Categories
Barcode Custom Application Development Field Sales and Delivery RFID Hardware RFID Software Transportation and Logistics

High-Value Asset Management: The Best Methods for Tracking Your Equipment

Asset management is a challenge even when those assets are relatively static. For companies that utilize highly mobile and expensive assets (such as large trucks, shipping containers, expensive tools, etc.) the challenge is even greater. Assets and equipment are often deployed in the field for long stretches of time with little visibility. This makes it difficult to optimize asset utilization and also raises the risk of theft or loss.

There are a number of automatic identification technologies that can help provide real-time asset management capabilities in the field, but which type of technology is best will depend on the application and the environment.

Challenging Assets

Each industry has its own unique set of field assets and accompanying challenges:

Transportation/Logistics. Companies that manage large fleets of trucks, trailers, returnable shipping containers, and other equipment often lack visibility into exactly where these items are. This is especially true for containers or trailers that are dropped in customer yards. This makes it difficult to see how many are in circulation and where they are located. If there are dynamic changes in demand, it can be difficult to shift that supply, so companies purchase unnecessary containers to compensate.

Field Service. In addition to expensive vehicles, field service companies manage large inventories of expensive tools and other equipment that is stored on each technician’s truck. Technicians may need access to equipment held on another truck or at a depot, but that can be difficult to locate without proper asset management in place. In addition, equipment is vulnerable to loss or theft.

Delivery. Delivery companies often utilize reusable trays, crates, pallets and other containers that represent a significant capital investment. Being able to manage and optimize utilization of these assets can save money and streamline delivery operations. Customers sometimes steal or hoard these assets as well.

Healthcare. Mobile healthcare is a growing market. Workers in this space manage expensive assets and medical equipment (oxygen tanks, blood pressure monitors, infusion pumps, etc.) that must be returned and, in some cases, sterilized. Better asset management can improve patient safety and make it easier for employees to find critical equipment.

Real-Time Tracking Solutions

Automated solutions for asset management can help provide visibility in real time, but each approach offers different benefits (and potential drawbacks).

Barcodes. This is easily the least expensive way to manage field assets. This is a simple way to address tool or mobile asset tracking, for example, in field service or healthcare. Using mobile barcode readers, employees can simply scan a label to update asset status. However, this requires line of sight to complete the scan, and if a large number of items is involved it can be time consuming.

Passive RFID. Passive RFID can be used to automatically track assets in a facility or as they enter or leave the rear of a truck or pass through a dock door. Attached to returnable trays or containers, RFID can also help track inventory as it moves on and off delivery trucks and even track which customers received which containers. RFID is slightly more expensive than barcodes, but passive tags are a cost-effective method of tracking returnable items.

Active RFID. This type of RFID is more expensive. Often the tags are large and are attached to very expensive assets such as shipping containers or trailers. They have a longer range and can be integrated with other technology, like sensors or GPS, to provide real-time location data on items that are in motion.

Bluetooth Beacons. These systems are similar to active RFID, but are more commonly used inside warehouses or other facilities to track assets (both fixed and mobile). The technology allows companies to search for and find these assets within a facility using a map-based interface. The beacons can be placed on assets, and then broadcast their location wirelessly. Using a mobile device, employees can locate any beacon within range. The tags can also have other “smart” sensors for movement, vibration, temperature, GPS, and other measurements, especially important for tracking food or other assets that need stable environments.

RTLS (Real-Time Location) Systems. Some RTLS systems work with the above technologies, but some also work in conjunction with Wi-Fi technology. Leveraging an existing WLAN network, they can provide highly accurate location data on assets within a building or large vehicle.

By using real-time asset management technology, companies can better measure cycle times, improve asset utilization, and gain visibility into the status of their high-value assets. This can help reduce unnecessary asset purchases, and help identify potential operational improvements. With the wide variety of technology options available, there’s an asset management solution that is right for your company.

Categories
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.

