Air Force Fire Reminds Us that Tiny Parts Play Big Safety Role

6990918855_de0fa1db70_bIf you ever needed more evidence that tracking and maintaining even the smallest parts in an aircraft is critical, you need look no further than the multi-million dollar fire that erupted on an Air Force reconnaissance plane back in April.

The plane was taking off for a training exercise in Nebraska when it skidded to a stop and then burst into flames. Thankfully, the 27 airmen on the plane all made it off safely. As it turns out, the culprit was a defense contracting company, L-3 Communications, that failed to tighten a nut.

According to the Aug. 3 report from U.S. Air Force investigators: “Failure by L-3 Communications depot maintenance personnel to tighten a retaining nut connecting a metal oxygen tube to a junction fitting above the galley properly caused an oxygen leak. This leak created a highly flammable oxygen-rich environment that ignited.”

The fire caused $62.4 million in damage to the RC-135V aircraft. You can read more about the incident on CNN, or if you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can read the full Air Force report here. Continue reading

RFID Improves Patient Safety and Work Flow Efficiency in the Operating Room

Chirurgen operieren in OP-Saal an PatientenOperating rooms and surgical centers can be hectic environments, with multiple patients entering and leaving for different types of procedures, conducted by different surgical teams. Every procedure requires a fresh, complete, and fully sterilized set of surgical instruments specific to that operation.

Surgical kits are assembled in advance of each procedure, matched to the patient, and then counted before and after the operation. This is to ensure that the doctors have everything they need before they begin, and to make sure that no instruments go missing after the procedure. All instruments have to be accounted for to ensure patient safety — many doctors have accidentally left surgical tools inside their patients.

But because of human error, 100 percent accurate instrument counting can be difficult to achieve. Many factors can compromise accuracy, including inaccurate instrument lists; personnel may not be familiar with the instruments; or staff may be rushed because of a packed surgical schedule. The time necessary for a staffer to hand count instruments adversely affects room turn-over time, thereby increasing costs. Continue reading

RFID Reduces Total Cost of Ownership for Missing Tools

Builder WomanThe cost of a missing tool goes far beyond the actual price a company pays for the particular tool. Wasted labor hours are lost searching for the tool or finding a replacement. Machine downtime may be extended during that search. Deadlines might be missed because of that downtime. For manufacturers, this can result in an asset tracking “Butterfly Effect” in which the cost of the lost tool is compounded the further along the production chain you get.

That’s where RFID comes in. Rugged, on-metal RFID tags can help companies accurately track each tool’s location, who used it last, and where it was last checked-in or checked-out of a tool crib. Automating tool tracking can eliminate these losses, help companies avoid purchasing extra tools, provide a check on calibration processes, and reduce total cost of ownership.

When these automation systems are integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and project management solutions, the benefits are even greater. Using a particular tool is typically associated with a process step in manufacturing, so work-in-process and tool inventories can be tracked and coordinated. Continue reading

IoT and the Datacenter

It consultant install blade server in datacenterOver the past few months we’ve discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) and RFID will impact operations in manufacturing, healthcare, and the oil and gas industry.

But using that large amount of data will require an investment in data center resources and/or cloud-based computing resources in order to process and analyze the information being gathered from RFID tags, sensors, and smart devices. Currently, this type of Big Data analytical activity takes place in the datacenter, and with increasing frequency companies are tapping cloud-based datacenters.

According to this article in Forbes, that model can “break” under the weight of 200 billion connected devices expected to be online in 2020. The amount of data collected could double every two years. The solution: analytics at the network edge.

Edge-based analytics can reduce latency and shrink the amount of data that actually has to be transmitted from the point of activity back to the datacenter. Cisco Systems predicts that up to 40% of IoT data will be processed via this type of distributed computing infrastructure by 2018. Continue reading

Oil & Gas Companies Continue to Invest in New Technology

oil workers with machinery large refinery in backgroundPlummeting crude oil prices have hammered oil and gas companies, but many of these firms are still making sizable investments in digital technologies according to a recent survey released by Accenture and Microsoft.

The “Oil and Gas Digital and Technology Trends Survey 2015,” conducted by PennEnergy Research, found that 32 percent of respondents plan to invest the same amount of their budgets in digital technologies, while another 25 percent plan to invest more or significantly more in those technologies. In the next three to five years, 80 percent of companies will invest the same amount, more or significantly more in digital technologies.

What are they investing in? Mobility, infrastructure, and collaboration technologies are the largest areas where they are placing their tech dollars presently. More importantly, in the next three to five years, they plan to deploy big data and industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technology, as well as automation systems. Continue reading