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Asset Management Barcode RFID Hardware

Which Asset Tracking Technology Is Best for Your Business?

There is a confusing array of asset tracking technology options available — barcode labels, RFID tags, Bluetooth beacons, and more. Determining which one is best for your application can be a challenge. The type of asset tracking technology you need will depend on what you need to track, how many assets you have to manage, your budget, and your existing technology infrastructure. Here is a list of some of the more common asset tracking technology systems available, as well as their costs and ease of implementation.

Part of the key to determining which technology is best is the amount of information needed.  Usually, assets are tracked by “asset number” which is specific to each asset, rather than part number.  Gathering that information (data capture) and organizing that data (database structure and analytics) provide the basis for the technology chosen.

Barcodes

There a wide variety of barcode symbologies available. Two-dimensional codes (2D codes) that can hold much more data than traditional codes have grown in popularity because they are relatively small, can provide asset data even if the scanner is not connected to a database, and can be permanently marked or etched on items ranging from engine turbines to surgical scalpels. Benefits of these systems include improved accuracy, ease of use, and the relatively low cost involved in labeling assets.

Cost:The cost of barcode labels is very low compared to other tracking technologies. Companies still need to invest in asset management software, barcode scanning hardware, and either label printers or contract with a third-party label provider. How large an investment that entails will depend on the scope of the implementation. A few dozen barcode scanners may cost only a few thousand dollars; several hundred is an exponentially larger investment, particularly if you have to buy specialized hardware that is rugged enough to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Ease of Implementation:A barcode system will require manual labeling of all assets, which can be arduous for large asset fleets. Otherwise, barcodes are fairly unobtrusive and can be scanned with mobile devices, fixed scanners, or even smartphones.

RFID

RFID uses either passive or active tags to wireless track items in real time. RFID does not require line of sight, so tags can be read in any configuration. Also, many tags can be read simultaneously. This can be handy for applications such as scanning an entire rack of servers to manage IT assets, or scanning an entire van-load of tools. Unlike barcodes, the data on the RFID tag can be rewritten at the point of activity, so the information can be altered to reflect maintenance updates or other data.

Cost:Relatively low-cost passive tags can be used for an in-building or campus application. Of course, RFID tags, their readers and printers are more expensive than simple barcode equipment. For more widespread applications (such as tracking tractor trailers or cargo containers), longer-range active tags costing hundreds of dollars each might be required. However, those types of tags are often used on very expensive assets, so the cost of the tag isn’t an impediment given the potential benefits of the asset tracking technology.  Also, RFID infrastructure can be a significant expense, especially if many fixed RFID portals are required throughout a large location.

Ease of Implementation: RFID tags are susceptible to interference from metal, liquids, and other materials, so you’ll need to work with a vendor, integrator or VAR to select the right tag for your assets. The reader infrastructure also has to be carefully placed, so integration is more complex.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

BLE is a beacon technology that periodically broadcasts a signal to other surrounding BLE equipment. The beacons can run for years with very small batteries. They offer a high data transfer rate and are one of the least expensive options for real-time location tracking, though are more expensive tags than barcode or even passive RFID. They have a read range of 1 meter to 70 meters, and usually don’t require line of sight. The real value to the BLE beacons is what information may also be provided besides the “asset number”.  The Smart Tag BLE Beacons can also monitor vibration, shock, temperature, humidity and other environmental values.  They can also store information to provide a history of changes in the environment.

Cost:BLE is a more affordable option for active tracking applications in that you can avoid buying expensive RFID readers and use any Bluetooth enabled device to read the beacon — even a smartphone.

Ease of Implementation:BLE beacons are relatively easy to deploy, and rollouts can be done in phases. Since they don’t generally require a reader infrastructure, implementations are less complex. However, users still need to consider wireless interference, read range, and battery life when designing the solution.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT encompasses some of the other technologies mentioned above, like RFID and beacons, and combines that with onboard intelligence and sensor data. The IoT allows companies to track not only the location of a device, but also conditions — temperature, vibration, etc. Intelligent devices can also communicate usage information or fault codes, for example. For remote monitoring and maintenance applications, the IoT can provide real-time performance information that enables proactive maintenance and service.

Cost:IoT functionality is generally purpose-built into the asset rather than added later. The cost would be borne by the manufacturer.

Ease of Implementation:Users will require a way to access the data from the connected devices, and a software infrastructure (often cloud-based) to manage the influx of data from these systems.

Choose the Asset Tracking Technology That’s the Best Fit

The asset tracking solution universe continues to expand. The best asset tracking technology option for your company will depend on your business needs. Conduct a thorough analysis of what you want to accomplish with your asset management program, and match the technology to your requirements.

