Why RFID for IT Asset Tracking?

Year-end IT asset audits can cause major headaches for property or asset managers in IT organizations. IT equipment that is audited, span the spectrum – servers, desktops printers, copiers, projectors, network equipment, laptops, tablets and  even smartphones. Both government and commercial organizations undergo the same tedious but essential process when it comes to trying to complete their year-end audits. We hear stories of asset managers crawling beneath desks and searching the dark corners of closets looking for misplaced IT equipment. These searches not only take up the asset managers’ time, but also the time of the equipment users themselves, thereby negatively impacting productivity across the entire organization.

1. RFID inventory scan is faster and accurate

With our RFID asset tracking solutions, one of our customers Lawrence Berkeley Labs who are tracking their IT assets in addition to their lab equipment, were able to reduce their audit time from 3 months to 3 weeks! The time needed to do an audit using RFID is a tiny fraction of what it takes to audit using barcode readers. It takes less than 10% of the time needed for a barcode scan. The improvement in productivity is even more dramatic if the organization had been doing audits manually, with pen and paper.

2. RFID allows more inventory audits due to its speed and efficiency

Most IT equipment, with the exception of mobile equipment like laptops and tablets, are expected to stay put for the most part. However, that is often not the case. Equipment might be removed because it isn’t working properly. It is quickly stashed in an already overcrowded closet – out of sight, out of mind. Someone retired or moved departments – their equipment could be swiftly repurposed for some other use within the department. All this happens without the knowledge of the uninformed asset or property manager. These are a few reasons why year-end audits tend to be such protracted nightmares.

Since RFID scanning is so efficient, asset managers are able to take periodic snapshots of their inventory all through the year, instead of just doing a single inventory survey at year end. This allows them to be able to detect a missing item earlier. Owners of the missing equipment tend to remember what happened to it, because of less elapsed time. Asset inventory is adjusted all through the year, with the asset locations updated during the periodic scans. So, when the year-end audit comes around, there are very few surprises with regards to missing equipment.

3. Reconcile inventory audit with one button click

Once the audits are done, reconciliation might also take an inordinate length of time. Figuring out the differences between your scanned list of assets and the list that your Finance folks (Finance list) have given you, can be tricky and cumbersome. Our AssetPulse IT asset tracking solution allows reconciliation to be performed with one button click, much to the relief of our users! The reconciliation gives you the list of assets in the Finance list that were scanned and found. It also provides you with a list of assets in the Finance list that still need to be found and a list of assets that were found, but were not in the Finance list.

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How AssetPulse helps in Laboratory Relocation

Laboratory Relocation Services
  • Is your company growing?
  • Are you moving into new buildings?
  • Consolidating labs?

Either way, there is likelihood that your labs are being relocated. Laboratory relocations present a unique set of challenges and are huge headaches for lab managers. First, lab managers need to have an accurate inventory of their equipment in their current labs – not only what they have, but also where everything is. Now that the lab managers have clear visibility of where each of the equipment is, they need to decide what equipment goes where, in the new location. Equipment has to be packaged and marked with care before they are moved.

Laboratory Relocation Services

Laboratory Relocation Services

Unfortunately, mistakes are bound to happen. Packages are mislabelled.  Equipment is not delivered to the right lab. Well meaning personnel, will move packages out for legitimate reasons, without informing anyone. The lab manager is tearing his or her hair searching for misplaced equipment. These are not uncommon scenarios.

RFID Asset Tracking Solution in Relocation of Labs

One of our long-term customers who has implemented our RFID based asset tracking solutions just went through a significant move. The complexity of lab instruments, regulatory requirements and the need to address lab workloads during a move is an exacting process. Inventory tracking and equipment location tracking is facilitated by AssetPulse Lab equipment tracking solutions. With our RFID enabled lab equipment tracking system, they had an accurate inventory of all their equipment and more importantly, where each of the equipment was located. They were able to plan the move efficiently – which equipment goes to which destination. Equipment was packaged. Some labelling mistakes were made. Equipment did get misplaced.

