Equipment Inspections – Part II
Welcome to our next instalment of Equipment Inspections! If you’ve just tuned in – you can read our first post here: the quick summary is that everyone tends to dislike equipment inspections, and 5th Point are currently implementing new RFiD tech, courtesy of DMM Wales, in conjunction with moving to Papertrail, a ‘cloud based’ equipment management system.
Our last post left off with a super quick introduction to both RFiD and Papertrail – now we are moving on to implementation.
Q2 – Before you made the switch to your current Papertrail system what were you using?
Leigh: Spread sheet of death.
Deborah: Just a simple spreadsheet.
Q3 – This question is for Deborah –You are responsible for the actual admin of the PPE inventory at 5th Point. Prior to this new system can you give us an idea of what was involved?
Deborah: The administration of our old PPE log was time consuming; we had it structured so that each product has its own category, and then separated into equipment types – but it’s still looking at a whole series of numbers and dates in a line. Human error can occur; edit the wrong field, delete the wrong cell and the whole log can go out of whack. When we conduct large inspections, the slowest part is the locating the item in the spreadsheet, and then marking down the details of the inspection. I’d often be still looking for a number / unique identifier while the PPE inspector would be waiting to read out the next number to me.
One of the critical decisions that bumped 5th Point over the line to Papertrail, was the outsourcing of data input. Being able to send over our existing Equipment Log and have it completely imported and uploaded into our new database saved us a lot of time and money. We somehow managed to skip the critical staff training session, where all key personnel were trained in the use of Papertrail, yet we managed to stumble through it and set up multiple account users to access only some of our multiple equipment log’s (yes – multiple. you have total control over who can see what log of what gear). We set aside a week for inspecting our training facility equipment: and have a very, very rough plan on how time-effectively implement and retro-fit the RFiD tech to our gear.
Did it go to plan?
Q4 – Deborah – When I showed you the DMM iD system I remember you could see straight away how it could remove a lot of the pain from the administration of inspections. Now you have been going through the actual implementation can you give us a brief summary of your thoughts on the system now?
Deborah: Implementing the RFiD is a pain; it’s time consuming, and a little tricky to get your head around. I never had any formal training in the use of Papertrail – so combining the two felt a little frustrating, but I’m fairly used to poking around programs at work, and could understand the basics quickly. What became obvious to me, was that while this was going to be time consuming to implement – for our next inspection, I could see the speed in which we could log the data. Instead of the data-entry being the time-consuming part, the physical inspection of equipment would be the time-consuming part – as it rightly should be.
Q5 – How did the adding of the RFiD codes to your existing records go?
Leigh: the app on the phone worked real well with the rope logging.
Deborah: We were able to have our entire equipment log imported into Papertrail, by Papertail. It saved us a lot of time. Adding the RFiD to the items was a little tedious, but it’s one of those things where once you get into a rhythm of it, it’s painless. You can search by unique identifier, and then there is a specific field just for the RFiD chip. One beep and it’s done.
So what exactly do we mean by time consuming? Well – DMM RFiD have come up with four options for retrofitting existing equipment with their technology:
- RFiD Dot
- RFiD Zip-tie
- RFiD Helmet Sticker
- RFiD Rope Label
Lets go through each of them and explain in detail ….
The DMM iD Dot is a 7mm disc, with a low profile containing an RFID tag with a unique serial number. They are available in packs of up to 100, and supplied with adhesive kit and instructions for attachment.
The glue is a two-part epoxy, and the Dot itself comes with a 50 year lifespan. The biggest issue attaching these to gear is how many you try and attach at once. If you’re just doing it on your own, you can only really get away with doing 10 at a time, before the glue itself starts to harden: we advise that you have one person putting the glue down, and another putting the Dots into place.
You’ve got to make sure that the surface you are attaching the Dot to has been cleaned first, and it put somewhere on the equipment where it won’t obscure any pre-existing engraving / marking / identification / information supplied by the manufacturer. It’s also worth attaching them where the low profile of the Dot is protected, to avoid the Dot getting knocked about or damaged during use.
So far, we have only attached the Dots to metal items such as back-up devices, descenders, ascenders, pulleys and other assorted equipment that is predominantly made out of metal.
P.S. it is also highly likely that you will glue your fingers together at some point.
