“Where is it?” Everyone, it seems, asks this question at least a couple of times per day. “Asks,” of course, is often an understatement. If you’ve ever misplaced your credit card or your driver’s license or smartphone, even for a second, you know that you shriek “where is it?” And why do we put eight pairs of socks in the laundry and take out five pairs and three singles? How does that happen?
Your socks don’t travel far — or at least they shouldn’t. But what if you’re the CEO of a large company that manufactures, distributes, and sells millions of consumer products every year? Your problem of tracking where your assets are could cost you billions of dollars — in time and money. Does that sound like an exaggeration? It isn’t. Walmart lost $3 billion in sales in 2013 alone because it had a bad inventory management system reported Forbes magazine in the article “How Walmart Could Solve Its Inventory Problem And Improve Earnings.”
Your company’s socks — and far more expensive products — could be stolen while they’re in a warehouse, lost in a warehouse when they’re need of repair, lost while they’re being transported, damaged while they’re being transported, in one of your company’s facilities when they’re needed in another, en route to a location when they should have been there already, and who knows where else.
Fortunately, a technologically sophisticated method of tracking assets can significantly minimize the risk of these problems. In recent years, many companies have started to adopt Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The technology involves attaching tags with information electronically stored on a small microchip to the assets. The company that is managing the assets can read the information on the tags via radio transmitter-receivers called readers or interrogators.
“RFID tags, when coupled with asset tracking software, let you manage assets as they move around your facility, or as they’re transported between buildings, locations, or around the globe,” reports our blog “The 3 Keys to RFID Solutions” The RFID system can solve many asset tracking problems. Four of the problems and their solutions are:
1. Can’t Find an Asset in the Warehouse:
Sometimes, an asset is needed immediately. An investigative sector of the DoD, for example, might need the cameras and forensic tools required for a crime scene investigation right now. Oftentimes, the equipment hasn’t been stored properly after it was used in a previous investigation. “Timeliness is critical,” emphasizes the A2B Tracking blog “RFID or Barcode — Consider the Big Picture.”
A report by RFIDinsider titled “Solving Asset Tracking Problems with RFID” says the above problem can be solved via active RFID and passive RFID. Active RFID tags include batteries that work all the time while passive RFID tags have no batteries or batteries that are activated when a reader is present. The RFIDinsider report lists specific active RFID tags that will help locate an asset in a warehouse. Ultra-Wide Band RFID tags locate assets based on signals from multiple readers. Ultrasonic Tags locate assets based on where they are in relation to a fixed reader. If you use the much less expensive passive tags, you need to be close enough to the asset to see it.
2. Don’t Know Which Building An Asset Is In:
Many companies have at least two warehouses. Other companies have large assets like airplanes that are stored outside. In both of these situations, RFID technology can help you find your asset, but the readers that work in warehouses aren’t strong enough to find the asset, according to the “Solving Asset Tracking Problems with RFID” report.
The report recommends using RFID systems “in conjunction with” cellular global positioning system (GPS) tags, satellite GPS tags, or Wi-Fi RFID tags. Cellular GPS and satellite GPS tags can only be used outdoors. All three systems use the Real-Time Location System. That means the location of your assets is continually updated. If you want to rent a specific car or airplane, you can find it expeditiously. That kind of technology can help you be more receptive to customers and boost business.
3. Assets Aren’t Delivered On Time:
“The ramifications of shipments arriving behind schedule, whether the cause be a delay in parts or loss of the assets entirely, can cost companies their reputation and clientele,” reports RFIDinsider in its blog “5 Examples of RFID Asset Tracking.” Now, that’s a problem! In fact, the blog reports that companies lose up to 30 percent of their pallets each year. Pallets are platforms that assets are placed on as they are moved. If they’re lost, the assets could be delivered late or not at all.
One solution is custom RFID tags for the pallets. The tags help employees find the pallets as quickly as possible so they can use them to move assets ASAP. Another solution for the problem of late shipments or shipments with missing parts is to use the RFID technology on trucks and dock doors. This will enable companies to ascertain where assets are during the delivery process. They can also help companies prove that the assets were there when they were delivered to a client who lost the asset but claims it wasn’t delivered.
4. Assets Are Stolen:
RFID tags are one of the “5 Cutting Edge Ways to Combat Employee Theft,” according to an Entrepreneur magazine article with that headline. Heck, even the knowledge of the existence of RFID tags might prevent an employee from pilfering a product in a store or a warehouse much in the same way that cameras prevent pilfering.
Currently, there is a pilot program in California that is testing whether RFID technology can help reduce the theft of law enforcement equipment. “If (the program) provides visibility into the movements of equipment, the program could potentially be implemented in other law enforcement precincts and set a standard for RFID asset tracking,” the RFIDinsider article “5 Examples of RFID Asset Tracking” reports.
The Forbes magazine article points out that RFID technology has improved dramatically in the last decade — and the cost of that technology has dropped significantly so more and more companies are able to use it. There is no doubt that this is an exciting technology that is changing the way that assets are being tracked and managed in real time. To learn more about RFID Technology download our white paper and see how an RFID solution can meet your asset tracking needs.