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Maximising value: how to track assets effectively

Manager looking at augmented reality (AR) screen showing smart factory or industry 4.0 automated manufacturing connected with internet of things (IOT) and cloud computing

With the increasing advent of sophisticated asset-tracking software, fleet management has a key new tool in keeping tabs on an organisation’s vehicles and other key assets – which could prove vital in this economic downturn.

One of the primary aims of asset management is to maximise an asset’s value throughout its lifecycle. An essential element of this process is asset tracking: the process of keeping track of an organisation’s physical assets – everything from tools to trucks and keys to computers – to save time and money.

We know from feedback from IPWEA members and the wider community that the COVID-19 economic crisis is tightening budgets across the board. Local government will have less money to spend in the coming financial year, which will put pressure on asset-intense operations.

In this period of economic contraction, we believe that asset tracking will be an essential tool for organisations seeking to make every dollar go further. Asset tracking is not about spending more; it’s about spending less by spending more efficiently. It’s about implementing the right technology to provide the data needed to be more efficient with your assets and minimise waste at the same time. The growing awareness of the commercial benefits of asset tracking are making it one of the most widely adopted smart city applications.

Adopting asset-tracking management software

Historically, asset managers used manual methods of asset tracking, such as labels, handwritten ledgers or computer spreadsheets. Today, however, thanks to advances in the communications networks underpinning the smart city and the development of the Internet of Things, asset managers can use tags or sensors, together with asset tracking software, to collect and analyse enormous amounts of data about the whereabouts of an asset, its usage, lifecycle and maintenance requirements.

This data can be used to improve efficiency and increase performance by maximising an item’s use, preventing losses, informing business decisions and creating new revenue streams.

There is a range of different asset-tracking systems available:

  • Manual systems – Some asset tracking software requires employees to log items in and out manually.
  • Barcode tags Staff can scan barcodes attached to assets with smartphone apps or barcode scanners, which automatically updates the software record to show the item’s status.
  • RFID, NFC and Bluetooth  Radio-frequency identification (RFID), near-field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth tags transmit location data within a limited range and may be best suited for indoor applications.
  • GPS ­ GPS asset-tracking systems allow an organisation to precisely locate an item wherever it is in the world using the US Space Force’s satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), and then transmit that location back via a mobile network and a growing number of IoT-focused communication networks based on LTE-M, NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, Sigfox and Wi-SUN.

Main asset-tracking solutions

Asset tracking has practical applications across industries, from tracking medical equipment in healthcare and laboratory equipment in education, to rental bicycles in city bike-sharing schemes, shipping containers in logistics and warehouse inventory in manufacturing.

The benefits of automated asset tracking are numerous. For many organisations, adopting computerised asset tracking systems is the first step of digital transformation. A higher level of automation in asset tracking increases operational efficiency by reducing employee hours spent manually logging items and preventing losses due to human error or theft.

Data is stored in a central database, which allows managers to optimise maintenance schedules to reduce downtime, flag administrative tasks such as lease renewals, and streamline logistics such as transport and storage.

In local government, the potential use cases for asset tracking are vast. For example, sensors attached to waste disposal bins can provide real-time data on how many people are using them in different areas and when, which enables councils to allocate resources more efficiently.

Using asset tracking in fleet management

For fleet managers, tracking assets is fundamental to managing a fleet effectively and efficiently. Asset tracking is applicable to all types of fleet assets, from heavy plant and vehicles to light fleet and minor plant, such as chain saws and line trimmers.

GPS coupled with telematics and associated analytics shows a fleet’s status, as well as where, when and how assets are being used, which can support decision-making around the size and type of fleet required, optimum replacement timing and scheduled maintenance.

Data sourced from asset tracking can also be utilised in work planning, ensuring security and appropriate use, and management of tax and compliance matters, such as FBT and Fuel Tax Credits.

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