Asset tracking in large sites – not a problem - Wirepas

Asset tracking in large sites – not a problem

The challenge

What do you think are the most secure places in the world? Military facilities. Most likely. Everything is done security first. As it should be. Nothing happens without approvals. That may create some challenges as well. Especially when you're talking about switching facilities from passive and manual asset tracking to active one.

Now, think about a soccer field. Then 13 soccer fields. That's equivalent in size to the military facility that needed asset tracking, the Bundeswehr Mechatronics Center in Jülich, Germany. The scale is huge. At this scale, wired tracking is not an option. Too many expensive wires. Neither are fixed anchors and tags. They would all need approvals to be attached. With all the approvals to drill holes in the walls, this facility would probably need years just to get all the permissions right.

Spice this all up with the facility infrastructure. An old iron train maintenance building. Any wireless solution just won’t do it. Even having Wi-Fi is not given. All this and you are faced with a mess no one wants to touch. Or a puzzle to solve. We like the latter.

For the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) the puzzle was there. Thinking asset tracking as an unsolvable mess was not an option. It has been done before so it could be done better too. In this particular case, Bundeswehr needed to track car parts during the maintenance of combat and patrol vehicles. Efficiently maintaining vehicles is critical. The vehicles are disassembled into up to ten different modules, overhauled, and reassembled. All parts are stored throughout the entire area of the Mechatronics Center. Searching for and finding individual modules during assembly and overhaul often takes mechanics a lot of time and prevents them from working at maximum productivity. Delays in the repair process have a direct impact on the material readiness of the armored vehicles of the German armed forces and thus influence Germany's commitments to NATO. The particularly complex cases are handled at the Mechatronics Center in Jülich – the huge area made of steel.

The solution

Formation, together with the Bundeswehr Cyber Innovation Hub took the puzzle to solve. Turned out that Bornemann AG’s introduction to Wirepas Mesh solved the problems of wireless hardware without permanent fixtures and gave a reliable way to connect the nodes even in the harsh settings. That meant more time for the puzzle of making the tracking system itself impeccable.

The outcome was a concept of an interactive repair hall for everyone and an easy tracking project. Objects are digitally tracked, leading to the development of innovation for module tracking. By combining module tracking and easy tracking, the modules can be automatically located in a mobile app. This way, mechanics immediately know where the individual components are located and can share this knowledge with colleagues. This has increased productivity in the workshop. Downtimes within processes are digitally visible thanks to the position data. And not only the mechanics involved but also the management benefits from tracking the modules. Because the solution increases transparency in processing times, the potential for improvement can be identified.

Individual components are checked into the system using a QR code scan with a smart device and can then be automatically located throughout the entire site using a push activation of a Wirepas Mesh network-based tracker. The position of the individual components can then be tracked on an app on an interactive map throughout the entire repair process. In the app, users can locate work materials and responsible colleagues, as well as organize tasks and meetings. Meaning: module tracking can optimize an entire department. The entire system is based on self-healing, reliable and secure low-power, wireless Wirepas Mesh technology, which allows fully wire-free and battery-operated infrastructure.

The results

Through the efficient localization of components, the repair processes of the Bundeswehr in Jülich have been accelerated and optimized. This has led to an increased productivity of the mechanics. It enables faster restoration of operational vehicles – a reduction in lead times, counted in days. The specialists have more time to concentrate on the actual work they were trained to do, rather than look for the items needed. The average time needed to locate car parts dropped from about 40 minutes per day to just 4 minutes per day. The possibility of efficiency improvements has resulted in cost savings, but there have also been additional positive side effects: Based on the tracking information, Bundeswehr noticed that there’s room for more workstations so the capacity of the place can be used more widely. It's not just about squeezing in more people at the cost of employee satisfaction. The employee satisfaction at the Mechatronics Center in Jülich has increased, and the use of modern technologies has become so widespread that positive effects have been observed in the number of applicants for apprentice and other open positions.

The combination of an intuitive user interface through an interactive building map with familiar social techniques in the interface (e.g., Google Maps usage), along with a robust, highly scalable, and cost-effective tracking system using QR code geo-tags, demonstrates how innovations do not always have to be deeply technical in nature. Formation, Bornemann and Wirepas demonstrate the technically skilled live tracking system described above, using a Wirepas Mesh based (decentralized network architecture) anchor and beacon infrastructure. In addition, the innovation contributes to improving transparency. The position data of the components enable management to track processing times accurately and identify potential bottlenecks or delays early on. This allows processes to be further optimized and improved in the future. The pragmatic approach of using QR code geo-tags for component tracking may seem simple, but in combination with an interactive map of the work environment and intuitive mobile applications, it is extremely effective and robust. In collaboration with partners Bornemann and Wirepas an infrastructure-light live tracking system was established that does not require wiring or lengthy hardware infrastructure setup (mesh-based). The entire system was deployed within a record time of 1.5 days. The planning was done by Bornemann only with the blueprints of the facility. No site survey was needed. The Bundeswehr was skeptical of the timeline – it sounded too good to be true. But with good planning and the help of very very good IoT, the whole setup was done in time, just like planned.

The maintenance of the Bundeswehr in general and Bundeswehr vehicles, in particular, is of strategic importance. Contributing to making the German Federal Forces more reliable and resilient in fulfilling international security-related tasks takes on a state-carrying dimension. The solution, which was developed as part of the collaboration between the Cyber Innovation Hub of the Bundeswehr and Formation, could be deployed directly in many military maintenance units within all NATO member states.

Subscribe to our newsletter for some kick-ass IoT news.

We like cookies, so we use them

Cookies are used to improve your experience and analyze if our content is to your liking. By using Wirepas, you agree to our Cookie Policy.