Disaster relief contractor Partnership for Response and Recovery Inspections, a joint venture of Dewberry & Davis and URS, put RFID technology’s ability to track government assets to the test in the aftermath of tornadoes, storms and floods that struck the southeastern United States in April 2011. The firm used AssetTrax, an automated solution from Entigral Systems and UPM DogBone™ UHF RFID tags to streamline the assembly, distribution and return of kits used by more than 400 field inspectors to evaluate damaged homes and businesses in Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Field inspectors use kits, containing hardened laptop computers, cameras, batteries, battery chargers and other items, to gather information and photographic evidence and electronically file claims on victims’ behalf to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Previously, PaRR used barcodes to tag approximately 65,000 pieces of equipment in its inventory and manually wrote or input serial numbers of items before distributing them. PaRR’s challenges managing this large-scale inventory base were further complicated by the fact that the firm customizes the equipment in its 6,000 inspector kits for different types of natural disasters.

PaRR Inspections worked with Entigral Systems to implement an RFID-based asset tracking system that would uniquely identify every item in its inventory and link items to both their kits and users, providing the company with enhanced visibility into the whereabouts of government assets and contract personnel. PaRR sought to streamline its kit assembly, distribution and return processes, while also reducing labor and equipment losses in the field.

Items and their carrying cases are tagged at PaRR’s warehouse in Winchester, Virginia; the UPM DogBone™ UHF RFID tags by UPM RFID record the electronic product code for each item. Operators then use the AssetTrax system, which includes handheld and fixed readers and software that captures tag data, to associate items with their carrying cases, pallets and warehouse storage locations.

When the recent disasters were declared, warehouse operators shipped pallets of pre-prepared kits to the company’s field offices in Alabama and North Carolina. Inspectors, who checked in at their designated field office, received RFID-tagged ID badges and kits, which were read and associated by fixed RFID readers onsite. After completing their mission, inspectors returned kits to their field office, which were read again to determine that all equipment had been returned.

“In the aftermath of natural disasters, responding promptly to citizens’
needs is essential,” says Jan Svoboda, Sales and Marketing Director, Americas, UPM RFID. “The asset tracking system from Entigral Systems and UPM RFID demonstrates how RFID technology can streamline critical operational processes and protect valuable inventory in challenging environments.”

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