RFID in Construction Consortium Prepared to Hit the Ground Running

August 25, 2009

The construction industry is among many others whose use of RFID in the workplace has been steadily increasing. Now, a group of experts has collaborated to found a nonprofit organization called the RFID in Construction Consortium. The organization, which aims to address the growing needs and challenges of expanding RFID applications in the workplace, expects to begin work immediately.

The Consortium includes a diverse mix of educators, systems integrators, manufacturers, and construction companies, and its work will include providing education and support to industry members interested in learning more about how to implement RFID. The organization is already looking forward to offering workshops, seminars, and discussions to construction firms, and hopes to publish an RFID in Construction “cookbook” by the end of 2009. The book will be based on the results of numerous studies and pilots of RFID in construction.

So far, the construction industry has used RFID to track hazardous and non-hazardous materials, assets, equipment, explosives, and people. RFID also helps foremen and employees track the location of tools and equipment as they are used, stored, and repaired on-site; the technology also prevents unqualified workers from entering restricted areas. Because of the current economy, many companies are looking to RFID to increase efficiencies and productivity, while lowering operating costs. Jose Faria, the Consortium’s president, recently told the RFID Journal (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/4973/1), “We launched the organization at a time when education is imperative.”

“Our initial plans,” Faria added, “are to collect thoughts from our members and listen to key problems that need to be addressed immediately.”

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RFID Expected to Give Singapore’s Nissan Distributor 90 Percent Gain

August 23, 2009

Tan Chong International (www.tanchonginternational.com), Singapore’s Nissan distributor, has deployed RFID technology to become, it claims, the nation’s first RFID-enabled automotive hub. This is no small feat, considering that the four-story company spans almost 400,000 square feet and stores up to 900 cars, in addition to providing a service department, parts warehouse, and new-car delivery operation. Tan Chong also features an automated car parking system, consisting of a cross-sliding, three-dimensional parking elevator. With RFID, the company expects to process vehicles in one-tenth of the time it used to take.

The RFID system includes approximately 1,000 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) 868 MHz active RFID tags and 30 interrogators. The tags, which are each encoded with a unique ID number, are attached to arriving vehicles via the cars’ towing hook. From there, the system automatically assigns each car to the nearest parking module. Meanwhile, each parking lot also has an active RFID tag permanently affixed to its rear, and the lot tag and car tag communicate to create an association between them. The car tag is then read by the active RFID readers mounted on pillars, and the information the readers gather is sent to the company’s server via Ethernet cables. This allows Tan Chong to identify and track cars to their exact location. Car tags are removed once the vehicles leave Tan Chong.

With the new RFID system, Tan Chong expects to more quickly allocate parking spaces when cars are received; increase accuracy in tracking vehicles; and improve their retrieval for delivery to dealerships. In addition, the RFID solution will help Tan Chong cut the time spent delivering vehicles to warehouses, service departments, and dealers—reducing mileage by as much as 90 percent. Full deployment of the system will occur on September 1.


Dutch Distributor Utilizes RFID to Tag More Than 10 Million Books Per Year

August 18, 2009

At Centraal Boekhuis in Culemborg, the Netherlands, speed and accuracy are key. The company serves as a logistics provider for approximately 1,500 booksellers and 500 book publishers worldwide, transporting around 4.5 million packages each year. More specifically, Centraal Boekhuis distributed more than 67 million books in 2008, averaging out to approximately 220,000 books each day. For the company’s needs, RFID labeling provided the ideal solution.
Centraal Boekhuis first saw a need for item-level tagging in 2006, when one of its major clients adopted RFID to further improve its customers’ experiences. At first, Centraal Boekhuis manually applied RFID tags to books, and the tags tracked the books from the distributor to their final point of sale. However, the process was time-consuming and labor-intensive, finally leading Centraal Boekhuis to invest in an automated print-and-apply RFID application.
In order to make the application worth the investment, it was crucial to Centraal Boekhuis that the system be able to print and apply tags to 60 books per minute. Today, the system prints and applies label EPC Class 1 Gen 2 RFID tags at the required speed, allowing for an 80 mm height variation in the books and including data verification. Moreover, the entire RFID solution is now completely automated, operating without any human intervention. Centraal Boekhuis is now able to tag more than 10 million books per year—even more than currently required by its clients.


