BERKELEY, Calif. - July 19th 2011 - For eighty years Lawrence Berkeley National Labs has been the hub of numerous scientific breakthroughs. The research at Berkeley Labs has saved lives, reduced energy costs, inspired generations and has changed the world for the better. Continuing their commitment to new technology, the lab has deployed an RFID Asset tracking solution from AssetPulse to track and manage their sophisticated lab equipment. The RFID solution from AssetPulse helps the lab quickly locate equipment, and keep track of equipment as it moves between different buildings at the prestigious facility.
The Advanced Light Source (ALS) of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab owns specialized high value equipment such as vacuum pumps that are accountable to the Department of Energy. The equipment is loaned by the inventory personnel to lab scientists and visiting scientists whenever it is requested. The equipment then moves through the ALS to various beam-lines and sometimes to other buildings. The inventory personnel need to periodically know the whereabouts of every asset, apart from keeping track of which team is using it and if it was still being used. The current location and status of these assets needs to be gathered without impeding the activities of the scientists and technicians who are using the equipment. On many occasions, technicians request for a specific piece of equipment that cannot be located in the storage area, and there is no trace of who is currently using it. In these situations, the inventory team spends many hours performing a search for assets at the large facility spanning nearly 80,000 sq. ft.
The management at LBNL was cognizant of the RFID technology and desired a solution to the above problem. AssetPulse was deputed to understand LBNL's use-case and requirements. After thorough analysis, AssetPulse found that there were potential use cases for both Active and Passive RFID to be deployed, both having their individual challenges and advantages. AssetPulse presented the pros and cons of both approaches to LBNL and it was decided to commission a pilot to evaluate both options and then select the best methodology.
A fixed passive RFID reader, a handheld passive RFID reader, a fixed active RFID reader and a mobile active RFID reader were deployed in two stages of the pilot. The AssetGather real-time asset tracking platform of AssetPulse was already designed to work with all types of RFID and sensor data. For rapid deployment during the pilot, the AssetGather server software was provided as a cloud service. Two sets of equipment were tagged separately with active and passive RFID tags. The process of physically tagging assets revealed certain discrepancies in the existing inventory data, and provided an opportunity for making corrections.
During the course of the pilot, LBNL personnel and AssetPulse worked together to record observations, and gauge business process efficiencies of both active and passive methodologies. After an extensive three month evaluation period, it was found that both Active and Passive RFID were much more efficient than the manual tracking process. However, inventory scanning and search for equipment in the ALS is better served with the use of Active RFID.
At LBL, active RFID produces the ability to read assets for over 200ft. This was quite desirable for LBNL personnel, because just a quick walk around the Light Source picks up the entire inventory from all floors of the building. It also allowed personnel to just walk by closed labs and read the tagged assets inside. This was very useful because the inventory personnel do not have permission to enter all of the labs in the facility.
Prior to the deployment of RFID, a manual process of inventorying and locating equipment was very time consuming. In some cases, equipment could never be located. In cases of extreme emergency, if a piece of equipment was not found it would be purchased or leased for thousands of dollars. With passive RFID, inventorying and search of a building was 5 times faster (efficiency was improved by 500%) compared to the manual process. With the active RFID system, an inventory of equipment dispersed over four buildings was 8 times faster (800% better) and search was 3 times (300%) faster compared to the manual process. (Depending on where the person started searching and where the asset was actually found).
"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." said Frank Zucca, Sr. Mechanical Engineering Technical Associate at LBNL.
"It is an honor for us to have deployed our solutions at the same site which housed the cyclotron where many Nobel Prize winning discoveries were made. There were a few interesting challenges that were posed in this project, due to the heavy presence of metal, and other interferences at the lab", said Sujatha Bodapati, CEO of AssetPulse. "Through a pilot, we helped LBL evaluate the various options and choose the right technology for them. AssetPulse specializes in working closely with customers to provide them the most optimal RFID asset tracking solution that will deliver an immediate and tangible business value".
After the successful completion of the pilot, the AssetGather active RFID solution has been rolled out to the rest of the assets in the advanced light source lab. The use of passive RFID is being discussed for other departments at LBNL.
AssetPulse is a leading provider of RFID asset tracking solutions that integrate seamlessly with fixed and mobile RFID readers using Passive, Semi-Passive and Active RFID Technologies. Apart from major commercial establishments, AssetPulse has deployed its solutions at various U.S. Government sites including the US Army, US Air Force and the Department of Energy.
For more information, please call (408) 872-3104 or visit www.assetpulse.com.
AssetPulse and AssetGather are trademarks or registered trademarks of AssetPulse, LLC. All other company and product names mentioned may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.