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Should I use barcodes or RFID tags to track my equipment and assets?

Both bar codes and RFID tags can help you track your assets and equipment; each having its advantages and disadvantages.

The major advantage of bar codes it that they are extremely easy, inexpensive, and ready to implement today. It’s literally a matter of attaching bar code tags or stickers and scanning the information into your CMMS. The key disadvantage is that you have to be physically near the items in order to scan them, and they cannot send or receive additional information.

RFID tags do everything that barcodes do and much more, and today’s technology has made them affordable and scalable for any size facility. When you integrate RFID tags into your CMMS, you create a powerful system that makes your entire maintenance program run more efficiently and cost effectively. However, RFID tags do require more capital and significantly longer lead times to full implementation.

If you’re planning on RFID tags down the road, here’s a roadmap to help you along your way.

A Quick Primer

First, it’s important to understand that there are many RFID battery possibilities, carriers, and frequencies available. According to a Gartner survey, about 80 percent of respondents believed that RFID is a single technology.

RFID tags are usually made of plastic and hold microchips that communicate information to a device or central data collection system. Once they are attached to an asset, that asset can be tracked in terms of location, connection to a particular technician, and service history.

Real Life Examples

What does this mean for a facility? Here’s one possibility. Let’s say a maintenance department shares several sets of testing and tool equipment. Each time a technician requires a set, the RFID tag ties the tool to that technician as well as the location where the work is being performed. If a set is needed, you can automatically see where all the equipment is located at any given moment. In addition, if one set of testing equipment requires repair or service, the RFID tag can display this message to a technician so another set is chosen.

Another application for RFID tags may involve tagging primary motors in your facility. You can easily access information such as condition, serial number, age, and maintenance records in your CMMS. By combining these tags with a preventive or predictive maintenance program, you can make more informed decisions that will lead to better outcomes.

Implementation Steps

If you’re ready to give RFID tags a try, here are the steps to start:

  1. Organize your assets into a database, and prioritize your top 10 percent.
  2. Begin by tagging only those assets that are critical to the daily function of your business.
  3. Create alerts based on how frequently those assets should be checked.