Categories
Barcode Custom Application Development Industry Solutions Retail RFID Hardware RFID Software

Retail Technology: Bundle RFID, Digital Signage, and POS to Improve Your Bottom Line and Sales

Retail technology has become increasingly advanced. At the same time, customers have become more accustomed to using digital channels and devices in their interactions with retailers. For brick-and-mortar stores to continue to compete with online channels, they have to leverage technology in their daily operations to both increase sales and improve the shopping experience for their customers.

While there are plenty of new technologies on the market, the combination of advanced point of sale (POS) solutions, digital signage, and RFID tracking are poised to revolutionize the way retailers and customers interact in the store.

POS — More than Payment

POS systems are a retail technology that has evolved beyond the cash register. Advanced systems now provide payment management and data analytics capabilities that can help your store run better.

The analytics from a POS solution will provide data that can help you track sales and inventory, identify slow-moving merchandise, and help you make better decisions about what should (or shouldn’t) be on the shelf. That same data can also clue you in to when you are making sales, so you can adjust staffing levels for peak and slow sales periods.

Loss Prevention (LP) technology associated with the POS also makes it more difficult for employees to commit theft or fraud. By carefully tracking which employees were working at each station, and by monitoring both inventory and purchase data, you can more quickly be alerted to potential fraud and access detailed purchase records that will make it easier to find out exactly what happened and who was responsible.

A modern POS system also makes it possible for you to meet PCI security requirements, while taking new forms of payment (like PIN and chip cards, or phone payments), issuing gift and loyalty cards, and accepting coupons. All of these features can help bring in and retain new customers.

RFID Improves Inventory Visibility

Major retailers like Marks & Spencer, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s now use RFID at the store and shelf-level to track inventory. American Apparel claims it reduced internal shrinkage by an average of 55 percent across its RFID-enabled stores while increasing sales.

This retail technology provides real-time visibility across the supply chain, right down to the retail shelf. With tagged merchandise and handheld RFID scanners (or shelf-based systems) the time it takes to conduct in-store inventories can be slashed by as much as 80 percent to 85 percent. Real-time inventory information also makes it easier to avoid out-of-stocks by alerting staff when its time to restock based on preset shelf parameters. That can help avoid lost sales by making sure the items your customers want are always on the shelf.

In addition, real-time inventory visibility makes it possible to fulfill buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) orders, which can further boost revenues.

RFID retail technology can also augment shrink-control efforts by providing a way to combine POS tracking with electronic article surveillance. Advanced systems can even tell you when something is taken from the shelf but doesn’t make its way to the check-out. For heavily shoplifted, high-value items, this type of advanced monitoring can quickly pay for itself via reduced theft.

Digital Signage in Action

A third retail technology, digital signage, can enhance internal marketing and advertising efforts. The signage is placed at the POS, at service points, at the shelf, and other high traffic areas. The signs can convey advertising and marketing messages, provide information about promotions or special pricing, and in some cases, even create customer-specific marketing messages based on shopper behavior.

Digital signage can reduce or eliminate the cost of printing in-store signage and advertising. It also provides upsell opportunities. Digital signage can encourage the purchase of specific premium brands when placed next to competitive items, for example.
A 2010 Nielson study of digital signage in grocery stores found that four out of five brands experienced increases of up to 33 percent in additional sales compared to the use of printed signage alone.

Integrated Customer Experience

By combining retail technology like POS systems, RFID, and digital signage, stores can also enable new ways to increase revenues and customer loyalty, while improving efficiency. Digital signage that is integrated with a shelf-level RFID solution can present shoppers with promotions or other complementary purchase suggestions based on the items they have removed from the shelf.

Using customer loyalty data and current purchase information at the POS, the solution could also generate additional promotions or incentives to get the customer to return to the store. This type of personalized shopping experience not only improves the image of the store, but also encourages additional purchases.

Shoppers use advanced technology every day, at work, at home, and even in their cars. Digital technology plays a larger role than ever in how customers research and purchase the goods they need. By integrating digital signage, POS solutions, and RFID, stores can leverage advanced retail technology to increase sales and improve the shopping experience for their customers.