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Asset Management Custom Application Development Field Sales and Delivery RFID Software Transportation and Logistics

Developing a More Efficient Yard Management Strategy

Even with leading edge supply chain management tools, the trailer yard can be a black hole when it comes to inventory or asset visibility. Transportation management and warehouse management have improved operations prior to shipment arrival and after the goods are unloaded, but there is an efficiency and visibility gap between those two activities.

That’s where the yard management system (YMS) comes into play. Using these solutions can help you prioritize shipment arrivals, manage yard activity, improve efficiency, reduce unnecessary labor, and help track and identify trailer contents. These solutions are critical for developing a more efficient yard management strategy.

Here are some key steps to take to improve yard operations:

Develop a plan for improving yard management. Identify chokepoints in the facility. Find out which loads have been the most problematic to process, and investigate the reasons for those delays. If there are specific types of goods that require special handling (i.e., produce), outline what those needs are and what resources are required to successfully process those trailers.

Also, evaluate other processes that could be bogging down the yard. Returns management or other warehouse processes could be causing delays in the yard. Make sure you evaluate the incoming and outgoing processes that impact operations.
The project team should also set realistic goals and parameters for yard improvements. Establish allowable timeframes for trailer movement, and create an escalation process so that trailers that exceed those limits can be given priority.

Implement a YMS: A yard management system can also provide the visibility and downstream reporting that shippers need to keep their customers updated on shipment arrival and departure times.

Using a YMS helps better manage yard jockey activities because the system knows where each trailer is and where it needs to go. By improving the flow of trailers through the yard, shipments are unloaded on time and drivers don’t waste valuable minutes or hours waiting for their turn at the dock. Driver time can cost upwards of $50 an hour or more; by reducing the time spent checking in and unloading, companies can drive significant cost out of the supply chain and improve productivity.

It’s also important to minimize “lost” trailers in the yard. In large, busy yards it’s easy to lose track of any single trailer. By properly prioritizing and tracking those trailers, you can improve customer service while reducing the type of chaos that can result from manual processes. For large yards with a lot of dropped loads, a YMS can ensure you are properly tracking inventory, avoiding demurrage fees, and giving each shipment the correct priority based on its contents and customer requirements.

Evaluate your trailer yard layout. The yard should be divided into clearly marked zones (arrival, pick-up, empties, priority loads, repairs, etc.) so that drivers and jockeys can easily identify where they need to go. Just like in the warehouse, you should design the yard to limit moves and distances to gain efficiency.  A real-time intelligent YMS can direct the drivers to specific locations, and these locations can be validated via GPS to ensure trailer locations are accurate and up-to-date.

Improve dock scheduling processes. A dock scheduling system can help you better schedule labor capacity and develop a scheduling plan for the drivers that minimizes wait times, which will further improve yard management. Dock scheduling solutions can also help you measure loading/unloading times (for improvement purposes), record late arrivals, and devise scorecards to identify reliable suppliers and carriers.

Consider real-time location technology. Yard visibility can be greatly enhanced through the use of GPS and RFID technology. For example, the TrackX Yard solution combines RFID and GPS to automate yard operations, providing an ROI in 12 months or less. These solutions create a real-time location system in the yard that provides complete trailer visibility, which eliminates manual searches, reduces human error, and automates yard inventories. In addition, RFID can provide real-time information on the location of other yard assets, which helps optimize operations.

A more efficient yard management strategy can help eliminate expensive bottlenecks at the dock, and help you gain even more benefits from your existing supply chain and warehouse management solutions.

Contact omniQ for further information regarding optimizing your operations and trailer status visibility through a real-time Yard Management System.

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Asset Management

4 Reasons Why Smart Lockers are the Future of Asset Management

In many industries, employees use — and are entrusted with — expensive tools and devices that enable them to do their jobs more accurately and efficiently. Equipment including handheld bar code scanners, tablets, calibrated instruments, automotive tools, and in-store point of sale devices are distributed to employees on a daily basis in healtmobile computerhcare, manufacturing, fleet and field service organizations, retail, and a variety of other settings. If distributing and managing devices has become a drain on your time and resources, smart lockers can alleviate that burden.

Here are four reasons smart lockers may be the solution to your asset management challenges:

1. Manual device management is time consuming and labor intensive.Managers often manually issue devices and tools, recording — either on paper or a spreadsheet — the name of the employee and a descriptor or serial number of the device. Depending on the size of your workforce and how many devices are issued at the beginning and returned at the end of a shift, this can be a full-time job. It may also be a system prone to error, with the process taking place when workers are hurrying to their jobs or hurrying to leave for the day.

