Tracking of Safety Equipment Made Easy with Handheld RFID Readers
Construction and manufacturing companies are required by law to conduct regular inspections on safety equipment such as eyewashes, safety showers and fire extinguishes. An essential part of these inspections is the accurate identification of each location where the equipment resides, regardless of its location (regularly changing) and the environment (dirt, dust, corrosive chemicals). If the location cannot be verified, the equipment at that location cannot be passed as safe.
Manual data entry from testing is time consuming and creates an unacceptable opportunity for error, especially through operators selecting incorrect equipment records or equipment locations in the database / handheld application. So CASE Inc has developed an RFID based solution for verifying the location of safety equipment in a fast, accurate and effective way using existing off-the-shelf hardware along with custom written software.
CASE Inc CEO Thomas McKane says “We considered using Barcodes but found they were are out of the question due to degradation and cost of replacing stickers when they became worn and/or unusable. Outdoor use and use around mostly metal areas makes barcode stickers hard to place and use. RFID tags have proven to be far more versatile and don’t need ‘refreshing’ as they get dirty.”
CASE found the RFID tags also provided certainly. RFID tags are unique whereas barcodes can be duplicated, not guaranteeing true proximity verification.
CASE’s choice of hardware started with Motion F5 tablet PC’s and docking stations because of the built-in camera, WIFI, and durability in harsh conditions. However the F5’s built-in RFID readers didn’t always work around metal and the tablets would not fit into small, hard to reach areas where tags were sometimes mounted. Tracient’s hand-held Padl-R HF readers were selected to overcome these limitations, ensuring that inspections could be carried out 100% of the time. Connected to the tablet via Bluetooth, the Padl-Rs provided a quicker wand-like reading solution than the built-in tablet reader, cutting the time in half when inspecting hundreds of points per inspection.
Tracient’s readers were chosen because of their small size and competitive pricing, considerably less than comparable readers found in the United States. Their ease of use was also a big advantage - only 10 minutes of training per operator was needed to begin using the readers reliably.
Thomas McKane, CEO, CASE Inc says “The quality has been excellent and integration has been very easy. The support and sales teams from Tracient are highly professional, we are continually impressed with their response time and knowledge in the field of RFID technology. So far it has proved to be a perfect decision to use their readers.”
CASE chose RFID Tags from FerroxTag due to the low price/point and compatibility with metal in an industrial environment.
CASE’s rapid prototyping software development was used to write the inspection software. The software was loaded onto the Motion F5 tablets were it was used to match tag ID’s with the corresponding location. The tablets ran SQL 2005 Express which the CASE software used to reference the RFID tag ID's and verify the location. The tablets then sync’d with a master SQL 2005 server via WiFi or CAT5 connections.
In March 2008 a large US based manufacturing company (who wishes to remain anonymous) allowed CASE to begin testing the solution in one of their facilities. Testing started with approximately 50 RFID tags in highly critical safety areas, focusing on the more important inspections. The tags were placed in locations where inspections could be verified, i.e. pump houses, storm water drains etc. Different environments were also tested, including wood, metal and plastic. The testing revealed the read distance to the tags was fairly consistent, regardless of the environment, with the Padl-R typically reading the FerroxTags at 1-2 inches (2-4 cm). After several months of testing, CASE moved on to other facilities.
The trial proved the following benefits:
- Significantly reduced time to manage and verify inspections. The average time for an inspection was cut by 1/3rd.
- Verifiable inspections that cannot be fabricated with pencil and paper.
- A completely paperless solution, creating cost reduction by removing the expense of paper and paper storage.
- A much cleaner and safer workplace creating better working conditions for employees.
CASE Inc believes their solution will provide their customers with long term cost reduction in environmental/safety compliance due to less environmental fines and fewer safety accidents. They believe the solution is both robust and long lasting because if RFID tags change in the future, the Tracient readers follow industry standard protocols and offer compatibility with most brands and types.
Thomas McKane says “This is great as it has freed us from having to deal with proprietary hardware, which reduces costs in the long term and increases flexibility regarding the choice of tag.”
CASE Inc intend to market the solution to manufacturers, construction companies and utility providers through out the United States.
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