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There’s not usually a Line of Duty style interrogation when tools go missing. But perhaps there should be. After all, according to HellermannTyton – suppliers of RFID tracking solutions – a customer in the oil and gas sector using a pen and paper inventory system recently lost £30,000 of assets.
From safety equipment to defibrillators, they were in the store one day and not the next. And even some of those which eventually ‘turned up’ still cost the customer money because replacements had already been purchased. But if the customer had been using RFID tags to keep tabs on their assets, there would have been no mystery, no missing items, and no money down the drain.
An RFID tag is small, but packed with information. Supplied with a preloaded unique number, once scanned into a database it can be uploaded with whatever additional information the user chooses. Depending on the type of asset it’s tagging, that could range from a serial number to an asset description. From the name of the installer to a service history. And, of course, from the name of the last person to return it to the stores, to the last person to take it out again.
It’s not just the amount of information an RFID tag can hold which makes it so effective. It’s also the fact that the information is less likely to be wrong. Using handwritten labels and manual data entry on a PC opens up the opportunity for errors at every stage of the process. But using an RFID and associated software allows for direct scanning from tag to database, with no delay and no mistakes.
There’s not even any need to get up close to the tag or have line of sight. RFID tagging uses a wireless signal which can be picked up from a distance. That not only makes it ideal for hard-to-access assets, but also means an audit of an entire tool store, for example, can be carried out in minutes rather than hours.
Whatever it is, if you need to track it, you can RFID tag it. And once you’ve tagged it, you’ll be able to keep tabs on it. Some customers tag their PPE, so essential safety equipment won’t be missing when it’s needed most. Others tag their motors in store, so they can keep a record of when the shafts need to be rotated.
In the food industry, assets can be tagged with special metal-content tags which will show up on metal detectors and X-rays. So contaminated products can be detected before they leave the factory – making product recalls a thing of the past.
In harsh environments, information on RFID tags won’t be washed off or corroded away as it can be with ordinary labels and markers.
From basic tool control or asset management to recording a comprehensive test and inspection routine, RFID tagging is the complete solution just waiting for a problem. And it’s solving them already across a wide range of industry sectors.
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