Scanning Campus - RFID Works Harder for Western Illinois University

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The Challenge

Western Illinois University shares a challenge with most campus-based institutions: keeping track of a staggering amount of property spread across acres of facilities. Moreover, WIU students and equipment are on two campus locations more than 80 miles apart. 
For years, the university relied on bar code scanning to locate inventory, a process that included crawling under desks and scaling ladders to affirm about 30,000 fixed and mobile assets. Their annual inventory had a 9-month timeline, but the labor-intensive work usually crept into a 12-month job – a perpetual accounting of university property.

As WIU’s Inventory Record Control Supervisor, Denis Barnes’ knew there was room for improvement and wanted to pursue RFID technology to support the work of their Property Accounting and Redistribution Center. So, he executed a time study to make the case, showing it took about 300 hours to inventory the university’s departments via bar code scanning. 

Barnes’s study estimated a 40 percent time savings in migrating from bar code to RFID tracking of their laptops, projectors, vehicles, furniture, artwork and much more. The wage savings alone made the case to pursue a new system. 

Solution

Metalcraft’s bar code tags had been on campus for more than 30 years; many were still durably attached to WIU assets when the time came to purchase RFID tags. 

“We found Metalcraft’s tags didn’t fade outdoors on golf carts and bike racks,” said Barnes. 

As the university designed its system, confidence in Metalcraft’s past performance led Barnes to order Metalcraft’s RFID tags to begin the migration. The university’s solution ties assets to specific buildings and rooms. InLogic's RFTrack software brings the mobile, dual-mode scanner data to the WIU mainframe. These handheld scanners offered a considerably lower cost compared to fixed RFID antennae in buildings.

Metalcraft’s RFID tags were ordered with a printed Datamatrix code so staff can identify assets that require inventory, leaving older assets out of the process. Barnes added scan sheets for ceiling or roof-mounted items, relying on the dual-mode scanners to avoid ladders and rooftops.

Results

Western Illinois University now has a secure, fast and safe means of tracking assets at a much lower cost. 

RFID affirms asset locations with no manual entry, and the bar code scan sheets eliminate the more hazardous tasks of completing their inventory. The work to apply 19,000 tags also verified and cleaned up inventory detail; many unexpected finds were simply moved items.

“It’s working way faster than anticipated,” said Barnes. “We had a classroom that took about 15 minutes to scan all the bar codes – climbing ladders, unlocking and scanning items inside podium drawers. It took 51 seconds with the RFID reader. Even a computer lab is now about a one-minute walk-through.” 

As the initial tagging and testing is completed, Barnes now projects more than 50 percent time savings. 

“So far, the University’s really happy,” said Barnes. “Everyone’s impressed and surprised by how fast it’s getting done.”

For more information about InLogic's RFTrack software go to inlogic.com; for more information about using Metalcraft tags for your application, visit idplate.com or call 800-437-5283 or 641-423-9460.

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