Automating the process with smart lockers — which require employees to use PINs or other authorization to check items out for use and back in at the end of their shifts — frees your managers to spend time on other activities and minimizes the opportunity for mistakes. Also, smart lockers can provide charging and calibration functionality, so only devices that are prepared for service in the upcoming shift will be issued.

2. Devices can be stored where it makes the most sense.Smart lockers can be located where they make the most sense, rather than near the issuing manager. This can eliminate employees wasting time to walk to get tools or devices and then walk to return it at the end of the shift.

3. Not managing devices is costly.  If you have an unattended station where employees have access to devices, there isn’t any accountability when a device is missing or damaged. Many tech devices and tools your employees use are high-cost items that could be sold outside of work, and with no accountability, this could create temptation that leads to employee theft. Also, without management, employees could hoard devices so that they have a “spare” or might simply forget to return them. Searching for lost or missing devices is a top productivity drain on manager time, and replacing devices or tools that are never located can eat into your profits.

4. Smart lockers collect data.Smart lockers can show data on historical patterns related to metrics such as use, battery life, or damage. The Apex Axcess systems, for example, include Trajectory Cloud software that provides insights into stock replenishment, usage patterns, and device service requirements. Smart lockers can also provide an audit trail for needed safety or regulatory compliance. In addition, they can manage calibration, certification, and warranty requirements.

Device management can be challenging, and as technology advances and more devices are common in your workplace, the time it takes to manually issue devices, manage battery charging and device calibration, and to track missing devices is likely to become even more burdensome. Consider how you can eliminate the challenge, now and in the future, with smart lockers.

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Asset Management Healthcare

4 Ways Hospitals omniQ’s enefit from Asset Tracking Software

Hospitals manage millions of dollars worth of medical equipment, supplies, and other assets, and all of them play a critical role in delivering timely and effective care. Without an organized way to track and manage these items, there can be costly and dangerous delays in care. Staff waste time searching the floor for equipment; equipment may be hoarded in a department to avoid these searches; and hospitals wind up spending money unnecessarily to replace lost assets or to ensure availability of those assets.

Asset tracking software, coupled with automatic identification technology, can eliminate these problems.

Asset tracking solutions may use barcode labels, but hospitals are increasingly turning to Wi-Fi-based real-time location systems (RTLS) to wirelessly track equipment using the existing wireless network infrastructure. In some instances, these systems may incorporate traditional RFID tags, but RTLS has allowed these facilities to create a closed-loop asset tracking solution without investing in additional infrastructure.

In either case, a robust asset tracking software package provides a way to accumulate and analyze the asset data. In addition to locating equipment, these solutions can provide a way to automate lifecycle management and maintenance, track repair histories or sterilization history, and automatically re-allocate assets by floor or department. Asset tracking software provides these benefits without the human error associated with manually keeping records by hand or in a spreadsheet.

Here are four key benefits of using asset tracking software in a hospital:

1. Improve Asset Utilization: With real-time information on equipment location, it is easy for hospitals to eliminate equipment hoarding (which takes place when staff members hide equipment in order to make sure no one else takes it), theft, and loss. It is easier to find necessary equipment when it is needed, and hospitals can avoid unnecessary over purchasing of assets as a result. With a better view of where equipment is located and who is using it, hospitals can adjust inventories, reallocate some assets, and ensure that every department has the equipment it needs, when clinicians need it.

2. Improve Staff Productivity: When nurses have to search for equipment, they waste time wandering the hallways that could otherwise be spent charting or caring for patients. When staff members can find what they need immediately, they can eliminate hours per week or month in pointless searches while improving the quality of care.

3. Automate Equipment Audits: By using an asset tracking solution to monitor equipment status, maintenance, and sterilization, hospitals can create an instant record of quality, safety, and sanitation procedures. These can then be quickly accessed in the case of an audit, or to confirm procedural compliance. That level of visibility and historical perspective is impossible without real-time asset tracking.

4. Improved Equipment Performance: The lifecycle management enabled by asset tracking makes it easier to ensure that each piece of equipment is inspected and serviced at the right intervals without time-consuming manual record keeping. Asset tracking software makes it easy to monitor the status of each piece of equipment and know when its time to service or replace it. By generating overview reports on broad classes of assets, hospitals can better plan their capital expenditures based on real data rather than guesswork.

Moreover, asset tracking software improves the work environment for employees, and makes it easier for staff to provide fast, quality care to patients.