The DMM iD Zip-tie is simple to use; it is quite literally a zip-tie with an RFiD chip built into it. These are available in packs of up to 50 units.
The Zip-ties allow you to tag textile materials; such as harnesses and slings. The tricky part of attaching these is deciding where on the equipment to attach it to. You can’t tuck the RFiD chip side behind webbing on a harness – if it is too tight or fiddly, then when it comes to scanning the chip you’re in trouble. The reader has to have un-restricted access to the chip. If the zips tie is attached too tightly, you run the risk of damaging the textile, and if it is attached too loosely, then it becomes a hazard as there is a risk of it being caught / ripped off.
Luckily, a lot of harnesses have integrated loops available throughout. There are a LOT of attachment options. We strongly recommend placing them in the same location on every harness type, as it makes locating them a lot easier. We’ve chosen to get them as close as possible to the existing unique identifier tags that the manufacturer has placed on the equipment / PPE.
Same goes with attaching them to slings. They do have to be attached firmly: you don’t want anyone accidentally clipping a carabiner through the zip-tie. Out only really criticism with the zip-ties is the excess cut off. It would be great to see DMM release varied lengths in the future to avoid plastic waste.
iD Helmet Sticker
The iD helmet stickers are designed for marking helmets but they are usable on any plastic products. iD Helmet Stickers are durable resin domes, best applied to the inside of helmets, where they can be reached with the iD Reader, but will be protected from abrasion and impacts.
Once again, you need to make sure your helmets are clean as they are best applied to smooth finish surfaces rather than textured surfaces. Luckily the inside of helmets don’t typically have textured surfaces. But still: clean the helmet first.
We’ve been a bit baffled at the size of these stickers in comparison to the iD Dot’s: 7mm vs 33mm. The sheer size of the helmet stickers restricts placement: so far it’s the back of the helmet that wins, but this is also where manufacturers place their own unique identifiers / safety information about the product. And once again, you can’t overlap the iD sticker on manufacturers pre-placed stickers.
The one good thing about the size of them, is that they are easy to spot when you need to scan the iD.
iD Rope Label
The iD Rope Labels are designed for thermal printing, allowing you to include any additional information about that length of rope. Or, you can just use a pen. They are supplied with low profile heat shrink, which has a heat activated adhesive to secure firmly and durably around the rope and label. Available in packs of up to 100 units.
So far, we’ve been very impressed with the heat activated adhesive in the heat-shrink: typically normal heat-shrink slides off ropes within a month of application.
For our ropes; we’ve tagged one end with the Rope Label containing the RFiD chip + our additional information and sealed with the supplied heat-shrink, and then on the opposite end of the rope we have tagged with our additional info on the rope and dip-sealed. Problem with the dip-seal is time – it takes a fair amount of time to dry, where as the heat shrink is super fast and easy to apply.
The Rope Labels can also be attached to cows-tails! Previously, any tags or identifications wash off / fall off within weeks of application. Heck, let’s be honest … most rope’s lose their markings far too quickly.
Each of these four RFiD options so far have been applicable to our pre-existing equipment: allowing us to tag everything we have (except carabiners).
Because we sent off our old Equipment Log to Papertrail prior to implementing the RFiD, when it was time to add the RFiD codes to our log, we simply had to locate the item, and scan in the RFiD code.
The process for this was simple: the built in search function allowed us to search within a category: i.e. only search through Descenders via 4 digits of the unique identifier. Once the item was located, you can expand the products information fields: there is already a field within Papertrail specifically for recording the RFiD code.
How do you record the RFiD? With the DMM RFiD Reader! The favourite (hated) saying of the week was “it’s like a fast and accurate keyboard”. But it’s true: one beep, and the RFiD Reader loads the entire code directly into the field you have selected. There’s no typing needed. If you were using DMM RFiD without Papertrail; the same is applicable in what ever platform you are logging your equipment in. The Reader connects to your device via Bluetooth, and once it picks up the RFiD chip, it spits it back out into the selected field on your computer / tablet / phone.
So while we spent a week glueing our fingers together, arguing over where to attach a zip-tie and trying to surreptitiously stick Dots where they don’t really belong: the actual scanning process once the RFiD was in place was fast.
We’ll talk more about that next week!
Disclaimer: the images of the DMM iD Dot, iD Zip-tie, iD Helmet Sticker and iD Rope Label are all courtesy of DMM Wales.