Magazine Article | October 25, 2008

Taking RFID Beyond Its Borders

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

The only way companies can optimize their assets is by having proactive control over the location, position, and condition of those assets.

Integrated Solutions, November 2008

Webster's Dictionary defines the word 'asset' as 'an item of value owned.' Along with ownership of assets comes the responsibility of managing these assets effectively, and efforts toward effective management lead to a need for optimization, meaning an act, process, or methodology of making assets fully perfect, functional, or effective. When it comes to asset optimization, many companies believe that if they have the tools to manage and plan their assets in a timely manner, they can actually maximize their assets. However, while good planning and proper tools are crucial, it is equally important to position your assets effectively to fit within the ever-changing global environment.

The crucial starting point in asset optimization is having a thorough knowledge of what assets you have and where those assets are located. Your assets can be distributed throughout the globe, and every environment has its own challenges, threats, and opportunities that can impact the utilization of those assets. In certain countries, your assets can be misused and threatened by concerns such as theft and criminal intent. In others, the same type of assets can go through extreme observation due to varying rules and regulations.

With GPS and wireless technologies, companies have more tools at their disposal to manage assets effectively regardless of how big those assets might be or how far they may be scattered around the globe. Remote monitoring of assets is possible through the use of these technologies. However, there is need to be careful about maximizing the benefits of technology. Even though all suppliers speak the same language, different capabilities can be achieved with a combination of vendors. For example, when companies have a need to not only track assets in transit but to manage those assets as well, companies need to work with both RFID (radio frequency identification) and GPS technologies. But working with a GPS vendor for fleet tracking and then working with a separate vendor that offers RFID may lead companies to a solution that is considerably more costly and therefore defeat the purpose of maximizing asset management technology in the first place.

So what should a company look for when selecting technology providers? Integration is the key. As your company's assets move from one mode of transportation to another (i.e. rail, air, or sea) throughout the supply chain, there are a variety of supply chain partners. Each is dedicated to a certain function within the supply chain to assure smooth transportation of your assets. However, there is little attention given to these assets while they are 'in motion.'

Being able to monitor and control your assets during transport is an important consideration in achieving effective results in asset management. Being in control of your assets as they move can provide you with proactive tools to prevent mishaps, loss, misuse, theft, and more. Working with a vendor or VAR that can offer fully integrated GPS and RFID-based wireless technologies can put these effective asset management tools into your hands as one cohesive solution. 

The ability to obtain real-time information on goods is playing an increasingly important role in supply chain decision making. Materials, semifinished products, finished products, and spare parts are spread out among different locations, and customers expect suppliers to provide up-to-date product information to allow them to better monitor operations and respond in real time to their own strategic and operational objectives.

Efficient management of real-time information is crucial for the supply chain management system. Information must be collected in real time, information must be transmitted in real time, and that information must be shared with both internal and external applications so that the entire supply chain has the latest information on product status. This type of management of goods in transit leads to exceptional customer service and optimized safety and security of operations, as well as increased profitability.