As part of the move prep, the major exit and entrance doors of the destination labs were already installed with RFID scanners. The RFID scanners on the doors of the original labs were retained, because they were going to be inherited by the new labs moving into that space. Since all the equipment had already been RFID tagged, , our RFID asset tracking system accurately tracked what equipment was moved when and through which doors and when they entered the destination buildings. Even if a piece of equipment was incorrectly delivered to a lab, our asset tracking solution alerted the lab manager of the error. So, they knew where exactly to go search for the equipment with a handheld RFID scanner. Since the RFID tags are able to be read through the packaging, they didn’t have to undergo the laborious processes of opening the packaging and trying to read the asset number of the equipment inside.

With our RFID system, the entire relocation process, from planning through execution to completion, was a much smoother, much quicker and more painless process for not only the lab management personnel, but also for the users of the labs. This had direct impact on the business, because it not only made efficient use of personnel’s time, but also got the labs back on its feet quicker, so the business suffered minimal disruption.

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How to Optimize Supply Chain Management with RFID

The much-touted supply chain covers all activities that an organization performs from raw material receiving to finished goods delivered to the customer.  AssetPulse’ RFID solutions can play a role at almost every step of the Supply Chain, from receiving components or raw material at the Receiving dock to delivering finished goods to the Customer’s facility.

supply chain management

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1) RFID tagging of raw material to increase their traceability

Leveraging AssetPulse’ RFID Asset Tracking solutions provide in depth visibility into the Supply Chain. Raw material that feeds into the Manufacturing process can be RFID tagged to not only expedite the Pick Process of the Raw Material, but also will allow for traceability of the raw material through the Manufacturing process. For specific industries where it is important to be able to trace back specific lot numbers and/or batch numbers of raw materials to a particular manufactured product, AssetPulse’ RFID solutions are a perfect fit. Tracking raw material with RFID also allows for real time inventory tracking of raw material levels.

2) RFID tagging WIP to optimize manufacturing process

Visibility also extends to the specific equipment used and also, of course, to the product under manufacture. WIP is tracked through the manufacturing floor, thereby providing visibility into where and how long WIP stays at each phase of manufacturing.

3) Manufacturing Line Changeover is automated by RFID tagging raw materials and tools

Other benefits of using AssetPulse’ RFID Asset Tracking solutions in the Supply Chain include Automation and Increasing Accuracy. E.g. automating the Changeover process can lead to enormous improvement in productivity and accuracy. It eliminates the meticulous and time consuming manual tasks that need to be completed by qualified personnel, which always have potential for human error.

4) Finished Goods can be tagged with RFID tag at the end of the production line

The Supply Chain doesn’t end at completion of Manufacturing. Finished Goods need to be tracked from the Manufacturing facility through the Warehouse or Distribution Center to the Consumer/Customer. RFID tagging finished goods lends visibility to the location of the finished goods as they are moved out of the factory and into the Warehouse. The length of stay at the Warehouse can be tracked. Various metrics on productivity, inventory management and pricing can be calculated using this data.

AssetPulse’ RFID solutions can also help in the post sales phase, particularly, in industries where product is returned to the factory either as an RMA or for maintenance/repairs. There is visibility into how the product moves within the factory undergoing various tests and processes and the customer can be notified when the product is ready to be shipped back to their facility.

Since most organizations have a Supply Chain Enterprise system, an ERP system and/or an MES system, AssetPulse has performed bidirectional integrations with such Enterprise systems including SAP, JDE, Oracle, etc.

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How does RFID help in Manufacturing Changeover Process?

Change over

Changeover is an important component of lean manufacturing initiatives. It is the process followed when a manufacturing line is being changed over from producing one part to another or from completing one workorder to starting a new workorder. Changeovers can last from a few hours to days or weeks, depending on how extensive the changes to the line are. This process requires a lot of attention to detail and can be vulnerable to human errors. Errors during the Changeover process can have lasting repercussions long after the finished goods leave the line. Due to the meticulous nature of doing a Changeover process, specially trained personnel are needed to perform these tasks, which can be costly. Ultimate goal of any manufacturing organization is to achieve the fastest possible changeovers without compromising on accuracy or quality.

