Automated Cleanroom Equipment Tracking – RFID Solution

Do you know what equipment has to go to Metrology for calibration? Do you know when it was removed from the cleanroom and whether it has gone to Metrology? Was it brought back to the Cleanroom and if so, when?

Equipment Management in Cleanroom

Cleanroom management in a biotech company poses several challenges, many of which, if not addressed effectively, can severely impact the company’s bottom line. One of the many challenges is facilitating the strict adherence of the calibration schedule for all test and measurement equipment.

This means not only ensuring that the equipment is removed from the Cleanroom and sent to Metrology, but also that the equipment is returned to the right location in the Cleanroom from Metrology. Cleanroom management has very little visibility into this process. Several times, equipment may leave the Cleanroom, but is not delivered to Metrology in a timely fashion. Often calibration is completed, but the Cleanroom is not aware of it and the equipment is sitting on some shelf waiting to be returned to the Cleanroom.

RFID Cleanroom

AssetPulse Solution for Lab Equipment Management in Cleanroom

A global medical device company faced similar challenges for several years. These problems were of course exacerbated by its explosive growth, thus exposing it to more severe consequences. Over the years, it tried to address them with process modifications and applying various technologies. With the AssetPulse lab equipment tracking solution – a combination of well-selected RFID tags, appropriate reader configurations and well-tuned software, they were able to finally address the problems effectively. Not only were they able to get complete visibility of how the equipment moved between the Cleanroom and Metrology, but they were proactively alerted when there was a break in the process – when equipment wasn’t delivered to Metrology in a timely manner or if calibrated equipment wasn’t returned to the Cleanroom when ready.

Automated Asset Tracking software

The AssetGather asset tracking solution automatically tracked the movement of equipment leaving the Cleanroom and entering and exiting the Metrology Lab. Automatic tracking alleviated the shortcomings of the manual process involved in keeping track of equipment moving between Cleanrooms and Metrology.

In order to realize the full potential of AssetPulse asset tracking solution it is very critical to choose optimal RFID tags. Not only do they have to be mounted on very small pieces of equipment including 6” rulers, but they also have to withstand the sterile environment of the Cleanroom. This means they have to withstand chemical wipe-downs and sometimes more rigorous cleansing. AssetPulse offers tried and tested RFID tags of different form factors and properties like the ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions and to sustain exposure to chemicals.

AssetPulse’s RFID asset tracking eases auditing of assets

Yet another process where RFID asset tracking can help you with…

Usual wall to wall inventory audit process

If your fiscal year matches the calendar year, you must be in the throes of your annual asset audit. If you currently use barcodes or worse, a highly labor intensive process to do your wall-to-wall audits, we commiserate with you. Having to crawl under desks and lab benches, reach behind assets in order to read off barcodes or serial numbers is not only time consuming, but can also be injurious to your health! Often, teams of people are made to perform these audit tasks and it can take days, if not weeks. Once an audit is done of the entire company, considerable amount of time is spent reconciling the audited list with the list sent by your finance department.

Then the teams have the unenviable task of chasing down those assets that were not located the first time around. Now, equipment owners, lab managers, Principal Investigators and the like, are recruited to participate in the daunting task of having to track down the missing assets. After days of these expensive resources being deployed, the missing asset list is whittled down to a few dozen. The Finance department is then asked to write these items off. All in all, it is a costly and laborious process.

rfid asset tracking inventory management Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkeleylab/3523139681/

RFID asset tracking solution for wall to wall inventory

By using RFID asset tracking solutions i.e. RFID tagging the assets, using an RFID handheld reader only or a combination of RFID handheld readers and fixed RFID readers, the organization can more efficiently and accurately complete its audits, with nearly 100% reconciliation. Our customers have not only seen at least an 80% reduction in audit times, but have also not seen a need to write off inventory due to their inability to locate them. Further, they have realized more than 100% ROI in less than 2 years.

One of our happy customers

“The AssetPulse active RFID solution meets my needs for managing the ALS vacuum equipment pool. The inventory and search capability of the active system is invaluable during the yearly wall to wall inventory of the entire lab. Having an up-to-date inventory record of all assets will cut the time and labor cost to the lab to an ultimate minimum. Previously, wall-to-wall inventory has taken multiple weeks to manually find and scan these assets.”

