How Real-Time Asset Tracking Improves Facilities Management

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How Real-Time Asset Tracking Improves Facilities Management

With supply chains moving faster than ever these days, facilities managers are facing increased pressure to optimize their operations and improve productivity to meet the evolving demands of their customers, not to mention prepare for growth.

Facilities managers, like many suppliers and intermediaries in supply chains, are also grappling with economic pressures brought about by high inflation and wholesale price increases, meaning that keeping on top of their overheads continues to prove a struggle. This isn’t even accounting for the constant bottlenecks and digitisation challenges that befall many facilities trying to keep pace with modern purchasing.

Luckily, one of the most proactive solutions to improve cost and time efficiency, reduce bottlenecks and scale (with the help of technology) is through the use of real-time asset tracking and management. Powered by technologies like Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) and the Internet of Things (IoT), facilities managers can manage and monitor assets with complete visibility and gain unparalleled insights into their operations.

Introduction to Asset Tracking

Asset tracking is a critical technique that facilities managers use to gain insights into their facility’s performance. The industry itself is currently worth $23.2 billion and is expected to nearly double by 2029, achieving a $43.34 billion valuation, at a growth rate of 13.3% CAGR.

It is an umbrella term referring to technology that monitors and records data of physical assets within a company’s facility, transmitting that data to a piece of software that displays important information and insights in real-time. The data recorded and monitored includes the location, condition, and status of assets such as equipment, machinery, tools, vehicles, products, and other valuable resources, even people.

Asset management solutions are vital in not only understanding the condition and whereabouts of each asset but also for improving efficiency within a facility. Facilities managers can leverage this technology and data to understand whether their operations are as efficient as they can be and whether any areas need drastic improvement. This could range from product inventory levels to traffic management inside a site, which is one area that needs constant adjustment as facility operations scale.

Such tracking can also help managers reduce their costs and overheads, avoid lengthy downtime, streamline orders, reduce backlog and optimize their facility’s energy efficiency, among other benefits.

Real-Time Asset Tracking Technologies

There are numerous asset management technologies to choose from which offer unique advantages based on the facility size, layout, asset quantity and types, and surrounding infrastructure. Implementing a particular solution (or a hybrid) usually starts with a tagging technology that integrates with other incumbent software and tools for inventory and environmental management.IoT asset tracking technologies include (but are not limited to):

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID asset tracking is used in various industry settings from factories to warehouses. This technology uses small electromagnetic tags attached to assets, which communicate with readers and receivers over radio waves. Active RFID tags offer greater bandwidth and coverage than passive RFID tags, which tend to be more cost-effective. RFID tracking allows assets to be identified without line-of-sight or manual scanning, which can be efficient for facilities.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
BLE tracking - like standard Bluetooth asset tracking - is a wireless communication technology that enables real-time tracking over specific perimeters at the expense of minimal power and investment. BLE beacons can be placed on assets with their signals detected by compatible devices like smartphones autonomously, meaning lower setup costs. BLE asset tracking is, however, susceptible to interference from other devices in the same frequency spectrum, so active environments with high foot traffic may struggle.

Ultra-Wideband (UWB)
UWB is a secure, scalable and accurate real-time location tracking technology that uses ultra-wideband radio signals to pinpoint ‌asset locations to the centimeter. It is often used for keyless entry and can often work through thick barriers or walls without succumbing to interference. UWB asset tracking is, however, quite energy-intensive with most tags relying heavily on time-syncing for location data.

Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS is a commonly used satellite-based navigation technology that can track the location of assets equipped with GPS receivers. For outdoor and mobile assets being tracked in real-time on vehicle fleets, they (along with the vehicles themselves) can benefit from the razor-sharp accuracy offered by GPS tracking.

However, satellites cannot accurately pinpoint locations when assets move indoors or in high-traffic areas, meaning separate solutions must be deployed for indoor asset management.

Wi-Fi asset tracking leverages existing Wi-Fi connectivity to pinpoint the location of assets equipped with Wi-Fi tags. IoT assets and devices are usually equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, meaning that real-time asset tracking is easier when all devices are connected to the same network and within the same area of coverage. That said, when assets move outside the facility's perimeters, tracking them can be hard and inaccurate.

Benefits of Asset Tracking in Facilities

It’s clear that the various RTLS asset tracking solutions offer distinct benefits and drawbacks for facilities. However, the right asset-tracking technology choice for your facility will depend on various factors. At a glance, nonetheless, deploying the right solution can offer tremendous short and long-term advantages for facilities looking to scale.

  1. Greater Visibility

Real-time tracking gives facilities managers a comprehensive view of where their assets are located at any given time. With the right secure cloud asset management software platform, managers can also view important asset data like its route history and time spent away from its designated location. In turn, facilities managers can make informed decisions about what assets are used and when they are needed, reducing the need for redundant purchases.

  1. Reduced Downtime

Tracking asset condition and usage in real-time - when accounting for maintenance schedules - can alert facilities managers to make proactive decisions regarding preventive maintenance, servicing, and repairs. This minimizes unplanned downtime for machinery and equipment and extends their lifespan, allowing facilities to forecast cash flow and budget more accurately.

  1. Optimized Inventory Management

Accurate IoT asset management eliminates the need for manual stock checks and audits, not to mention reduces the risk of loss, theft, or misplacement. Providing real-time visibility into asset locations, quantities, and route history, facilities managers can avoid over and understocking, ensuring optimum inventory levels and reducing bottlenecks.

  1. Increased Productivity

When all employees are empowered to use asset tracking, they can quickly locate the assets they need, reducing wait times and delays to shipments or orders. This improved efficiency allows facilities teams to be more productive as a whole, while the organization benefits by keeping to often strict delivery and payment timescales without incurring hefty fines or penalties for lateness.

A recent IBM study found that visibility of connected assets could raise productivity by 28%, lower inventory repair and maintenance costs by 17% and eliminate up to 20% of equipment downtime.

Implementing Facility Asset Tracking Solutions

Choosing the right solution requires careful consideration of several factors.

Facilities managers should assess their tracking requirements closely, considering the types and amount of assets to be tracked. Determine the desired level of accuracy and the environmental conditions, i.e. assess whether you need to track assets moving indoors, outdoors, or both, and what obstacles could prevent that data from being accurately monitored.

Ensure that all assets are properly identified and equipped with the necessary tracking hardware before integrating the management solution with your existing systems, databases, and networks.

Remember, most importantly, there is no right or wrong asset tracking and management solution. Many facilities can leverage multiple IoT tracking hardware and scalable management systems to keep tabs on their assets moving throughout multiple premises. The right choice(s) for you will depend entirely on your facility’s unique needs and infrastructure.

Key Takeaways

  • Asset tracking solutions leverage tech like RFID, BLE, UWB, GPS and Wi-Fi (among others) to provide real-time asset location and condition data.
  • Facilities managers gain improved visibility into asset locations, allowing them to make informed decisions about cost management, efficiency, maintenance, and more.
  • Implementing one or more technologies requires a careful assessment of each facility’s needs, system setup, budget, and scale of operations.

As facilities scale, the need for more accurate asset management grows. By leveraging the power of IoT and RTLS, however, managers can strengthen their facilities to become irreplaceable cogs in the proverbial supply chain machine. Not only will they discover unrivaled business benefits, but their place in supply chains will become more robust as suppliers and buyers continue to navigate an increasingly complex economic future.