RFID Tag Use and Asset Optimization

By Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems

This post is taken from a chapter from Kevin’s book Error Proof – How to Stop Daily Goofs for Good. The book can be purchased in both e-book and hard copy form from Amazon.com.

I came across the Celebration Health (Orlando, FL) surgical team RFID application a few months before using Magic Bands as a Disney customer for the second time. I was already promoting RFID (short for Radio Frequency Identification) use for human and equipment asset optimization. The potential performance improvement benefits were obvious. Many of my own customers were using RFID tags to track asset (human and mechanical) movement, location, and behavior. Their goal is to better manage costs, and prevent equipment damage and human injury.

Personally, I had already been tagged multiple times over the years. To-date, the experience has been painless. RFID strips are in both my passport and my state driver’s license. My race bib RFID tags track my road race times. I wear my Magic Band around the different Disney parks with no concern. I personally don’t leave Locations active on my phone. However, I know many people that do. Consistently, they are logged on to multiple social media sites. Why should we have concern if we must wear another tag or two’?

Whenever I bring up asset tagging, people are quick to discount the use of this technology in their own work worlds. They state concerns / excuses such as ‘we can’t afford it’, ‘the union would never buy it’, or ‘that’s too Big Brother for me.’ Three big questions do loom on this emerging frontier. Who should we tag? What data can we legally and ethically collect? What types of analysis and choices can we make when we use that data? Is any group’s opposition enough to keep this emerging technology from permeating the workplace?

CHECK OUT my 2-day ‘Best Practices in Mistake Proofing and Corrective Action Writing’ workshop! 

A Rapid Increase in Onboard RFID Diagnostics and Power

RFID tag application is becoming more cost affordable and commonplace, whether we are aware of this happening or not. Passive chip costs ranged between ten and fifty cents USD in 2017. Active chip costs ranged between $25 and $50 for the same time period. Keep in mind that Moore’s Law is in effect here. Memory density and processing speeds are doubling at least every 18 months.  RFID chip capabilities, such as signal strength and range, along with the ‘on board diagnostic’ analytics for active chips, are rapidly increasing as well.

The ‘too expensive’ or ‘too controversial’ management pushback is still strong outside of retail, where RFID application is helping to reduce shoplifting rates. Momentum is starting to build outside of North America, and with some early adopters here in the States. The folks at Celebration Health have pushed through the ‘too expensive’ barrier, and they are beginning to reap the benefits. The Disney parks are making increasing use of Magic Bands as each operating year passes. That is one thing that makes each trip to Walt Disney World so interesting. The process improvements I see relative to RFID application with each return visit are obvious.

At Walt Disney World, queue lengths are becoming shorter than in the past if you plan ahead. The Disney buses flow more effectively between parks. Wait times for service in general are significantly less. Disney bus driver safety seems to also have improved. I have observed essentially no ‘high risk’ behaviors on recent visits. I have to think that the implementation of fleet management software and RFID-based tracking has had something to do with this. Better information, especially real time performance information, leads to better decisions and more effective asset utilization when we use that information correctly.

LEARN MORE: Process Improvement Strategies and Solutions

How Can We Use RFID Tag Application to Manage and Improve Asset Performance?

Before you push back too much on being tagged, you might want to think a little about whether you have already been tagged. It may not be RFID, but if you have ‘locations’ active on your phone, people can track you, just as cookies track your Internet usage patterns. Most new passports have RFID chips in them. Soon, RFID tags will replace VIN numbers in cars and drivers’ licenses will be tagged.

Given my late ‘baby boomer’ age, it is easy for me to think about ‘Big Brother’ whenever I talk about tag use on all assets. At the same time, I have seen the reductions in personal injury, equipment damage, and process wait times due to tag use. More importantly, as a customer, I consistently experience the improvements in customer service and service value that the use of real time technology helps provide. It is an exchange that I know I will make.

People will push back as we use and deploy new technologies to greater degrees. Compared to the past, they are more intrusive. At the same time, they help us manage processes and meet (if not exceed) customer expectations more consistently. When your time comes, how willing will you be to tag them all?

EXPLORE MORE: Workplace Safety Best Practices

Some High-Powered RFID Tag Application Examples

Here are some high-powered RFID tag application examples that organizations of any type might benefit from using:

  • Asset Tracking – When each human or equipment asset is tagged, their locations, movements, and travel patterns can all be tracked. Such an approach is being used to help optimize surgical team performance in healthcare and heavy equipment utilization in construction. Such tagging also provides enormous security gains.
  • Asset Utilization Optimization – You can use the time-based data RFID tags capture to help optimize the utilization of both human and equipment assets. Plus, this data helps fuel simulation models for training and decision-making purposes.
  • Compliance Checking – RFID chips are used to monitor the use of personal protective equipment on a real time basis. For example, links exist between the PPE chip, the work geozone, and the employee tag. If the distance between gets too great, or we cross a boundary, ‘someone’ receives a notifications.
  • Controlling Security / Safety Perimeters – Organizations use RFID tags to set and monitor safe work zones and security perimeters in a very low-cost manner. Plus, you can use tags to monitor and control asset entry / exit through perimeter access points.

Don’t wait for process errors to teach you about the importance of human factors engineering. Many of us already wear multiple tags on more than one device. We send out the signals already. How can we use such information for good?

How can we use the steady streams of location, rate of travel, environmental factor, biometric, and other data from our internal and external customers to make better decisions?

Take the initiative to learn more about how RFID tag use can improve asset optimization. Explore how RFID tag use can help change your work systems and minimize the potential for human error. Don’t rely on experience to be your teacher. Too much trial and error is not an effective way to learn.

Remember, systems shape culture. How can we use systems and process design to drive error-free task performance?

Keep improving! – Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems

This post comes from a chapter in Kevin’s book Error Proof – How to Stop Daily Goofs for Good. You can buy this book in both e-book and print versions from Amazon.com.

Please email your questions to me at kevin@greatsystems.com

LIKE Great Systems on Facebook

CONNECT with me on LinkedIn

CHECK OUT my Amazon.com Author Page

FOLLOW me on Twitter: @greatsystems