RFID concepts expandedTransponders and readers are being put to use in the construction industry in a Dresden Technical University-HARTING projectIn the near future, UHF-RFID system technology will be enabling numerous cost optimizations and innovations in the construction industry. A project under the auspices of the Dresden Technical University is focusing on identifying the various performance features and cost-reducing enhancements and integrating them functionally in such a way as to deliver decisive return on investment (ROI) in the productive system. The potential extends well beyond the actual construction process, and also includes service functions in the distribution network and complementary services. New legislative requirements for building structure documentation are also relevant here. Existing communication technology customary in construction - wireless or wired - must be taken into consideration and implemented. In the building trade, attempts to use RFID transponders (Radio Frequency IDentification) often fail in view of the general conditions. For example, the transponders are usually surrounded by materials that absorb their signals. Furthermore, uniform standards for the transponder-reader interface have been lacking to date, so that systems available on the market are neither compatible with each other nor interchangeable. This leads to isolated solutions with very high development costs that are not profitable for individual companies working alone. Other identification systems have not been able to gain acceptance at construction sites. The high mechanical demands, dirt and frequent position changes argue, however, against the use of barcodes, for example. The successful enhancement of RFID system technology in recent years has made deployment in the building trade feasible. This is exactly where the products developed by HARTING for RFID system technology enter the picture. The transponders are designed for direct use on metallic surfaces and on containers filled with liquids, while the IP65-level reader features a number of interfaces for stationary and mobile use. COOPERATION In the course of an ongoing research project, the Institut für Baubetriebswesen (Construction Institute) at the Dresden Technical University is pursuing the objective of a decentralized approach to information management by implementing "intelligent" components (such as reinforced concrete walls, prefabricated parts or masonry elements). The institute has invited HARTING to act as a cooperation partner in the new research project. The goal of the first "RFID technology in construction" research area project phase, which has been approved by the German Federal Construction Ministry and in which the formworks manufacturer Hünnebeck is also participating with HARTING, is to determine the benefits to be expected from each individual lifecycle phase (structure planning, structure manufacture, operation and maintenance, as well as the change of use, modernization and redevelopment, up to demolition of the building). One of the project's central ideas is to develop the basic conditions for the use of RFID technology in structural members and to define the hardware and software requirements. These examinations will be carried out in the formworks manufacture phase in particular, because the greatest requirements on the overall system are expected during this phase. The examinations will be conducted with the reading systems and transponders provided by HARTING attached to reference structural members from Hünnebeck. These parts will then have to prove their suitability at reference construction sites. OPTIMIZATION POSSIBILITIES Erecting a structure is a highly complex and unique process. Many of the optimized processes from the stationary construction material industry appear again in a similar form during the construction phase. Here are some examples of applications and their optimization potential: RFID USE IN THE CONSTRUCTION SEQUENCE Examinations conducted by scientists in manpower studies in the construction industry have shown that 30 to 50% of a project’s implementation time is unproductive and used for activities such as searching for, identifying, moving or transferring material. The actual quantities of construction materials kept on hand also differ considerably from the calculated quantities. By marking parts and materials with RFID transponders, the storage area can be utilized optimally and the material flow can be improved significantly. ACCESS CONTROL When construction vehicle access is registered automatically, construction managers always have up-to-date information on the type and quantity of materials at the construction site. The use of so-called “reader gates” makes costly manual checks of supply vehicles obsolete. In particular, this relates to the costly loading and unloading of large formwork elements. SAFETY THANKS TO RFID-BASED VERIFICATION According to occupational accident statistics, 71% of all scaffolding accidents can be attributed to the components themselves, with the scaffold boards causing 34% of the accidents (cause: wear and tear, damage or aging). Recording an element's lifecycle automatically allows maintenance management to be crucially improved and reliably documented. COMPLETE DOCUMENTATION Complete and thorough documentation for structures is also becoming more and more important. In the past, it was observed that the large quantity of information and the various interfaces resulted in the loss of important information. RFID technology makes it possible to record lifecycles without gaps, which in turn enables continuous quality certification. This requires long-lasting RFID products with an expected life of more than 30 years. The optimization possibilities given here all directly or indirectly contribute to improving construction costs, construction times, quality and job safety. "ROI" AS AN INHERENT DRIVING FORCE IN TECHNOLOGY A fundamental point for examination is the economic efficiency of such a system. The use of RFID technology is very closely tied to the issue of "return on investment" (ROI). The examinations illustrate what the goods and logistics industries have been saying for years, namely that a singular system that is used by only one of the parties involved is scarcely profitable. Given the fact that a large number of different companies are involved, particularly in the construction phase, a standardized system that can be employed by all parties to optimize the individual business processes will plainly be more economically profitable. Based on standardized communication protocols such as TCP\IP, HARTING is already focusing on future-proof technology for integral system communication for all the parties involved. Consequently, the use of RFID in construction could decisively improve the international competitive capability in the construction industry. The provision of proof that - taking various basic conditions into account - this technology can also be used for formwork and scaffolding elements is opening up optimization potential for all those involved. Defined hardware and software requirements targeted at the actual situation are allowing HARTING to develop optimal RFID products for applications in the construction industry.RFID WITH HARTING – NOW AND IN THE FUTURE The use of RFID technology is presently optimizing processes in stock-keeping, product management and the industrial manufacture of goods. The HARTING Technology Group has proven its competence in the microtechnology field. HARTING received the 2006 Hermes Award for the newly developed passive RFID UHF transponder. Integral reader systems allow seamless communication between transponders and the various control systems in use. As the project vividly illustrates, these can also be put to use in the construction industry successfully. At this time, such systems are only employed sporadically in construction. For example, large earth working machines are equipped with RFID in order to simplify technical monitoring of the machine, to perform error and disruption management online and to automatically record complete documentation of a machine's lifecycle. Even today, however, the use geared to optimizing the overall process for "manufacturing the structure" is still not a reality.