Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is increasingly being used on construction projects to increase efficiencies, manage assets, and reduce theft. RFID systems consist of a reader or interrogator, which is a two-way radio transmitter that emits a signal to labels or tags. The tags contain a microchip to store and process information and an antenna that receives and transmits a signal to the reader. In passive systems when the reader emits electromagnetic waves, it powers the tag, which transmits the data back to the reader.
There are a variety of ways in which construction companies are taking advantage of RFID.
Equipment and Tool Management
Tools and equipment often get lost on large construction sites. RFID technology can track the thousands of high-value assets used at construction sites. The system enables a company to know on a daily basis where assets are located, thereby reducing the need to order or rent new items as replacements for equipment that cannot be located.
Tracking assets was typically accomplished manually, with crews physically checking inventory levels and writing down serial numbers on a piece of paper. RFID solutions are an easy way of keeping track of which tools have been checked out, which employee checked them out, as well as how long the tool was used once it is checked back in.
RFID has reduced the practice of acquiring excess inventory due to items missing. Without an RFID-based tracking system, assets often have to be scrapped, because it is impossible to trace how old they are, or when they were inspected and certified. The system provides access to available material and reduces errors related to misunderstandings regarding which equipment is actually delivered to a site.
RFID electronically stores location and status data about the assets being used, so that onsite construction managers, or staff members at remote locations, can view which items are being stored or installed as construction takes place.
An RFID-enabled solution can track the number of workers on jobsites, as well as their identities. By using this, construction project managers and supervisors can capture the identity of each worker entering or leaving a site.
The data related to individuals provides details such as which contractors have employees onsite, the number of workers at that location, and whether those personnel have the necessary training or certification required to be there.
Ensuring worker safety is always the most important consideration at any jobsite. A method being used is to install readers around potential hazards like guardrails or open elevator shafts. When a worker wearing a tag approaches a potential hazard, the reader would activate an alarm to alert them of the danger. RFID readers can also be used to create barriers that would alert project managers when workers enter unauthorized areas.
There is also fall protection equipment that is using RFID technology. The system allows safety personnel to track the location, inspection, and maintenance of the various fall protection systems they are using on the jobsite. Depending on the company’s goals, chances are there is an RFID solution to meet the needs of workers on the jobsite.