Construction engineering firm Bechtel recently deployed an award-winning RFID solution for a complex project involving the construction of three liquified natural gas (LNG) plants on Curtis Island in Queensland, Australia.
The sites represented a supply chain challenge, given that they were accessible only by water and that two of the three sites — all with separate owners — had no room to store materials that would not be used within two weeks of delivery.
Bechtel deployed the Jovix system from Atlas RFID Solutions to assist in the tracking and delivery of materials from multiple storage locations to the three project construction sites. The tracking and delivery for the projects presented unique challenges given the vast size of the construction sites and their island location, requiring the materials to be stored on the mainland and transported across a harbor. The approach enabled automation of work processes typically performed manually and resulted in better than expected efficiencies.
Bechtel procured and deployed 60,000 active RFID tags from Identec Solutions. By doing so, Bechtel was able to track and trace more than 100,000 components, including 7,000 steel bundles and 40,000 pipe spools.
Bechtel relied on 13 gate readers to gather data, including five installed at mainland port facilities and one at each of the Curtis Island base ports. So far, the software system has recorded more than 6.3 million tags reads for the project.
In addition, Bechtel has tracked 1.2 million tag movements as material moves through the supply chain around Curtis Island and to its final destination.
“Without having an RFID solution, every one of those 1.2 million tag movements would have had to be manually recorded in the project databases,” says Edward Koch, automation specialist and software product manager for Bechtel. “Information latency would have been the norm.”
Koch says that without RFID, it could take up to 45 days to process an entire delivery of steel for part of the project. RFID reduced that time to 22 days. “That’s a real savings that you can obviously look at and understand in terms of labor and having the materials available at the workplace,” says Koch.
“The RFID solution had to be a tool, and not an obstacle,” says Koch. “We did not want to automate for the sake of automating. We wanted to automate to help radically alter how we would execute material management for the project. We could not afford to have a solution that was going to impact our execution. It needed to augment and enhance our processes.”
This week Bechtel was the recipient of a CETI Award for the company’s innovative use of RFID technology on the LNG projects. The CETI Awards honor individuals and companies that have conducted new and emerging technology implementations and are awarded by Fiatech, an international group dedicated to the global development and adoption of innovative practices and technologies.
“Our applying RFID technology to the Curtis Island projects is one of the most significant uses of the technology in the history of construction, and we are demonstrating that it can be a real game-changer in materials management,” says Mike Lewis, Bechtel’s global manager of construction.