The crux of doing a great job as an RFID technician or engineer is the installation. If you are focusing your career on RFID and you are good at installing the systems and can run a project start-to-finish, you can write your ticket in the RFID industry. I have hired dozens of folks over the past few years, and for each hire I have them do a homework assignment. For an RF technician position, I usually assign a virtual RFID deployment in which I'll lay out a deployment scenario and see how that person would approach the deployment.
Every one of these assignments has some traps set for the folks who really don't know the details of RFID or who may not have that much experience. The biggest issue I have found with RF technicians is that many of them can run cable and bolt down RFID racks, but they don't have a good sense for running a project. They don't know how to make incremental steps to get to the final result-as the old saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
The steps for managing an installation methodology are as follows:
Set up the RFID technical design team
Create a project plan, or plan of action and milestones (POAM)
Follow a quality control (QC) process to evaluate the readers
Design a process to manage sub-contractors
Pre-certify and configure the readers
Step 1 of the methodology for managing an installation is to start building the team. The Technical Design Review Team (TDRT) should serve as a checkpoint for all site bill of materials (BOM) which is all the RFID equipment that is required for a deployment and deployment topology-or where each reader is going to be installed at the physical location, designs prior to sign-off and procurement. This really needs to take place after the site analysis, after the hardware selection, and prior to installation.
Because this chapter is all about installation and Chapter 5 "Designing the RFID Network," dealt with reader selection and design, now is the time to look at putting together a project design team. The team should be made up of your company's project leader and the client company's project leader, plus facilities, IT, and RFID engineers who will be impacted by the installation of an RFID network.
A TDRT will ensure that there is a technical review and best practices consistency prior to ordering equipment and performing on-site installation. Employing RFID subject matter expertise in this way will ensure consistency across deployments and identify avoidable problems prior to on-site installation.
After the TDRT is in place, you will need to make sure that work being performed is top-notch. This is where the next team is focused. The Quality Assurance (QA) Team should make sure that before any hardware is shipped to the client's site, it complies with all standards and regulations, and that it is ready to be installed and nothing is missing. Usually the QA team is made up of experienced deployment engineers who know how to run test equipment like spectrum analyzers. The QA team should make sure the following five points are covered in their process:
Equipment receipt and assignment to installation site BOM
FCC part-15 compliance
RF measurement of reader performance to ensure specification conformance
Portal preassembly and labeling of each component
BOM consolidation and shipment
There are several benefits of having a QA team. First, testing the readers is important because much of the current RFID equipment shipped can be in violation of FCC specification. This can cause illegal deployments and less than 100 percent accurate performance.
Second, having a faulty reader show up on-site could delay installation timelines while you wait for a replacement. Considering shipping times and the time needed to discover the problem, you might have an entire engineering team standing around twiddling their fingers and waiting for a reader to be express-shipped the next day.
Third, the preconfiguration of readers and preassembly of portals based on the RF path loss contour maps completed during the site survey will significantly streamline the on-site installation process.
Finally, the association and consolidation of the orders into a single shipment will increase shipping accuracy and simplify receiving processes and time at the distribution depots.
Real World Scenario-Breaking the Law
A once high-flying RFID reader company, Applied Wireless Identifications Group (AWID) faces a very uncertain future because they not only were caught shipping RFID readers that violated FCC regulations, part 15, but also never even applied for the license to sell equipment covered by those regulations.
This puts the company and its key employees in potential legal trouble and also, any of their clients who has a reader currently deployed now has to rip out that old investment and replace it with readers that are in compliance. Knowing what is in spec and what is not can save an awful lot of time and money in the long run.
My extensive work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has shown the value of having what the military-those crazy band of acronym creators-term the plan of action and milestones, or POAM. This is one of the most straightforward documents you could ever create, but generating one is valuable beyond most other things that you can do when getting ready for a deployment. The POAM lays down the concrete steps to successful completion of an installation. The steps can be broadly defined as follows:
Determine the project team.
Set a kick-off meeting.
Determine how long each facility will take to be deployed.
Map out interrogation zone (IZ) locations at each facility (RFID network topology).
Create a BOM based on the network topology.
Create a deployment timeline to include the following:
Create an acceptance testing timeline.
The U.S. federal government gets more specific and even indicates the look of a POAM as an eight-column classification that details what weakness is being addressed by the project, who is responsible, what budget is required, and so forth. It is worth looking at for more details : http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/m02-01.html. detail
At the very least, you should take your site survey plan and either enter it into an automated program such as EasyReader, or manually sit down with your client to map out the RFID network.
The first step is to combine the site survey material, business process work, and other pertinent information to lay out the RFID network on actual blueprints or engineering drawings. This visual display should be augmented with a timeline, resource planning (often referred to as level of effort, or LOE), and dependencies to create the POAM.
Real World Scenario-To Get an A, Focus on the M
To be rated top by your clients, the best thing you can do prior to the actual deployment is to create metrics that are easily measurable. The "M" in "POAM" is for "milestones." The milestones should be determined prior to the start of the project. How those milestones are measured will be critical to ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that you and your client can determine success. As I always say, you can't manage what you can't measure.