Role of RFID Technologies in Building Construction Supply Chain Management
RFID Tags is a technology that is currently growing in use in other industries such as manufacturing and retail (Hannon, 2007).
Any construction business relies on its supply chain for the effectiveness and the speed of construction task. An overflow of the supply can create a situation of high clutter while not enough supply can easily become the bottleneck issue for the whole construction project. For such reasons, it is extremely important for the construction companies and businesses to monitor every process of supply management and determine how the supply chain system is maintained. Supply chain management includes placing orders for the supply, estimating what quantities of the products are required for different construction tasks, and ensuring that the construction workers always have enough supply of the resources to continue the work. The supply chain management also handles the work of finding alternatives to the existing supplies in case of a dispute or supply interruption. Ensuring prompt delivery of supply and an effective monitoring system has always been a challenge to the management of supply systems. Fortunately, the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has emerged as a perfect solution to this issue.
Background of construction technique
Any construction project follows basically the same procedure and a large part of it depends on the supply of the raw materials and the other equipment. Such items are the essential element of the whole project. The construction techniques are the traditional ways of using the supply chain management to develop the project from the scratch. While the construction project might differ in terms of techniques and the scale of the project, the supply chain method has remained utterly unchanged since the initial times. The contractors or developers initially estimate the resources required and then place it in the warehouses or at the site of construction. This makes the whole scenario very cluttered as it takes a lot of time to find the right piece of supply when it is required costing a significant amount of time in construction.
The new technique of RFID tags on the supply resources puts an advanced approach to the whole thing as it gives the task an enhanced process of knowing what goes where. Many projects depend on the small building blocks and with the help of RFID tags, the construction engineers can make it very easy to find the right piece of supply when it is needed. This is a method that saves great amount of time and also increases the accuracy of the whole construction task.
Advancement of the RFID technique
Nowadays a number of big and small construction firms are making use of RFID tags in the process of construction, locating the supply and resources and in placing the building blocks to their right place. The technology of Radio Frequency Identification tags have made great advancement in recent times and have been proved highly useful in various construction tasks. With constant development in this field, the RFID tags are now more versatile, reliable and cheaper than before. Now it is possible for a construction business to make use of RFID tags in the resources it is using and to tag every building block with help of RFID tags without putting a financial overhead on the organization. This technology doesn’t cost a lot these days and it is a onetime investment only that remains beneficial in all of the construction tasks. The construction companies can use these tags in placing the building blocks in their right places, finding the blocks and other tools easily when needed with help of tag readers. This whole approach increases the convenience of supply chain management tasks and improves the speed and efficiency of the task.
The shortcomings of the existing techniques
Even though the RFID technologies provide the potential benefit to construction industry for tracking the construction components, several limitations related to practical applications can be identified (Jang, 2007).
The development of RFID technique in the construction tasks was required due to the number of shortcomings that exist in the present situation of developing a construction projects. It is true about every large scale construction project that due to large number of resources available on the site, there is always a great deal of clutter present. Finding the right resource at the right time becomes extremely difficult, and it costs a lot of time sometimes to find the right resources when needed. This is a real situation in almost all the construction tasks and it slows down the construction process. Most companies keep some time in the estimated construction time reserved for this purpose only.
Most construction plans make use of small building blocks that go on in the actual building to finish the construction task. Putting these building blocks in the right place requires some efforts and is essential for the construction project. However, finding the building blocks and then identifying their right place in the project takes a lot of time with the current manual techniques. The site manager may need to search through every building block to find the desired one, and in a large scale construction task, there might be thousands of blocks that could take a great amount of time. To overcome these shortcomings, the construction companies need a different approach or technology that can speed things up and they have got it with the RFID tags technology as it will provide higher accuracy and better alternative of locating the resources.
Modern Approaches to Construction Supply chain management
Multiple RFID readers are deployed at fixed locations to receive the signals of active tags for tracking the tagged objects (Ustundag, 2012).
The modern approach in the supply chain management follows the rule of developing the habit of tagging all the resources and building blocks with RFID tags. This is a great way of keeping track of all the processes that are going on with the construction task. While the RFID tags might cost some nifty investment to the company in its initial implementation, these devices can really boost the speed of the construction and can help the company in finishing the whole work sooner. Each time the company finished a work in less time, that saves money to the company as the staff and machinery remains off duty or out for a new task.
The RFID tagging technique makes use of Radio Frequency identification tags which are placed on the various supply elements and building blocks for correct identification in the later processes of construction. This approach can very well assist the construction managers in keeping track of the individual elements and their placing at the right place. Not only it keeps the manager informed about the location of a particular supply item, but it also reveals the information about the available supplies to make sure that the manager knows when there is a need of new supply order. RFID technology is really revolutionary in the construction methods and it will surely result in great benefits.
Benefits of the modern RFID tags technology in construction business
RFID is a branch of automatic identification technologies using radio frequencies (Ruwanpura, Mohamed & Lee, 2010).
The use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can surely boost the speed of the construction tasks and may very well result in modification of the present technology to a higher extent. A construction company can monitor its supply chain in a better way and certainly a more efficient way with the help of this technology. The benefits of this technology are listed below in regards to the construction supply chain management:
- Increased speed: The RFID tags make it easier for the managers and the field staff to locate the items and supplies quickly. This helps the speed issues of the construction task and makes the whole thing go a lot faster. Even in the tasks involving placing of the building blocks for the construction process to complete, this helps the site mangers or the Crain operators to easily find the block that needs to be placed. Overall, the RFID technique is precise and fast, and any construction task can benefit from both of these aspects.
- Accuracy: use of RFID tags provide every building block or supply item a specific code and this is not just limited to that as it can also store other information with the code. This information can involve details like where the block needs to be placed, what are the exact dimensions of it. This kind of information is readable through the RFID tag reader. This kind of technology ensures that no building block is placed at wrong place due to human error or technical mistake.
- Long term costing: RFID tags purchasing and implementation costs a little in the first phase of development. However, it quickly recovers its cost in one or two construction projects with increased profits to the company. Finishing projects quicker helps the company save money and this becomes a profitable investment for the company.
The RFID based tagging technology is a great technique to manage and monitor the supply chain in a construction business. The RFID technology will enhance in the near future and will reach a level that can better assist the managers with the development tasks of construction projects. The reliability of the tags will increase and so will the lifespan of the tags. In future it will be possible to simply monitor all of the RFID tags through a single computer screen to measure if all of the building blocks in the construction project are placed at the right place or not. Anyhow, the use of RFID tags in construction supply chain management has a bright future.
Ustundag, A. (2012) The value of RFID: Benefits vs. costs. Springer.
Hannon, J. (2007) Emerging technologies for construction delivery. Transportation Research Board.
Jang, W. (2007) Embedded system for construction material tracking using combination of radio frequency and ultrasound signal. ProQuest.
Ruwanpura, J., Mohamed, Y., & Lee, S. (2010) Construction research congress 2010: Innovation for reshaping construction practice. (Vol. 1, p. 247) ASCE Publications.
Hunt, V., Puglia, A., & Puglia, M. (2007) RFID: A guide to radio frequency identification. John Wiley & Sons.
Finkenzeller, K. (2010). RFID handbook: Fundamentals and applications in contactless smart cards, radio frequency identification and near-field communication . John Wiley & Sons.