Implementing IoT for asset management and tracking can sound intimidating and complex. In the end, we are only talking about harvesting data for business intelligence to make profitable decisions to enhance and develop the business, by connecting things, such as assets to each other.
The most common environments where asset tracking and management is needs are:
- Warehouse environments (incl. distribution centers)
- People count and location management
- Construction and mining
- Sensor data collection
Efficient data collection systems enable forming e.g. the following reports into the hands of decision makers
- When did my goods arrive in stock?
- What is in stock (stock levels)?
- Where are the goods exactly?
- What is the condition of my goods?
- When were they sent out?
- How to get them sent out faster and more efficiently?
- Where is the personnel at any given time?
- Who performed a specific task?
What are the use cases and how will the technology help?
With an optimized connectivity solution, you will get the data to the back-end system to know when the assets arrive at the premises, how long they stay there, the condition of them, the picking process and making sure the personnel handling them is safely where they are supposed to be.
- Goods-in / goods-out to know when the assets enter and leave your premises
For goods-in and goods-out use cases a set of criteria defines whether an asset is considered counted in or out of the inventory once it has been detected entering or leaving the network. At the most fundamental level a time stamp per asset is needed in the backend systems to know when the goods arrive at the premises and when they leave.
- Inventory to know your stock levels at any given time
Once all the assets are tagged with devices including serialization, they can be automatically counted for inventory management with a network connectivity. The data flows through the connected assets to a gateway that forwards the data to existing back-end systems for calculations and analysis.
- Picking process that reduces the human error
Picking is the most cost inducing process in a warehouse. With a network connectivity, the warehouse order handler doesn’t need a printed list, a device or a map to follow to find the assets in the warehouse. Using a bi-directional communication possibility, his hands are totally free for the picking duties. He can simply walk around the warehouse and pick assets that have an indicator, e.g. an LED light lit on them. This eliminates the possibility of choosing the wrong asset since each item has an ID and the picking can be assigned in the backend system by ID and then light the LED on the item’s tag. Every time human error can be reduced, efficiency rises.
- Location Data of the assets in your premises for more efficient processes
Simple setup is required to define the physical location of some nodes in the network and the areas in which assets should be tracked. The location data can be made available to existing backend systems for visualization, logging and other needs.
- Sensor Data to ensure that your assets and goods are in mint condition
Sensor data, such as temperature, acceleration and ambient light level, can be collected through all the devices in the network and identified by the node ID. This data is useful to establish the condition of goods and whether they have been subjected to abnormal handling that may impact their value.
- People count and location data to make sure that your staff is safe and performing
When talking about people count and location data, it is usually only done in situations where the regulations require this data for employee safety reasons, e.g. mining, hospitals and construction sites. People count and location data is also used to move work force where it is needed most critically.
Location data in asset management
As mentioned above, asset management use cases often require location data for tracking purposes. The visibility of your assets’ whereabouts can help reduce costs by sizing down the asset pool or finding the missing assets, mostly located at customer premises, and invoicing the customer for their use.
Location data should be easily receivable through the same devices as the actual assets have without expensive extra repeaters or multiple gateways. Ideally, all you need to configure are some battery-operated anchor nodes. The configuration is assigning the anchor nodes a fixed location with latitude and longitude. The location of other nodes can then be derived from existing diagnostics data in the network.
Study your needs and use cases carefully and choose fit-for-purpose technology
When deciding on a technology, the use case scenario and environmental requirements set the framework. Sometimes you need the connectivity only to easily complement other technologies to reach the best fit for purpose solution. With long term legacy systems, changing processes can be an overwhelming task. Sometimes it’s a worthwhile exercise to examine whether a new technology should replace the old one or just complement it to save time and resources.
When choosing connectivity in your asset management use cases, ensure that it delivers:
- Affordable connectivity, with off-the-shelf radio components and no monthly subscriptions
- Data collection on chosen intervals
- Low cost, easy to install & maintain infrastructures
- Efficient and reliable use of radio resources:
- Overcomes environmental challenges, e.g. metal interfering the RF signal
- Highly tolerant to interference from other radios sources e.g. Wi-Fi networks
- Co-existence with other networks operating at the same frequencies
- Consolidated applications
- Sensors, actuators, positioning/tracking, beacons are all possible in the same system
- Offering location data with less data congestion, since the nodes have chosen a path how to send the data instead of sending it to all neighbors and gateways act solely for data backhaul
Download the full white paper: http://www.wirepas.com/download/
– Mirva Saarijärvi, Director, Product Marketing for asset management –