RFID Based Asset Tracking aids in GLP/GMP Regulated Lab Management

lab equipment tracking software

Being responsible for the equipment in a GLP/GMP regulated lab is no easy task. Several compliance requirements have to be adhered to. AssetPulse’s RFID asset tracking solutions have greatly helped streamline the equipment management of such locations.

lab equipment tracking software

lab equipment tracking software

AssetPulse Real-time Asset Tracking Software

Our real-time asset tracking solutions provide an accurate inventory of all equipment across geographic locations. It can detect addition or removal of components in qualified and/or validated systems like HPLCs. The Lab Manager can be alerted of such movements, thereby triggering a re-qualification process automatically. Failure to re-qualify can have serious logistical, technical and financial repercussions.

Several groups or departments within the organization are interested in knowing the whereabouts of the equipment. They include not only the actual users of the equipment – R&D personnel or cleanroom manufacturing personnel, but also other departments like Metrology or personnel who are responsible for calibration or preventive maintenance of the equipment. Each of these groups is looking for equipment at different times of the equipment’s’ lifecycle. Tracking compliance documents related to the equipment is also a time-consuming task. Often, the documents are stored in a separate physical location and are subject to the normal woes of searching for misplaced documents.

Before the use of RFID, the equipment databases were woefully out of sync with reality. This resulted in Finance and QA departments to initiate audits often, in order to update their databases. Small teams of scientists/researchers would need to be assembled, to scour the labs looking for equipment, severely impacting their overall productivity.

AssetPulse Asset Tracking Software Maintains Centralized Database of Asset Information

Maintaining accurate inventory of all the equipment and keeping their details up to date can be a full time job. Details include location, manufacturer, model, serial number, receive date, deployment date and all maintenance related information including calibration/maintenance schedules, non-routine repairs, performance verification and revalidation dates.  The AssetPulse database allows all such detailed information to be maintained in one central database, accessible to all concerned players including R&D, Quality and Finance personnel.

Equipment qualification results in several sets of documents to be generated that are roughly slotted into three categories:

  • Specification – Documents specifying the equipment from the user and manufacturer’s perspective, including the URS (User Requirements Specification), FRS (Functional Requirements Specification) and DS (Design Specification)
  • Protocol – These encompass the procedures stating how qualification is conducted including test procedures, operating ranges and acceptance criteria
  • Report – Include the Traceability Matrix and Summary Reports
  • In the Specification group, the written document includes the critical attributes for the equipment from the user’s and manufacturer’s aspects. User Requirement Specification (URS), Functional Requirement Specification (FRS), and Design Specification (DS) are in this group.
  • In the Protocol group, the written procedures state how the qualification will be conducted. This may include the test units, test procedures, critical test parameters, operating ranges, sampling plan, and acceptance criteria. Installation Qualification (IQ), Operational Qualification (OQ), and Performance Qualification (PQ).
  • In the Report group, the written document reports the qualification activities and results and traces back to the test items with their specifications/ requirements Traceability Matrix, ™ and Summary Report.

Once Validation is complete, the equipment has to be regularly maintained including undergoing calibration and other preventive maintenance procedures. The AssetGather RFID system also helps personnel to locate the equipment when it comes time for calibration.

 The AssetGather database allows all relevant documents to be stored together with the equipment details. IQ (Installation Qualification)/OQ (Operational Qualification)/PQ (Performance Qualification) documents, standard operating procedures, warranty certificates, calibration certificates can be made easily accessible through the database. This allows audits to go a lot quicker, instead of having to sift through a myriad of documents in order to locate the appropriate pieces of paper.

Thus, the use of RFID can effectively bridge any visibility gaps with respect to Asset Management in Analytical labs, hospitals and in pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chains.

Looking for Asset Management Software?

RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

Contact Us

RFID Enabled Tracking of Raw Material in a 2 Bin Kanban System

Many well reputed companies have deployed the 2 Bin Kanban system in their manufacturing facilities. This simple system employs two bins to manage small but critical raw material inventory on the assembly line. Parts are supplied in this pull system through two rotating bins. The technician pulls parts from one bin till it is empty and then switches to the second bin. The empty first bin triggers an event that causes the bin to be replenished.

Often, manual labor is used to look for empty bins on the line. A ‘runner’ periodically moves through the lines, picking up the empty bins and transporting them to the warehouse for replenishment. Some parts need replenishment more often than others. This can easily either cause delays and consequently, bottlenecks on the assembly line or require more manual labor, thereby increasing costs.

AssetPulse has worked with manufacturing organizations to proactively alert when an empty bin is generated. Communicating with ERP and other manufacturing systems, the Warehouse is able to decide when to deploy the ‘runner’ to pick up bins on specific lines, thereby optimizing the ‘pick up’ process. Additionally the speed at which the individual items are pulled will determine how many of the items are placed in the bins. This will help in identifying the number of items required to replenish the first bin, so that there is little risk of running low on stock which in turn could slow down production.

Looking for Asset Management Software?

RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

Contact Us

Choosing the right RFID tags for this use case is critical. Since the bins can be placed in close proximity of one another, it is very important that only the correct bins are read, and not other extraneous bins located close by. This issue of cross-reads can be a fundamental reason why the whole system can break down. Cross-reads can also be facilitated by choosing incorrect hardware – the RFID reader and/or RFID antenna. This is one main reason, why it is recommended that the Manufacturing Organization work with a single vendor to deploy such solutions, thereby optimizing all aspects of the solution – the RFID tags, the RFID reader hardware and the RFID software.

It is the software that facilitates proper handling of the bins. E.g., once the Warehouse replenishes the bins, our RFID asset tracking solutions can be used to ensure correct dispensing of bins, i.e. are the correct replenished bins placed at the correct locations? Working in close integration with ERP and Manufacturing Systems, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions communicate information about these bins back and forth, validating the correct placement of bins and alerting when exceptions occur.

The 2 Bin Kanban system is typically used in industries that function in high volumes. Further, this system is suited for manufacturing lines where there is high overlap of parts across multiple product lines. The same RFID solutions can also be leveraged to expedite changeovers on the line. Changeover is the process of converting a manufacturing line from one product to another or from one work order to another. The tedious, but critical task of removing all bins from the ‘old’ line and deploying the bins required for the ‘new’ line, is time consuming and error prone. Leveraging AssetPulse’s RFID solutions, organizations are able to complete this task quicker and with fewer errors. Our system has real-time knowledge of the exact location of all the bins (when they are being tracked via RFID at the workstations). Due to continuous integration with ERP and Manufacturing systems, we are able to make decisions on which bins can remain in place, which bins need to be removed and what new bins need to be added to the line. Validation of the removal of old bins and placement of new bins is also done.

This field is required.
This field is required.
This field is required.
This field is required.
0 + 0
Please enter the correct sum of above values

RFID & [WIP] Work-in-Progress Tracking System for Manufacturing Units

Work in Progress Tracking System

WIP Tracking, Work-in-progress tracking encompasses nearly all the phases of manufacturing. It starts with tracking raw material which includes Receiving and the Put Away process. AssetPulse’s RFID solutions can provide Real Time visibility of flow of materials through the production process. It allows for a lean and optimized production process by keeping the demand and build requirements in sync.

As WIP is converted to subassemblies, they are moved standalone or in bins, containers and totes. We work with the Manufacturing Engineers to determine what should be tagged – the physical subassembly itself or the containers which carry them. This is a function of the ease and practicality with which the subassemblies themselves can be tagged. The factors to determine this include, the size of the subassembly, the material it is made of, the environment that the tag would be exposed to, contamination risk etc.  Class III Medical Devices and Semiconductor Wafers are cases where it is not likely direct-tagging is possible due to contamination risk. The extremely high temperatures in a firing process in industrial manufacturing may not allow for direct tagging.

Tracking WIP in real time provides accurate snapshots of exactly when it entered and exited a specific phase in production. Relying on personnel to ‘log in and log out’ WIP at each phase can lead to costly errors, especially in time-sensitive processes in medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing, where timestamps are also recorded.

Work in Progress Tracking System

Work-in-Progress Tracking System

WIP tracking can be accomplished in real-time or at critical junctures in the manufacturing process. This is also a function of the manufacturing environment. Industrial manufacturing floors lend themselves well to real-time tracking since there is typically, sufficient room to deploy RFID read-points on the floor. With respect to Clean Room Assembly lines, real-time tracking is possible with careful study of the lines and determining optimal RFID read-point locations at each workstation. AssetPulse has extensive experience with both industrial and Clean Room manufacturing operations.

Working closely with Manufacturing Engineering and Operations, we have successfully deployed our RFID solutions where bottlenecks, ‘waiting for parts’ stoppages, ‘completed too quickly’ steps, ‘taking too long’ steps, out-of-sequence steps etc. have been detected accurately and efficiently. Tracking Rework and scrapped parts provides visibility into oft-obscured parts of production.

AssetGather RFID solutions work hand-in-hand with Enterprise Resource Planning Systems during the entire manufacturing process. ERP systems track the virtual flow of raw materials through the processes while AssetGather’s RFID solutions track the physical flow. Real time updates back and forth between the two systems, allow not only for an efficient work flow, but also allows for maintaining integrity within the entire process by physically validating various process steps and alerting when an anomaly is detected.

It is highly recommended that all stakeholders in Manufacturing are involved in designing and deploying RFID solutions. Processes may need to be changed slightly or significantly, and in some cases, eliminated entirely. The initial scoping, design and redesign of processes is worth the effort, since this can result in a many-fold improvement in visibility, efficiency, accuracy and overall quality.

Looking for Asset Management Software?

RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

Contact Us

RFID for Inventory Control in Manufacturing

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

Managing inventory levels in a cost-effective and revenue-driven manner can be difficult, even for the most experienced manufacturer. Without access to effective systems to help automate inventory control processes, properly managing inventory levels can be quite the challenge for manufacturers. AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions helps in automating inventory management.

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations
RFID Based Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

AssetPulse’ inventory control capabilities allow manufacturers to automate their processing based off of previous purchasing trends and can even set reminder alert for raw material orders to renew when needed. With a real time inventory data, inventory control becomes less of a pain point and more a second nature

How inventory is traditionally managed?

