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How Impinj R720 RAIN RFID Readers transformed Christie Lites’ Operations, a global lighting equipment rental company boosted efficiency with asset tracking solutions from Barcode Technologies

How Impinj R720 RAIN RFID Readers transformed Christie Lites’ Operations, a global lighting equipment rental company boosted efficiency with asset tracking solutions from Barcode Technologies
Overcoming operational hurdles with Impinj R720 RAIN RFID Readers

Christie Lites knows how to light up a stage. The Orlando, Florida-based global lighting equipment rental company has been illuminating venues from intimate theaters to 10,000-plus-seat stadiums, since 1985 with their robust inventory of stage lights and related equipment.

Christie Lites massive valuable asset collection includes hundreds of thousands of items in several warehouses, globally, ranging from small connectors and cords to high-end lights costing thousands of dollars apiece. While Christie Lites excelled at putting performers in the spotlight, it struggled with aspects of its barcode-based inventory management system that was slowing down its busy team. Every time crews returned the valuable asset to the warehouse after a big show, it would take four employees more than eight hours on average to manually scan the barcodes on every cord, spotlight, dimmer, and strobe as they were unloaded from trucks and checked in the returns.

The system was more than slow; it had a high potential for human error. If an employee forgot to scan a piece of equipment at check-in, for example, it would show up as missing, and its actual location — in another vendor’s truck, somewhere in the massive warehouse, or left behind at the venue — was anyone’s guess. Christie Lites needed a faster, more reliable way to keep track of its inventory and ensure every asset/item was returned. Using its Coventry, England, warehouse as a test case, company leaders decided to modify its existing asset inventory tracking solution to incorporate Impinj RAIN RFID label tags and UHF RFID Impinj R720 readers.

Christie Lites turned to Impinj partners Barcode Technologies and Beontag, for help.

By fully automating a formerly manual check-in process, the Impinj R720 RAIN RFID Readers gave Christie Lites the ability to:
Increase efficiency and reduce errors  
Gain real-time visibility into the location of each of their assets  
Reduce loss and improve accountability  
Optimize use of its warehouse space  
RAIN RFID spotlights asset tracking efficiency

Christie Lites affixed each asset with RAIN UHF RFID tags labels based on Impinj RAIN RFID tag IC chips and set up Impinj R720 RAIN RFID fixed-mounted readers to read them as they passed back through dock doors and moved through the warehouse. This helped Christie Lites get the item-level insight they so needed to speed up their processes and cut down on errors.

Christie Lites needed tags that would stay affixed to its equipment even under the extreme heat of stage lights. They had to be durable as well: assets like brackets and clamps are often thrown from scaffolding into bins when the stage is disassembled. And while adhesive RAIN RFID tags are typically white, these tags needed to be black so they wouldn’t stand out on stage — especially under the glare of UV lights.  

Christie Lites selected two RAIN RFID tags offered by Barcode Technologies both from Impinj partner Beontag: the Confidex Ferrowave label tag for on-metal items and the Confidex Casey label tag for all other assets.

Here’s how Christie Lite’s RAIN RFID asset tracking solution works:
Beontag Confidex RAIN UHF RFID label tags — two per asset where possible — are affixed to all Christie Lites assets. Double-tagging gives Christie Lites a level of redundancy and also greatly improves pickup rates on assets like cables, which are easily lost. Beontag customized the black tags especially for Christie Lites, which included extra-durable substrates and adhesives to stand up to extreme temperatures and humidity fluctuations.
Impinj R700 RAIN RFID readers and antenna hubs installed at dock doors read the returning crates as they pass through the doors, recording the items inside as "returned." The battery-free tags are energized by the RAIN RFID reader's radio waves and use the antenna to transmit data.  

To add an extra layer of accuracy, warehouse employees use Chainway C72 UHF RFID Circular Polarised Antenna Mobile Handheld Readers from Impinj partners, in combination with the fixed RAIN RFID readers, to read each returning crate. The handheld readers feature the Impinj E710 RAIN RFID reader chip, which is designed for use in demanding applications where superior sensitivity, long range, and fast read rates are required.
Additional Impinj R700 RAIN RFID readers positioned throughout the warehouse keep track of the locations of assets in real time, ensuring employees can find exactly what they need, when they need it — and know if an item is accidentally misplaced.

Barcode Technologies, Beontag, and Impinj get Christie Lites moving quickly
Christie Lites’ leaders report that the company’s efficiency has improved exponentially since it deployed RAIN RFID in its Coventry warehouse. The Impinj R700 readers coupled with staff-operated handheld Chainway readers has increased the tag read rate from between 96-97% to nearly 100% and has improved the detection of particularly hard-to-read items like trunks full of hundreds of cables. And with less time spent tracking down wayward equipment, employees can spend more time focusing on their customers.  

“RAIN RFID has more than doubled our efficiency overall,” said Huntly Christie, Christie Lites’ CEO. That check-in job that used to take four people eight hours? It can now be completed by two people in just one hour. In addition, “We’ve also been able to hold 20% more stock without increasing manpower or warehouse space.”

Speeding up processes through automation
Thanks to RAIN RFID, Christie Lites’ equipment check-in process is no longer a show-stopping task. Since RAIN UHF RFID tags do not require direct line of sight, items can be read automatically in seconds as they re-enter the building — even if the items are packed in cases or moving quickly through dock doors. And since crews no longer have to scan each item by hand, the possibility of missing a piece of equipment is all but eliminated.   

Reducing errors and misplaced items
When employees are hand-counting hundreds of cables packed into a road case, some are sure to be missed. With assets valued as high as $30,000 for a single spotlight, crews need to know exactly where their equipment is at all times. The new automated process eliminates the need for employees to manually scan the barcode of every last cord, drastically reducing the potential for honest mistakes. With every item accounted for, employees no longer have to worry about where their equipment is.

Freeing space and optimizing resources
There's often little time to sort equipment between jobs for a busy lighting rental company like Christie Lites. The company’s manual process created bottlenecks at the warehouse and took up valuable floor space while items were sorted. RAIN RFID allows crews to quickly record items’ information and location status and return them to shelves — freeing employees to prepare for the next show.

Christie Lites’ success with Barcode Technologies Ltd UK and its Impinj RAIN UHF RFID technologies - RFID UHF R720 Readers and Impinj 32-port antenna R700 Hubs and Antennas with Impinj RAIN R700 series IC chip label tags deployment at its Coventry warehouse has accelerated plans for similar deployments at the rental company’s nine additional warehouses in Germany and throughout USA and Canada. Further underscoring the company’s commitment to RAIN RFID, Christie Lites’ leaders have formed a user group of equipment rental companies — including its competitors — with the goal of standardizing RAIN RFID’s use throughout the global lighting equipment rental industry.

Barcode Technologies and the Impinj Partner Network