Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas improved asset management accuracy and inventory count rates with a passive UHF RFID solution piloted and deployed by ABiTech, which now manages 27,000 assets.
Jul 04, 2022Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil and gas company, KazMunayGas (KMG), has improved the efficiency of managing and maintaining its equipment, furniture, appliances and other assets, using a radio frequency identification solution provided by the technology company Advanced Business Technologies (ABiTech). The deployment was a 2022 RFID Journal Awards finalist in the Best RFID/IoT Implementation (Other Industry) category.
Founded in 2002, KMG provides exploration, production, refining and transportation of hydrocarbons throughout Kazakhstan. The company operates four refineries in that country, as well as two in Romania, and accounts for 82% of the country’s refining market. In recent years, KMG has been looking for a way to achieve faster and more accurate inventories of its fixed assets, as well as automatic capture of maintenance and repair related data, according to Ravshan Rakhmatullayev, CEO of ABiTech.
Traditionally, asset inventories were performed via barcode scanners, paper and pen, a manual process that was time-consuming and error-prone, requiring the attention of a large number of employees. . “Workers would carry a printed spreadsheet of the assets and their serial numbers from the company’s SAP ERP software and compare the scanned data to the serial number,” Rakhmatullayev explains. “As the work took time, the inventories only took place once a year.”
To solve this problem, KMG started working with ABiTech, which offered to use UHF RFID technology for inventory tracking based on its own inventory software ASKOU, as well as various types of UHF RFID tags and mobile UHF RFID readers. RFID technology has now been deployed at three major sites in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, and the system tracks 27,000 assets.
Driving for best beacon and software performance
To test whether RFID technology could provide the functionality it needed, KMG launched a pilot project. She selected a single floor in the company’s offices, where staff affixed various passive UHF RFID tags to all assets, then used manipulated readers to check their readability. As operators scoured the floor with readers, they were able to capture the unique ID number of each tag attached to an asset, as well as transmit that data to the software via the office Wi-Fi network.
In part, the pilot was to test whether the tags would stay in place given the form factors of the assets and the materials they were made of. “After a few weeks,” says Rakhmatullayev, “we checked whether all the labels held together well enough.” The technology initially posed several challenges, he recalls, including problems attaching tags to polypropylene furniture and office chairs. The company selected the best beacons for about ten different form factors.
ABiTech has its own consultants, programmers and managers, says Rakhmatullayev, who consulted KMG. “The company has been working with RFID for a long time and has extensive practical experience,” he says. “Therefore, we carried out all the preparatory work ourselves, including the demonstration of capabilities, cost estimation, selection of equipment [and] expected benefits.” The company leveraged the pilot to perform inventories, while searching for specific assets with the reader in Geiger counter mode.
“It became clear that the time needed to perform an inventory has been reduced by an order of magnitude,” Rakhmatullayev said, adding that the number of employees involved had also decreased significantly. The first software connection problems were mainly due to the insufficient stability of Wi-Fi operation, he reports, although the company was able to solve the problem of Wi-Fi network availability.
Commissioning at three refinery sites
KazMunayGas deployed the technology across all facilities at the three sites for six months. Employees are now equipped with Zebra Technologies RFD8500 sled readers connected to Samsung J7 smartphones via a Bluetooth connection. The tags are printed on site using a POSTEK G2000e RFID printer, and the unique identifier encoded on each tag is then stored in KMG’s software, along with data about the equipment to which it is attached.
Maintenance personnel use technology whenever they perform maintenance or inspection on tagged equipment. The goal, the company notes, is not just to know where the assets are, but also their maintenance and inspection status. At the start of each day, service personnel typically receive tasks (and the order in which those tasks should be performed) on their mobile device.
As workers approach the equipment to be serviced, the sled reader, linked to their Android smartphone, captures the unique IDs of nearby beacons. The system then displays all the necessary information on the Android device regarding this equipment and the maintenance required. Workers can follow instructions, enter comments, take photos, and indicate when they’ve completed their work, while managers can monitor data to ensure equipment is properly maintained 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 feedback. alerts or reports related to the condition and status of assets. The software allows 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 tags, associate users with software and sled devices, and make firmware changes.
Inventory counting efficiency is increased fivefold
By monitoring the regularity and quality of equipment maintenance, the company reports that it has increased equipment reliability, “which is especially important and critical if the equipment is to provide safety,” said Rakhmatullayev. The solution has improved the accuracy and frequency of inventories, he reports. By detecting the locations of all goods through portable readers, he adds, the technology has reduced the rate of loss of assets due to misplacement or theft.
The resulting improvement in visibility and accountability has been immeasurable, says Rakhmatullayev, because it was impossible to calculate the cost of losses before the company implemented RFID. Reading tags for inventories can now be done in a fraction of the time required for manual inventories, he says, adding, “We expect the transition to an automated inventory system to speed up the process five times.
Since the system went live, Rakhmatullayev says, the company has found workers to be more efficient with their time, whether counting inventory or performing maintenance and inspections. As a result, he reports, “staff productivity soars and reliability increases.” Now that the technology is in place, KMG could expand how it uses the solution to further improve efficiency and transparency. “It offers new opportunities.”
Key points to remember:
- Piloting enabled KazMunayGas to field the most efficient UHF RFID tags to connect to each piece of equipment.
- Identifying Wi-Fi network problems early helped the company launch a comprehensive solution that communicates with each site’s backend software.
- Inventories and maintenance management are now more efficient and accurate thanks to the deployment of RFID.