Tagging Spare Parts In Complex Asset Operations [Part II]
In our last post we described the importance of a secure serialisation platform, like Relegen’s asset intelligence product, assetDNA, when managing spare parts and their lifecycles in complex asset operations. But there’s another half of the equation – the tag that carries the global unique identifier [GUID] to bridge the gap between data in information systems and real-world assets in the field.
There’s no shortage of options – but finding the right tag for each instance takes some doing. With so many factors playing a role – fit/form/function, environmental conditions, lifecycles, workflows, tag technology and type, frequency, read ranges and more – it can be hard to know where to start.
First of all, it is important to consider the unique needs of each item as well as the overall desired outcomes from the project. Then, armed with this knowledge, you can begin reviewing your tagging options. Options run the gamut from traditional printed barcode labels to RFID and multi-layer solutions, as well as other forms of wireless technology; each of which may be best suited to specific use cases.
Here’s a broad outline of the technologies available, however, within each of these, there are still a vast number of options available – and that’s where Relegen’s vendor-neutral support can help.
In general, barcode tags, labels and readers are most likely to be lower in cost and more reliable as long as the barcode doesn’t suffer damage or get dirty in a harsh environment. However, their main disadvantage is they can only be read one-at-a-time, so individual’s scanning the labels must physically ensure each label is in visual range of the scanner. For a more detailed analysis of barcodes you can read ‘Which Barcode Is Best?’ and ‘Barcodes Vs RFID’.
HF RFID tags are the most reliable forms of RFID because they offer a short read range which prevents stray reads. However, this can be a disadvantage as well as advantage depending on your use case. If you want to read tags with a hand-held reader, one at a time, for instance, HF is great solution. But long range reads will require a tag with a higher frequency. Some forms of HF RFID, such as NFC, can also be read by smartphones which can reduce deployment costs associated with reader hardware. To learn more about HF RFID read ‘Playing Off HF And UHF RFID’ as well as ‘Part I – What Is NFC? [The Basics]’ and ‘Part II – Asset tracking & NFC – The Pros & Cons’.
With falling prices – especially in high volume purchases – UHF RFID is becoming one of the most compelling RFID alternatives for industrial or complex asset operations. Multiple UHF RFID tags can be read simultaneously over longer ranges, making them a good choice for fast-paced warehouse environments where tagged items are moved through processes and workflows in bulk via fixed reader portals. However, there is a downside to this long read range – and that is that they can be interrogated erroneously from readers intended for other tags – consider the wrong production line for instance. However, as the technology evolves, this is becoming much less of a risk. More information on UHF RFID can be found here ‘Playing off HF and UHF RFID’.
Direct Part Marking [DPM]
DPM is a compelling option for marking of tools, parts and components throughout their lifecycles – from production, into use and onto reuse. It offers permanent and reliable identification and is well suited for items with moving parts that might not lend themselves to an adhesive tag or label. Like barcoding, reading of DPM identifiers is done one item at a time and so will take longer than UHF RFID, which is not realistic when high volumes must be read quickly or in bulk. Due to the specialized nature of etching or engraving, DPM may be best suited for OEM’s of parts rather than aftermarket asset tagging. To learn more about DPM applications you can read our media release here.
Integrated, multi-layer tags
In order to accommodate a variety of environments and applications, organisations can consider an integrated or multi-layered tagging solution. In this instance, an RFID tag can include both a barcode and a human-readable element to facilitate manual data entry when necessary. It can also be extended to include a covert identifier so that even if the primary tag is separated from the asset its owner can still be identified. Organisations may consider an integrated tagging solution in response to compliance to an industry standard or as an added layer of functionality so that an asset can be readily-identified or deciphered without an electronic reader. To learn more about Relegen’s multi-layer assetDNA ID tagging application click here.
Other wireless technologies
Beyond these options, there are a myriad of other wireless and real-time locating systems [RTLS] that can also be used for location and proximity sensing in a spare parts warehouse setting. These include Wi-Fi-based positioning systems [WPS], Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy [BLE] – also known as Beacons – and more. Currently, these technologies are used for indoor location and proximity sensing as opposed to the track and trace of assets through workflows and lifecycles. Nor can they typically hold item-specific information on the tag itself. However, as mobile devices become ubiquitous in the workplace, these technologies will open the door to new ways of intelligently connecting the digital and physical worlds to provide real-time visibility, automation and actionable insights that can boost business performance.
Support for improving spare part management
Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to tagging of spare parts, so be prepared to put research and testing into your decision-making. Fortunately Relegen can bring our significant experience in asset intelligence, item-level serialisation, barcode and RFID technology to your operation. As an independent asset tagging vendor we are is uniquely positioned to help to take full advantage of new and merging capabilities to drive your business forward. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or + 61 (0)2 9998 9000.