Fabricom has Belgian first with largest RFID project for efficient materials management

Fabricom, specializing in innovative technical installations and services for energy, has signed a contract with Quentris worth approximately €1 million. The project comprises over 92,000 pieces of tools and materials that will be equipped with RFID tags. By simplifying its materials management in this way Fabricom gets a better view, in real time, of the stock and the incoming and outgoing material. For the implementation Quentris called on PHI DATA, specialist in innovative technologies including product identification and tracking. For Belgium, this extensive RFID project is a first.

Need for automation

A dozen branches of Fabricom provide tools and materials to hundreds of different sites all over Belgium. Managing all 92,000 items had not been automated so far and required a large investment in time and money. Fabricom was looking for a solution to accurately identify the different pieces, to track and trace them when they entered or left a branch or a site, and to reduce the manual input and error rate.

With this RFID project Fabricom wants to improve the internal processes, which will also benefit its customers. For the project deployment the company relies on daughter company Quentris and auto-ID specialist PHI DATA. The latter is responsible for the implementation of the RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification) and the corresponding reading systems, such as mobile computers and the user interface for them. As project leader, Quentris takes care of the integration with Fabricom’s ERP (SAP) for the data processing and the implementation of a new wireless Cisco network.

Robust RFID solution

Given the extreme conditions to which the material at Fabricom often is exposed, the company chose for material identification via radio technology. After several ‘stress tests’ the appropriate RFID tags were selected. These tags can be attached in a simple way to ladders, lifting material, drills, welding stations, generators etc. and cover the life of the material.

“In a first phase all items will be equipped with an RFID tag. By linking with the ERP system Fabricom can easily manage the material orders. Gradually, we can then evolve towards an active RFID environment, in which the material is tracked from beginning to end. This allows for example, to better analyse yards and associated costs, to speed up processes and to streamline the inspection of the materials. Once there are Wi-Fi networks available on yards, the materials are also easier to locate and they can be found much quicker when lost,” says Erik Cotman, Business Development Manager at PHI DATA.

“With this project we clearly demonstrate that innovation is of paramount importance for Fabricom also internally. By improving our own processes also our external customers notice an additional advantage. We see this as a true investment towards the market. Obviously, we have set high standards regarding the durability of the tags, the data processing, the user-friendliness of the interface and the SAP integration. Quentris, as projectleider, and PHI DATA have used their joint knowledge in order to comly with these.” says Luc Masquelin, Operations Support Services Manager at Fabricom.

Jan Lamaire, General Manager at Quentris: “Quentris and PHI DATA cooperated regularly in the past? This was not our first project. However, this is the largest project ever: an RFID project with almost 100,000 assets is unheard of in Belgium. We hope that this feat is the beginning of a strategic  collaboration, especially since we see an increase in demand for these RFID solutions and together with PHI DATA we can offer a professional and complete package.”

In September 2010 Quentris and PHI DATA started the pilot phase, in January 2011 the roll-out followed. Given the complexity of this comprehensive project, the delivery of a first functional part is expected between June and September 2011.

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