Advancing RFID-Based Productivity in Process Manufacturing

by | Jun 12, 2019 | Technologies, Valves, Actuators & Regulators

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

New technologies usually become more broadly adopted as multiple suppliers adopt the technology and provide interoperability. Standards efforts help to define common requirements into a specification for suppliers to follow in their technology development programs.

Today, industries such as warehouses, airlines and others employ radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology for increased productivity. The use of RFID is not yet common in the process industries.

Valve magazine: The Case for RFID in Process PlantsIn a Valve magazine article, The Case for RFID in Process Plants, Emerson’s Shannon Jelken, highlights the need for a standardized approach among suppliers to improve their customers’ overall project and operational performance.

Today much of the management around valves and other plant assets is paper-based and in need of a digital transformation. Shannon opens noting that most plant maintenance staff:

…deal exclusively with paper records regarding valve maintenance, parts lists, service, repairs and other data on a valve’s history. Some of these papers reside at the project site in the maintenance shop while others are kept at a central office. Some operators rely on component vendors to keep records.

This paper-based approach requires effort:

…to manually maintain these files, and they often are not properly kept up to date. A high cost is associated with the time involved in these practices, and errors with manual data entry are common.

He identifies and contrasts various technologies to move away from paper—barcodes, near field communications (NFC), Bluetooth, and ultra-high frequency radio frequency identification (UHF RFID). His conclusion based on the various pros and cons is that:

…UHF RFID may be the best choice for asset monitoring in demanding applications.

Shannon shares an example from another industry, Delta airlines. They used RFID technology to track oxygen generators, life vests and other emergency equipment. What used to take many weeks to check hundreds of thousands of oxygen generators across the fleet now can be performed in minutes per aircraft.

He identifies challenges why RFID adoption in the process industries has been slow including lack of turnkey solutions for suppliers, lack of understanding by RFID suppliers of industry-specific requirements, and multiple suppliers involved in RFID solutions, which include fixed readers, mobile readers, software and databases.

Some areas of value that these RFID tags on valves and other plant asset can deliver include:

  • Automate field maintenance tracking and updates
  • Provide the information required for predictive spare parts ordering
  • Facilitate cross-facility spare parts inventory
  • Provide real-time asset location and status
  • Optimize operations planning with data-driven decisions

Read the article (and encourage your instrumentation and automation suppliers to do the same) for more on the unique requirements for the industry that Shannon identifies, and example savings opportunities should this RFID technology become more widely adopted.

Visit the Valves, Actuators & Regulators section on Emerson.com to learn more about the technologies available to improve performance in safety, reliability, production and overall efficiency. You can also connect and interact with other final control experts in the Valves, Actuators & Regulators group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.