– Frank Zucca, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

How AssetPulse RFID enabled Asset Tracking Facilitates in Maintenance and Servicing of Equipment?

RFID helps equipment owners to maximize the life of their assets by facilitating regular maintenance and repairs of their equipment. RFID can be leveraged across numerous industries for this purpose, including manufacturing, construction, oil and gas and Utilities. Building maintenance professionals who are responsible for HVAC equipment can also greatly benefit from the use of RFID. A CMMS Study finds that 34% of users do not track asset data

According to the study two thirds of them track asset data manually. This can lead to inaccuracies and incomplete information about their assets. Having suboptimal maintenance procedures can greatly impact the longevity and safety of their equipment.

It is important for owners to have a complete picture of their assets, including insight into utilization, allocation, operations, maintenance, safety and regulatory testing of their assets. The reality however is that at any given instant, they may have their assets spread across multiple locations making it difficult to keep asset information reconciled and to ensure that maintenance and safety procedures are executed and recorded in a timely and accurate manner.

AssetPulse’s RFID enabled asset tracking can help professionals efficiently track and assess asset health. How?

All assets are tagged with RFID tags. With the help of AssetGather software, maintenance professionals can track their assets as they move through various locations leveraging the RFID reader infrastructure. This can either be a mobile or fixed infrastructure or a combination of both.

If an asset is serviced, the maintenance team can update maintenance data in the AssetGather system. Or, if an asset has returned from a leased usage, usage information about the asset can be updated in AssetGather.

Critical data can also be stored in the RFID tag itself, so it is available to maintenance professionals locally, even if they have no network access to the centralized system.

Not only does the system allow for  updating maintenance data, AssetGather also provides for proactive alerting of upcoming scheduled maintenance, regulatory testing and other critical attributes for each asset.  Email alerts are a convenient method to warn users of these imminent tasks. Overdue or missed maintenance can also result in escalated notifications.

Maintenance and regulatory documents can be stored digitally within the system. This eliminates the need to search through myriad documents in the case of an audit. Thus, AssetGather facilitates easy access to all asset related data including its movement, operational details, maintenance and regulatory testing information.

AssetPulse RFID enabled asset tracking facility

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RFID’s role in Oil industry’s consolidation process

As the world oil markets continue to be in flux, consolidation within the oil and gas industry, especially in North America, is accelerating. The small to medium business sector is seeing significant activity.

Companies are being acquired, not only for their customer base, but also for their assets. Organizations that are positioning themselves as acquisition candidates need to streamline their business processes and show enhanced visibility of their assets. This makes them more attractive to prospective acquirers. Using AssetPulse’s RFID based asset tracking solutions, these savvy companies not only achieve 100% visibility of their assets, but also can leverage them to streamline their business processes – processes to accurately check-in/check-out assets to and from jobs, efficiently manage maintenance and inspections of all their equipment, tie all this into their financial systems, etc. Being able to show end-to-end visibility of their assets along with streamlined operations, makes it easier for potential suitors to do due diligence on the companies, thereby making them more attractive targets. Not only do they position themselves well in the M&A markets, they also enjoy the side benefits of reduced operational costs resulting from efficient use of their assets and resources.

Once an acquiring company has completed a merger, they have to be able to quickly incorporate the new member into their operations. In order to make the unification efficient, companies standardize on using RFID based asset tracking solutions to maximize visibility of their augmented operations and asset inventory.

Mergers lead to additional company locations, servicing an expanded list of regions and geographies. It becomes even more important to know where all the assets are and whether they are being utilized optimally. Leveraging the visibility provided by our RFID solutions, oil and gas companies are able to make decisions about re-allocation of assets amongst the locations based on each region’s business needs. Further, they are able to make informed determinations on new purchases, balancing the requirements of each location. Excess equipment is either disposed of, or is leased out in order to reduce expenses and increase revenue. The rental side of the business can also leverage the RFID based asset tracking solutions, just like the mainstream business.

And of course, our solutions can also play a significant role in tracking maintenance and inspections of equipment across the entire company. As new divisions or regions are added, it is imperative that HSE policies of the parent company continue to be enforced and adopted. Our solutions show whether preventive maintenance and safety inspections are being done routinely, and can flag alerts if and when the occasional ball is dropped.

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