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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.

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.