Retail, Automotive, and other industries have been utilizing RFID technology for years but not until recently did RFID technology in the construction industry become common. More and more companies are adopting the technology and realizing the benefit and value that RFID can provide to the industry. So much so, we are now seeing RFP’s from Owners mandating that the EPC/Contractor utilize some form of RFID traceability in their materials management approach and strategies.
Active RFID Tags have been the primary form of RFID utilized in typical “Track and Trace” applications., they are rugged and have provide read ranges up to 100m. However, Active RFID Tags are often viewed as “too costly” to implement throughout a construction supply chain. Active RFID Tags are typically used on tracking Structural Steel and Pre-Fabricated pipe spools. This provides immense value, however, we are missing a huge piece of supply chain visibility that often plagues construction projects.
Active RFID Tag’s “little brother”, the Passive RFID Tag, has been viewed as unreliable and a non-value add for use in construction materials management. In my opinion, this is a false view.
Taking a proactive approach to integrate Passive RFID Technology into your construction supply chain, materials management and laydown yard strategy will (and is) paying dividends for construction firms across the globe.
Supply Chain Visibility – Moving further upstream with identification of materials at a supplier’s facility by leveraging Passive RFID Tags to identify smaller critical components, valves, instrumentation, etc. has allowed for an unprecedented amount of visibility into the dreaded “Supplier/Vendor Provided Ship Loose Component” battle that we’ve all faced during project execution.
Automated Receiving – Short and Sweet – Being able to pop a lid to a crate (full of ship-loose from vendor), engage a reader, and populate a receiving report (including overages and shortages) would make any material manager smile.
Laydown Yard Management – Typical laydown yard grids (A1, B1, etc.) are approximately 10m x 10m. Often times in rows of (2) making them approximately 20m wide. During recent testing, Passive RFID Tags with Vehicle Mounted Antennas have been read at over 20m with ease. This coupled with deliberate handheld sweeps in the laydown yard provide material managers with 100% automated cycle counts resulting in a significant PMLI (Positive Material Location and Identification) score otherwise known as “your laydown yard accuracy”.
Downsides – Passive RFID tags come with their downsides. The #1 downside, in my opinion, is visibility after issuance to construction. Passive RFID Tags will provide extremely accurate locations within a laydown yard, however, once issued to construction, tight grid locations are eliminated. Materials are placed under piping racks, behind connex’s and up on top of scaffolding. This can be mitigated though. Incorporating deliberate (“purposeful sweeps”) sweeps into your materials management strategy of the workface (and driving the Vehicle Mounted Reader) through the workface, will dramatically increase your PMLI after issuance to construction.
Overall, Active RFID Tags will has a place in construction materials management but Passive RFID Tag technology is giving it’s “big brother” a run for its money. Atlas RFID Solutions currently has over 1.5 million passive RFID tags deployed across the globe for construction materials management applications.