Magazine Article | August 23, 2007

Track. Manage. Optimize.

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

How to find the payback in your asset tracking initiatives.

Integrated Solutions, September 2007

The advent of auto ID technologies in the tracking and management of moving assets has opened the eyes of everyone to the benefits of implementing track-and-trace initiatives, from logistics managers to C-level executives.  However, in the rush to leverage these technologies and drive the benefits through to the bottom line, companies sometimes forget that it takes more than a promising technology to create real value in their asset management initiatives. Technology is the means to the end, not the end itself. Best practices and proven processes, combined with technology, are the keys to developing successful and sustainable tracking and management programs.

If you are looking to implement an asset tagging solution as a 'quick fix' for your asset management issues, you should probably look again. The truth is that affixing tags to your assets and setting up a few strategically placed readers is not the long-term answer to successful tracking solutions. If it works at all, you may get a high-level look into the behavior of your assets as they move from location to location, and it may even provide you with some additional intelligence about your assets as they cycle through the supply chain.

But, the real value of a well-designed tracking solution is in the information it brings to your organization. To truly optimize your investment, you need to be able to capture and analyze the data over a period of time and then be willing to commit to modifying your business processes when the data tells you that there's a more costeffective or efficient way to operate. We refer to this concept as actionable business intelligence — that is, utilizing the tracking data to the nth degree to uncover business process improvement opportunities. As in any good learning process, it requires a feedback loop. That's the real value (not to mention the payback) of a well-designed asset tracking solution.

To get started with identifying the best solution for your asset tracking initiative, we've identified four distinct stages regarding choosing a solution:

Select a partner with proven business process improvement experience, because in this scenario, the implementation is just the beginning. The outsider's perspective of a company's business processes can greatly increase the chance of implementing a solution that creates a positive ROI. This way, best practices and significant domain expertise can guide the project to a meaningful and successful implementation.

Determine the appropriate auto ID technology — RFID (radio frequency identification), bar codes, GPS (global positioning system), wireless, etc. Be sure you are working with a provider with the experience to guide you in making accurate technology decisions, and who can help you mitigate the impact to your current infrastructure. Remember, you don't want to just throw out your current investment. Select a partner who has experience with all auto ID technology implementations, not just one or two. This will ensure the appropriate technology is chosen for your specific project scope and budget.

It's also important to find a partner who can mitigate your risk in investing in a tracking solution by providing proof of concept in a test environment. Testing your solution can greatly reduce your design cycle time, facilitate smoother rollout and integration, and expedite your path to significant ROI.

Select a software solution that is standards-based, robust, and configurable to your unique business needs. This will ensure that all the appropriate data points are collected and will help reduce the initial cost of an auto ID implementation.

The best asset management solutions provide detailed optics into your business processes. Leverage that information to take action where you see opportunities for improvements and shorten your path to generating a return.

Improved supply chain visibility will be realized if you incorporate these critical factors in the nascent stages of your asset management project. Ultimately, it will increase your chances of creating greater efficiencies in your entire supply chain.

Edward Flaherty is president and CEO of TrenStar, Inc., an asset management solutions provider. He can be reached through the company's Web site at