Changeover complexity depends more on the process itself—factors such as number of internal steps, and validations required. Rapid changeover is critical to improving flow and maximizing throughput. Use of RFID can go a long way in automating this process, thereby minimizing or even eliminating human errors. Aside from error prevention, the Changeover process can also be expedited, thereby reducing overall downtime of the manufacturing line.

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AssetPulse’ RFID solution has been implemented at various manufacturing facilities to automate the Changeover process. In industries that are strictly governed by compliance requirements, using the AssetPulse RFID Asset tracking solution also allows for automated record keeping. Details about Raw Material or Components including Part numbers, Lot numbers, Batch numbers, etc. can be automatically recorded at each point of the Manufacturing Line during Changeover. Equipment and Tools deployed during the Changeover process can also be automatically recorded.

How RFID helps in Line Changeover Process?
How RFID helps in Line Changeover Process?

Not only does the AssetPulse RFID solution help automate recording of tools, equipment and components deployed during the Changeover process, but it can also help with validation and detecting errors. At every step, a validation can automatically be performed to ensure the right tools, equipment and components or raw materials are placed at the right location. On incorrect placement, the user can be alerted, so the error is rectified immediately.

RFID can also help with enforcing the sequence of steps in the Changeover process. E.g. if the Changeover process requires pre-staging to be done, before the items are moved to the actual line, the AssetPulse RFID Asset Tracking solution can ensure the right items are pre-staged and will throw up errors if they are moved to the line without the pre-staging step. AssetPulse customers have seen a much-improved Changeover process, that is faster, more accurate and which allows the organization to meet compliance regulations with significantly lesser time and resources.

Work Order Tracking on the Manufacturing Floor

RFID for Work Order Tracking System

Work Order Tracking – Regardless of industry, be it medical devices manufacturing, semiconductor/aerospace manufacturing or industrial molding, work orders or paper travelers are an integral part of the assembly line. The actual usage of the paper traveler may differ from industry to industry, but the challenges of tracking them, remain the same.

Work orders or paper travelers usually accompany the product being manufactured. Some may relate to a single product and others relate to a batch of product. As the parts and unfinished products move through the different work cells on the manufacturing floor, the traveler needs to stay in close proximity to the unfinished product, since it contains vital information of the state of the Work in Process (WIP) product. RFID tagging the workorder enables in work order tracking which in turn allows the product to be tracked through the manufacturing process. In essence, the workorder can be a good proxy for the WIP items. This is especially true with sensitive WIP like medical devices and semiconductor wafers, where the WIP cannot be directly RFID tagged.

RFID for Work Order Tracking System
Work Order Tracking System

Various parameters can be monitored with work order tracking including the last known location of the work order, and recording the sequence of work cells it went through.  For instance, as the paper travelers are transitioning through work cells, the time spent at each work cell directly correlates to the time spent by the technicians/engineers at each work cell which in turn, feeds into calculating the Cost of product(s) being manufactured. RFID tagging the workorders and tracking them through the workstations, allows organizations to track the time spent and the speed at which parts and unfinished products move through the manufacturing floor. These insights help to improve the production efficiency where required.

Additionally, a completed workorder is an indication of finished product. So, completed work order tracking can give direct insight into how much product has been manufactured, which in turn, can provide insight into inventory levels of used and current raw material.

Occasionally, the workorder along with the unfinished product can get misplaced or ‘wander away’. The downtime that results from searching for them, can adversely impact manufacturing efficiency and throughput. RFID tagging the work orders is an excellent solution to address this issue. With AssetPulse’s AssetGather RFID based work order tracking software, the workorder can be monitored and ‘searched for’ in the event of misplacement.

Further, when manufacturing is complete, workorders may need to be archived for audit reasons, whether they are stored on site or moved offsite. Either way, RFID tagging them is an excellent and efficient way to search for them and locate them quickly.

AssetPulse’s customizable RFID asset tracking solution is used by several of AssetPulse’ customers as a work order tracking system for tracking workorder on their manufacturing floor. Few customers have also integrated this process into their GMP guidelines. Customers span various industries including aerospace, construction and biotech.

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