Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil and gas company, KazMunayGas (KMG), has improved the efficiency of the management and maintenance of its equipment, furniture, appliances and other assets, using a radio frequency identification. With the use of passive UHF RFID the company has experienced improved asset-management accuracy and inventory-counting rates.
Workers carried a printed spreadsheet of assets and their serial numbers from the company’s SAP ERP software and compared the scanned data against the serial number. Because the work was time-consuming, inventory counts took place only once a year.
Founded in 2002, KMG provides exploration, production, refining and transportation of hydrocarbons throughout Kazakhstan. The company operates four refineries in that nation, as well as two in Romania, and it represents 82 percent of the country’s refining market. In recent years, KMG has been seeking a way to gain faster and accurate inventory counts of its fixed assets, along with the automatic capture of data related to maintenance and repair.
Traditionally, asset inventory counts were accomplished via barcode scanners and paper and pen, a manual process that was time-consuming and error-prone, which demanded the attention of a large number of employees.
To address this problem, KMG began used UHF RFID technology for inventory tracking based on its own ASKOU inventory software, along with various types of UHF RFID tags and mobile UHF RFID readers. RFID technology has now been deployed at three large locations in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, and the system is tracking 27,000 assets.
Piloting for Best Tag and Software Performance
To test whether RFID technology could provide the functionality it required, KMG launched a pilot. It selected a single floor within the company’s office, where personnel affixed various passive UHF RFID tags to all assets, then used handled readers to check their readability. As the operators walked around the floor carrying readers, they were able to capture the unique ID number of each tag attached to an asset, as well as forward that data to the software via the office’s Wi-Fi network. In part, the pilot was intended to test whether tags would remain in place given the assets’ form factors and the materials of which they were composed.
Going Live at Three Refinery Sites
KazMunayGas deployed the technology throughout the entire facilities at the three sites over the course of six months. Employees are now equipped with Zebra Technologies RFD8500 sled readers linked to Samsung J7 smartphones via a Bluetooth connection. The tags are printed onsite using a POSTEK G2000e RFID printer, and the unique ID encoded on each tag is then stored in KMG’s software, along with data about the piece of equipment to which it is attached.
Maintenance personnel use the technology every time they conduct service or inspection to a piece of tagged equipment. The goal, the company notes, is not simply to know where assets are, but also their status related to maintenance and inspection. At the beginning of each day, service personnel typically receive tasks—and the sequence in which those tasks should be carried out—on their mobile device.
As workers approach the equipment to be serviced, the sled reader, linked to their Android-based smartphone, captures the unique IDs of tags within its vicinity. The system then displays all necessary information on the Android device regarding that piece of equipment and the maintenance required. Workers can follow the instructions, input comments, take photos and indicate when they have completed their work, while managers can monitor the data to ensure that equipment is being appropriately serviced, and when.
The software runs on desktop computers using the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system. By accessing data in the software, managers can view inspection and maintenance information in real time, as well as process results and receive alerts or reports related to assets’ conditions and status. The software enables the company to encode and print its own UHF tags for new assets, while integrating all information with its own management software. Those using the system can manually reassign labels, associate users with the software and sled devices, and make firmware changes.