RFID Case Study: RFID supported identification of tools

RFID Project Tools: RFID-supported tool issue in a large steam power plant

At a glance...

  • Labeling of tools with transponders
  • Entering via RFID handheld reader with USB connection
  • Faster recording procedure
  • Reduced queue time

Used RFID Technology

  • Frequency 13,56 MHz (HF)
  • RFID Disk Transponder 13,56 MHz
  • RFID Reader HF40 THR

The challenge

A steam power plant situated on the river Rhine possesses a large inventory of tools – from wrenches through to sizeable electrical devices – that can be taken out by workers for their assignments. These tools were being issued by a manually documented system. The employee left their personal chip at the issuing point and was then given the required tool. Their name and the time of issue were also recorded in writing.

Such a procedure proved to be very time-consuming, so a different system was looked for that was more practicable and, naturally, time-saving.

A solution was found in the application of radio frequency identification (RFID), by which the issued tools are automatically documented and allocated to a worker.

The implementation

Last year the power plant started a pilot project for electronic administration of tool issue. This was scheduled to last three months, and to test whether RFID was suitable for registering and recording tools in the operation of such a power plant. The technology had not yet been implemented in any other power plant in Germany, so there was no experience to draw on.

Says the project manager, "The pilot was meant to produce findings enabling us to judge whether RFID technology could be securely implemented in a power plant environment, and to what extent the application was affected by factors such as magnetic fields, temperature, vibration, dust and dirt."

For this trial phase some 50 tools – from electrical devices through torque wrenches to jig saws – were fitted with RFID transponders, in disk form with a mounting eyehole for attachment by cable ties. This "loose" means of attachment avoided any reading problems through direct fastening to metal.

Tools were booked by a handheld reader with a USB link to the booking PC. Once registered in the system, the data of the requiring worker were noted, and the booking procedure was ended. Tool issue became automatic and time-saving, much to the satisfaction of the employees.

The RFID technology was not at all affected by the ambient conditions in the power plant. "The RFID chips proved to be very rugged and reliable, creating a good possibility of optimizing tool administration and issue", concluded the IT coordinator of the power plant.

Summary

Trials in the next few months will show whether RFID can also be implemented at other sites. For the demands of the Karlsruhe power plant, at any rate, it has proven to be excellently suited, with the result that the application is set to be expanded to the plant's entire inventory of tools.