Keeping track of materials can be a challenge on the construction jobsite. When large quantities of similar supplies are being used, it takes time to sort through and find the right items. An RFID solution is making it easier to identify materials not only on the jobsite but throughout the plant as well.

Convergence Systems Ltd., www.CSL-RFID.com, Hong Kong, supplied China Steel Structure Co., www.cssc.com.tw, Yanchao District, Taiwan, with an RFID inventory management system. The solution incorporates both passive and active RFID technology to ensure materials are tracked and readily available. The main difference between passive and active RFID is that passive tags need to draw power from a reader, while active tags have their own energy source.

China Steel Structure Co., needed a system that could increase the speed of inventory management and information sharing in its steel manufacturing plant. Because many of the materials look similar, it was also taking a lot of time to sort products at construction jobsites. A solution was needed that could cut down on the time workers spent indentifying products manually.

The custom RFID solution for inventory management is designed for the thin sheets of metal China Steel Structure Co., needs to track. Passive tags are affixed to the metal, and workers use handheld RFID readers to scan the tags. The company says the readers feature a built-in “Geiger counter” style technology that allows for an audible tag search-and-locate function.

In addition, workers have realtime visibility into the outdoor environment. An RTLS (realtime location system) is installed across the plant yard, allowing for location of products quickly.

A company called Digitnexus, www.digitnexus.com, Hong Kong, handled the RFID system integration and developed a Web-based software application that allows for information sharing between departments. Digitnexus also supplied a custom software app that allows the RFID data to integrate with China Steel Structure Co.’s enterprise systems.

Benefits of the integrated system include reduced project delays through faster customer inspections, plus a more accurate computation of production costs. Before installing the RFID system, the company had no way to track the supplies in realtime, which made it harder to determine exactly how much was being spent on a project. Now information on material use can flow into the enterprise systems.

By implementing RFID for materials tracking, China Steel Structure Co., was able to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Incorporating data into the enterprise offers a way for projects to operate more smoothly.