RFID-Enabled Respirators Offer One More Way to Ensure Employee Safety

August 11, 2009

Businesses throughout the world have found myriad ways that RFID can ensure employee safety. For example, fixed RFID readers are often placed indoors or outdoors to monitor the amount of time workers spend in a particular location. A business’s back-end software receives that data from the readers and sends alerts to appropriate personnel via e-mail, pager, or alarm if workers spend too long in a hazardous environment. Managers can also issue employees with RFID badges that do not permit them to enter areas above their qualification, such as areas with potentially dangerous machinery. Now, there is another way that the technology is keeping employees safe: through RFID-enabled respirators.

For certain construction and/or environmental consulting businesses, respirators are a must for maintaining employee health and safety. However, those respirators must be regularly cleaned and maintained to keep operating at peak performance. The new respirators use RFID technology to ensure that their cleaning and maintenance checks are occurring as required. By tracking how employees maintain their safety equipment, the RFID endows safety managers and industrial hygienists with an extra tool for enforcing safety guidance compliance. The end result: a safer work environment that is more conducive to better performance.

The Colden Corporation, a provider of occupational health, safety, industrial hygiene, risk management and environmental consulting services, is among the early adopters of the new RFID-enabled respirators. A Colden spokesperson told RFIDnews.org that the system has enabled the company to track maintenance activities with greater accuracy in less time.


New RFID System Helps Hospitals Monitor Hand Hygiene Compliance

August 4, 2009

Most patients who check into a hospital don’t anticipate contracting an infection during their stay. But according to the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, approximately two million patients suffer from hospital-acquired infections each year—and nearly 80,000 of those patients die. Why are these numbers so high? Because, disturbingly, health care personnel wash their hands less than 50 percent of the time. Now, a new RFID system could significantly increase Hand Hygiene Compliance in health care institutions—and save lives in the process.

The RFID Hand Hygiene Compliance solution includes Infrared (IR) and RFID badges for health care personnel to wear. The tiny, lightweight badges communicate with similar IR-RFID tags affixed to automatic soap dispensers in restrooms. When a badged staff member approaches a soap dispenser, the tag on the dispenser reads the badge and records the staff member’s name, the particular hand washing station, and the date and time. When the staff member washes his or her hands, the RFID system gives an audible acknowledgement of the event. The IR-RFID system is based on highly accurate, real-time location (RTLS) technology, and provides hospitals with a way to monitor and further educate underperforming units or shifts.

Without the RFID solution, hand hygiene audits are conducted by observation—with limited results. According to the Joint Commission, observation audits catch only 0.12% of hand washing opportunities. With the new RFID solution, hospitals will be better able to enforce hand hygiene compliance and protect patients from acquiring preventable infections.


Recession Takes Toll on ’08 Logistics Expenditures

August 3, 2009

The Annual State of Logistics report conducted by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) is a resource well worth knowing, according to Frank Quinn of Supply Chain Management Review (SCMR). The report, which is in its 20th year, tracks year-over-year U.S. logistics costs across key cost categories of inventory, transportation carriers, and logistics administration. In 2008, costs dropped by $49 billion to $1.3 trillion. SCMR’s sister publication, Logistics Management, did a thorough overview of this year’s report.

Interesting findings include the fact that no one has been spared the impact of the recession. During 2008, more than 3,000 companies in the truckload sector alone went out of business, effectively removing seven percent of the nation’s capacity. Airfreight revenue was down almost 10 percent. Ocean rates are off 50 percent from peak periods.  3PLs have been hard hit, too. And those focusing on the automotive sector saw a 37.5 percent decline in their revenues.

Ironically, the report notes that the Port of Los Angeles, which not long ago was suffering from the effects of too much business, has launched incentive programs designed to attract more shippers. A worldwide business downturn can change a lot of things.

To learn where and how logistics dollars are being spent today, check out the full report, which is available for purchase at http://cscmp.org/memberonly/state.asp.