With costs rising and competitors always trying to catch up, industrial operators constantly find themselves seeking solutions to help manage costs and increase the productivity of their workforce. Active RFID, as part of a comprehensive real-time location system (RTLS), can be an effective way to help address these challenges.

Can active RFID work in an industrial setting?

A burning issue for industrial operators is the variety of environments that active RFID tags and infrastructure need to work within. From remote construction and oil and gas sites to assembly lines and storage facilities,industrial applications present an interesting challenge when it comes to implementing an RTLS solution, which must withstand some of the most testing situations.

Thanks to increased standards, lower costs and improved reliability, active RFID technology is rising to this challenge. Industrial operators are integrating RFID into their business processes and are experiencing greater efficiencies, accuracy, and productivity. We explore some of the ways in which they are deploying active RFID systems in industrial settings.

  1. Asset tracking

Keeping track of goods and materials can be a major challenge. In manufacturing, one missing item can bring a production line to a halt, resulting in lost time and schedule delays. On work sites, tracking equipment and machinery is time consuming and the theft of industrial equipment and materials costs companies up to $400 million per year, not including the impact and disruption of downtime from the loss.

Operators are using active RFID solutions to accurately manage and protect their equipment and materials. They are able to manage their inventory with automated tracking to gain an instant inventory of all materials on-site with their current location, thereby preventing loss and maximizing asset utilization. Each asset or object is typically assigned a tag so that their location can be tracked, while the system can be configured to activate alarms if tagged items move out of their protected areas. This ensures that they can quickly locate and track equipment, realizing instant cost savings and reducing instances of equipment loss.

  1. Employee mustering

When an emergency situation arises putting personnel in harm’s way, a rapid and site-wide response is critical, which includes knowing where employees are – whether in buildings, outdoor areas or at designated muster stations. It is therefore critical to have real-time site demographic data for mustering and evacuation scenarios.

  1. Personnel safety

According to the ILO, a worker dies every 15 seconds from a work-related accident and 153 more are hurt. That’s 317 million accidents on the job annually, with many resulting in extended absences from work. Whether it’s operating on a deep-sea oil drilling rig and needing to know where everyone is in the event of a fire, or ensuring that only certain authorized people are in a hazardous industrial area, it’s crucial to know where employees are at all times, and if they are okay. This means identifying, locating, and securing workers across multiple locations.

Active RFID technology is increasingly being leveraged to address these requirements, monitoring industrial workers within a location – and to specific floors, rooms and within a few feet. Generally deployed as fully featured solutions that locate employees in the event of a distress call, personnel are assigned active RFID tags with optional call button support – attached to hardhats, worn on a wristband or attached to a lanyard – which allow the individual to raise an alarm by pushing the button on their tag and summoning help if needed.

  1. Personnel accountability

Monitoring secure areas to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to valuable, confidential information is important to many organizations. Unauthorized access can lead to data and security compromises, theft of equipment, and endangerment to human life; while regulatory agencies often require accurate records to be maintained that outline who has accessed certain places of work.

Active RFID technology can be used to control access to approved employees by providing a real-time view of tagged personnel throughout facilities and sites, while ensuring precise worker visibility and zonal security. Active RFID can also provide detailed reporting capabilities for auditing employee access by building, floor, or specific area. Employees are usually assigned an active RFID tag and the broader system can then identify tags, manage tag rules, activate alarms, and control doors. The system can also be configured to sound alarms when an unauthorized person tries to access a secured room, and can be set-up to lock doors if someone approaches an exit without an active tag.

One platform for facility-wide integration

At GuardRFID, we have built one platform for the real-time visibility and security needs of diverse industrial environments. The platform operates at 433MHz, which is the optimal frequency for harsh and metallic environments.

Our Real-time Location Platform has been developed on the premise that a single, dedicated Active Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) infrastructure should be able to expand and support a wide variety of applications – including real-time location and tracking, security, access control, and flow control – and withstand a range of environments and environmental conditions. It supports an infinite number of staff, visitor, and asset-related tags, all within one system.

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