The talk of RFID (radio-frequency identification) at the construction jobsite has been circling the industry for years, but has only recently begun to take hold and be implemented more widely among large construction sites. Still, there are a number of questions regarding adoption of this type of technology, which a recent case study looks to address, taking contractors step-by-step through the decisionmaking process.

The applications of RFID at the construction jobsite can range from material tracking to workforce monitoring. The use gaining considerable momentum as of late is tech for access control at the jobsite. For example, Holder Construction www.holderconstruction.com, Dallas, Texas, WS Bellows Construction, www.wsbellows.com, Houston, Texas, Turner Construction, www.turnerconstruction.com, New York, N.Y., and Grunley Construction, www.grunley.com, Rockville, Md., are just a handful of companies using technology for workforce monitoring.

When implementing technology to track workers, a number of considerations arise. First off, should a company use barcodes or RFID? If RFID, then active or passive? Released last week, a new report by Fiatech, www.fiatech.org, Austin, Texas, entitled “RFID for Access Control in Construction Sites” looks at how technology can provide accurate and reliable personnel counts with an enhanced security aspect as well.

The in-depth study, which was initiated in 2009, follows CCC (Consolidated Contractors Co.), www.ccc.gr, Athens, Greece, in the decisionmaking process. The construction company, which provides project management, engineering, procurement, and construction services for oil and gas, petrochemical, pipelines, building, heavy civil, marine, and maintenance works, was experiencing an increase in size of projects constructed and therefore an increase in workforce.

Prior to the consideration of technology, the company used security personnel to check in each worker manually by comparing an ID badge to a list, which could take an hour or two each day with workers waiting to enter the site gate. The result was “choking points” and inaccurate time and attendance records because of manual handling of timecards.

The proposed solutions included: an ID badge that communicates with a proximity reader, portable barcode readers, portable RFID readers, or fixed RFID readers with a gate setup. While barcoding can improve flow, it still has a number of limitations including short reading distance, reliance on specific hardware, and how technology-literate the end-users are, according to the report.

Ultimately, the fixed RFID reader with a gate setup was selected as the best option. From there, the next choice was passive RFID, battery-assisted RFID, and active RFID. Passive and battery-assisted did not possess the range or capability needed to be completely effective, which prompted active RFID as the best solution for CCC. The active RFID readers allows for a greater return on productive work hours, with an estimated average savings of $26,000 a month.

As another recent example, at the end of December, the Austin-HITT Joint Venture, www.hitt-gc.com/austinHITT, announced it will be using workforce monitoring on the upcoming Charleston Intl. Airport renovation project, which is expected to begin this month. With the technology in place, it will be able to manage workforce documentation, daily reports with activity logs, schedule compliance, workforce initiatives, and safety awareness.

As the use of technology for workforce monitoring begins to gain greater momentum in the construction industry, contractors will need to consider which technology is the best fit. From barcodes to RFID, there are a number of options to consider for the jobsite.