Many different ways are used to keep control of inventory. One basic method is by creating a spreadsheet with various columns for product name, item number, and quantity. A column to deduct what is sold or consumed. Additionally, a log for returns and new incoming stock is maintained. It requires continuous manual monitoring to ensure every transaction is accounted for.

For more sophisticated customers, they may be using an ERP system to track inventory and inventory levels. Often data input into these systems is also manual – often through barcode scanners.

Of course, these are all labor-intensive processes. The information is difficult to share, and another huge pitfall is human error. People are prone to make mistakes––mistakes that are difficult to track and result in inaccurate inventory numbers.

Forecasting Demand

A manufacturer relies on inventory to complete a finished product for which they expect to get paid. For example, an aerospace manufacturer has millions of dollars in parts in their inventory of raw materials that they include in the finished product.

Forecasting demand is essential for any business. For a manufacturer, this means having enough inventory on hand to meet this demand. If a manufacturer fails to forecast demand and orders too little inventory, they face the possibility of losing customers to a competitor. A late order may come at a higher expense, as supplier prices rise due to increased demand; this is another way the manufacturer loses money. If the manufacturer overestimates demand and orders too much inventory, they stand the chance of having unused inventory and may have to incur additional storage costs.

AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution

Inventory management can be automated with the help of AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution. RFID tags are affixed onto the items that are inventoried. Fixed readers can be strategically placed either at the source or the destination to monitor transfer of inventory. E.g. inventory can be tracked in VLMs (Vertical Lift Modules), on shelves where inventory is stored or the carts that carry inventory from one location to another. RFID readers can be placed also at the destination where the inventory is consumed.  With the help of these fixed RFID readers or handheld RFID scanners, inventory data is updated in real-time or periodically, whichever is optimal.

The AssetGather RFID based tracking system is available as a hosted solution or as an on-Prem solution – inventory data is readily accessible from anywhere, in either case. Apart from this, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution also alerts users when the inventory level is running below par and inventory thresholds are likely to be breached imminently. All this happens automatically without any human intervention, thereby making the otherwise time consuming process very efficient and accurate.

AssetGather also can integrate with other ERP systems to update those system with inventory data that is automatically collected by AssetGather. Integrations can span a range, from very simple exchange of data to more complex integrations that not only update inventory data, but also facilitate and validate various manufacturing processes as they occur in real-time.

The RFID asset tracking software also has different reports including historical reports which enables manufacturer to forecast a demand and stock required inventory.

Looking for Asset Management Software?

RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

Contact Us

How to Perform Efficient Asset Audits with RFID

rfid asset tracking inventory management

RFID is the Asset Manager’s great ally when it comes to annual asset audits…..

Wall to Wall Inventory Audit Process

Do you find yourself preoccupied with your annual asset audit for at least three months every year? Annual or Semi-annual audits are the bane of the Asset Manager’s existence. No matter the type of assets to be audited – IT assets across the Enterprise, instruments in Labs, tools on the manufacturing floor or weapons in the Armory – the process is excruciatingly tedious and burdensome. If you currently use barcodes or worse, a highly labor-intensive manual process to do your wall-to-wall audits, we commiserate with you. Having to crawl under desks or 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 yet 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

RFID Asset Ttracking Inventory Management
Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkeleylab/3523139681/

RFID Asset Tracking Solution for Wall to Wall Inventory

1) Identify all assets that you need to audit and RFID tag them

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. Audit times can be cut down by nearly 90%, i.e. if a manual audit of a building takes 20 hours, an RFID scanned audit will take less than 2 hours to complete.

2) Perform audit with RFID scanner

How often has an audit team found an asset stashed away in a cardboard box in the far corner of a room after having spent dozens of hours looking for it. If the asset had an RFID tag on it, it would have been picked up the first time someone walked by it with an RFID scanner. This is because RFID tags can be read from inside cardboard and wooden boxes.

3) Scan multiple assets with RFID as opposed to 1 by 1 scanning of barcode

Scanning barcode tagged assets with a barcode scanner takes at a minimum 30 seconds per asset. This typically involves locating the barcode and then aligning the scanner in line with barcode to scan it. Whereas, scanning 100 assets that are RFID enabled takes less than 10 seconds. This enables the customer to be able to perform inventory scans more often and so asset information usually is up-to-date. Additionally, the AssetGather web application keeps track of each and every asset’s movement history. If during the audit process, a critical asset is not found, then the AssetGather web application can be used to identify where the RFID tagged asset in question was last seen. This helps save tremendous amount of time for the Inventory Manager who tries to locate an asset in a traditional barcode system.

4) 90% faster audits and efficient locating of assets with RFID

Our customers have not only seen at least a 90% 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

Since the AssetPulse web application server keeps track of asset movement history, additional data can be gleaned out of the system like what types of assets are used extensively and how long an RFID enabled asset stays at a particular location. This will help the inventory management team to stock more of these assets so that these assets do not become a bottle neck for regular day to day work.

Looking for Asset Management Software?

RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

Contact Us
1 2