NFT implements RFID solution for fleet management

Tower crane major says deal with UK-based solution provider will improve inventory management and asset evaluation in post-Covid environment

Tower crane specialist NFT has announced a deal with a UK-based company and its UAE local representative to track its large fleet of tower cranes using Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) solutions.

NFT, the largest Potain dealer in the world, said in a statement that with the solution, all its tower cranes, construction hoists and their respective parts and accessories are tagged and then linked to an asset tracking and management software. This in turn is then integrated with NFT’s software solution for inventory management and asset evaluation.

The company said the new facility provided under the deal with the UK-based company, which was concluded in December 2019, is even more relevant now in the Covid-19 scenario, with its statement adding: “If the Covid-19 pandemic has done anything, it’s to accelerate the need for businesses to embrace digital transformation.”

Amer Sneij, plant manager at NFT, said: “Having the world’s leading fleet of tower cranes spread across 300,000sqm calls for an automated way of tracking our assets. Relying on a manual/offline solution was fine 20 something years ago when we had just a few hundred cranes spread across three medium-sized yards, but today with 2,500 tower cranes, 500 hoists, 10,000-plus accessory types and a warehouse filled with spare parts, the old way has become a challenge.”

With an average turnover of one crane delivered per day and catering to multiple destinations worldwide, technology has become a necessity for NFT. Nagham Al Zahlawi, deputy general manager, explained: “The objective is to minimise human error and wastage while optimising inventory managing, strategic planning and ‘real time’ decision making. IoT, RFID, Asset Tracking have all become standard in the construction, logistics and oil & gas industries. We believe that NFT’s strategy for modernisation and compliance with international standards of trading, allows it to be in the perfect position to adopt this technology and benefit from its operational efficiencies and cost saving.”

A customised cloud-based system has been developed from scratch to match NFT’s process of fleet tracking, storing, loading, inspecting, assembling, mobilising and re-stocking. For example, to avoid loading tower crane parts on trucks or containers without any missing piece, an automated gate barrier at the workshop only opens when the reader scans all parts on board and signals that it’s good to go.

“This was an important feature to add because the worst thing that can happen on site during installation is for us to deliver a crane part with a piece missing, like a pin. It can halt the entire installation, delaying the project for the client,” added Sneij.

Once the workflow was developed, two tagging teams were assigned to complete the job on the ground. The teams comprise a logistics manager, two logistics supervisors, two welders and four logistics helpers. The teams have successfully tagged 200 tower cranes from July to September 2020 and aim to complete Phase 1 by Q1 2021. The next phase will be to track all construction hoists.

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