makes. The serial number identifies that item, and inspectors traditionally input that ID manually either in a software application or simply on a piece of paper, to create a record of work that was done on the item. However these ID numbers can be hard to read, or misread, and the identification of that number and manual inputting of data is time consuming. On average, it takes about 30 minutes to enter each new piece into the system, says Yilmaz Benzer, Neosid’s sales and marketing manager.

The company began embedding 8-millimeter-wide HF 13.56 MHz passive RFID transponders, compliant with ISO 15693 standard, into some of its larger products, such as hooks and balances for lifting chains used for large containers or manufacturing equipment. However, the tags were too large to attach to smaller items, such as smaller hooks and clips on lifting devices.

RUD embeds an RFID tag in all its lifting products. Shown here is RUD’s VWBG-V Lifting Point, with a pink circular RFID tag integrated into its base.

Neosid had been developing smaller HF 13.56 MHz tags, known as the NeoTAG series, which it first began designing at the request of surgical instrument manufacturers. The 80-year-old company makes custom injection-bonded ferrite components using nickel-zinc or manganese-zinc ferrites for a variety of customers, and that process, explains Benzer, enables the company to create a rugged, very compact RFID tag made with an antenna wrapped around a ferrite core and that can be inserted into metal objects. The ferrite focuses and improves the magnetic flux and magnetic field, thereby providing an improved read performance, Benzer says.

Together with Neosid, RUD developed the RUD-ID-Point transponder, in conjunction with its own RUD-ID-NET software, to enable reliable reading of tags in its own manufacturing facility in Germany, as well as a value-added service offering to its customers that wished to enable their own inspectors to read and store data about each device.

RUD now embeds its ID-Points in all of the lifting equipment it manufactures and also sells ID-Points to customers along with instructions for attaching them to existing equipment. The plastic-encased tags (available in two sizes: 8 millimeters by 3.25 millimeters and 4 millimeters by 3.50 millimeters) are pressed into circular holes drilled into the equipment, without the need for glue. The company also offers the RUD-ID-LINK, a chain link with embedded transponder for retrofitting chains and other items, and the RUD-ID-GLUE, a self-adhesive metal transponder that can be attached to the surface of other types work equipment, such as ladders.

To read the unique ID number encoded to each tag, users can purchase several different handheld HF RFID readers, including the RUD-ID-BETTER-CHECK and the RUD-ID-DISPLAY-CHECK. The ID number can then be transferred to laptop or PC via a USB or Bluetooth connection. The RUD-ID-DISPLAY-CHECK comes with an integrated LCD-display for displaying a tag’s ID number, which can be uploaded via a USB or Bluetooth to another computer. The data can then be accessed via the RUD-ID-NET software, or by most Microsoft Office applications (such as Word and Excel or other programs). With RUD-ID-NET, users can access, store and manage data about the item by logging onto the software, hosted by RUD’s cloud server provider.

RUD is using the RFID tags internally by reading them following assembly and as they enter or leave storage, creating an updated inventory list that is more accurate than a manual method of conducting periodic inventory checks. RUD’s own software, customized to manage read data, also enables the company to create a record of what materials and methods were used in assembly of that item, which could not only be provided to interested customers, but also enable a rapid response to any issues, such as tracing the use of a specific kind of material used to manufacture specific batch of products. In the event of such an occurrence, RUD could easily identify all the items that were made in that batch or with that material.

The company does not intend to charge much for access to the software. In fact those with fewer than 100 items to track can use the software at no expense and simply pay for the reader. Those tracking more than 100 items would pay a very marginal fee for each additional tagged item, Benzer says.