Magazine Article | July 25, 2006

Can You Find Me Now?

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

GPS (global positioning system) and RFID (radio frequency identification) are quickly becoming the most important technologies if you want to drive enterprise efficiencies.

Integrated Solutions, August 2006

Successful deployments of technology are almost always about driving enterprise efficiencies. You need to produce more widgets in less time with the same number of employees. You need to respond to more customer service calls with fewer personnel.You need to maintain less inventory and decrease your overall footprint.

If your organization is efficiently run, then you can expect incremental improvements. If you can pinpoint areas of tremendous inefficiencies, however, then improvements can be significant. One word really sums up the cause of and solution to many of the inefficiencies within your enterprise – location. Think about it. How much more efficient would you be if you knew where your field service personnel were at all times? How much more efficient would your field personnel be if they knew the best routing directions? How much more efficient would you be if you knew where your assets were within your enterprise? Or, how much more efficient would you be if you simply knew where your assets were within your facility?

The answers to all of these questions are obvious. Today, a combination of technologies is allowing your company to actually address these issues.

GPS technology is becoming less expensive, more integrated, and as a result, more pervasive in the products and services available to your organization. In addition to tracking employee locations through GPS-enabled handhelds and handsets, enterprises can also track vehicle locations through integrated vehicle GPS technology or GPS-enabled mobile computers mounted in vehicles. The benefits of this location information are obvious and dramatic. You can establish a geofence to ensure that vehicles don’t travel outside of predetermined destinations. If a field worker deviates from an acceptable travel area, you’re alerted instantly. This real-time location information also allows you to better utilize the expertise you have in the field. If a field service call requires a special expertise, you can send the closest tech with the required specific knowledge. Without GPS, the alternative may be to call several techs and check on their locations. Or, you may have to blindly send a tech on a 20-mile drive when other capable techs are located a few blocks away.

In addition to knowing the location of your mobile workers in real time, there are also great benefits in knowing the location and condition of your assets. Products leave your facility, and you may not have any knowledge of their location and condition until they arrive at their final destination point. However, if you’re shipping perishable goods, think of the savings you could realize by monitoring shipping temperatures throughout the products’ journey. Using RFID tags to monitor environmental conditions allows you to hold various parties accountable for their actions. You don’t have to pay chargebacks if you can prove your perishable goods traveled and arrived within acceptable parameters. Or, you can hold your shipping company accountable for any environmental issues that may have occurred en route.

By itself, real-time location information is a powerful piece of data. The same can be said for RFID tags that monitor environs and security. Combining the two technologies – GPS and RFID – creates a unique tool that can only be limited by the imaginations of the enterprises that deploy them.