RFID warehouse operations
Every company needs to keep track of its assets. The assets owned by a company generally fall into two categories: fixed and current. Fixed assets refer to assets acquired for long-term use while current assets are those that can be converted into cash within a short amount of time. With today’s technology, asset tracking is typically accomplished using a centralized information system where the addition, movement and removal of assets are tracked.
In addition to tracking location and usage, some assets have associated access control and compliance policies that must be enforced. Examples include assets that contain sensitive information such as laptops and mobile computers, disk drives and storage media, backup tapes, and medical devices. Other examples include equipment that require calendar-based or use-based periodic calibration, tools that are checked-out/check-in for use, and work in process assets that move through discrete states during the production process. The access control and compliance policies are typically implemented by people and paper-based processes.
The challenge when implementing these access control and compliance policies tend to be related to having the procedures and trained workforce in place to reliably update the asset tracking system of record at key touchpoints in the material processing flow.
Keeping track of sensitive assets in remote locations (branch offices, remote warehouses, etc.) is even more challenging. As a result, the access control and compliance policies may not always be accurately implemented. There may also be missed opportunities to “error proof” the material processing flows by detecting and correcting errors at the point they occur (e.g. preventing an out of calibration device from being checked out) to further improve safety and compliance.
Examples of items for which asset tracking is critical include:
RFID and barcode scanning can automatically detect and report the movement and location of assets – thereby eliminating the need for manual data collection and entry at various touchpoints during normal material processing workflow. Simply moving an asset from one location to another or scanning its barcode is all that’s needed for the system to track the asset.
The scanning touchpoints can be located anywhere within a company including at remote facilities (branch offices, remote warehouses, etc.). In the latter case, the remote scanning equipment connects to a central Spotlight server over the Internet.
Depending on the asset being tracked, individual items may be tagged and scanned, or in the case of an asset made up of many small parts, the container used to transport the asset may be scanned. In either case, the asset tracking system receives the needed information in real time.
RFID technology can allow “hands free” detection of asset movement. For examples, RFID portals can be configured at choke points to automatically detect the movement of assets between physical zones with no operator interactions required. RFID or barcode-based kiosks can also be used to scan items as they are checked-in and checked-out of a location. Minimal or no staff training is required for the RFID-based “hands free” detection and barcode scanning, while not completely hands free, is a simple operation that also requires very little training or data entry skills.
Mobile handheld devices (smart phones and tablets) can be used at remote chain of custody transfer points where more information must be captured and logged as an asset is transferred from a specific source to a specific recipient. “Error proofing” logic can also be added to the scanning system to ensure the access control and compliance policies are enforced. For example, an alarm can be signaled immediately if an asset is moved to an unauthorized location or an alert can be signaled if an “out of calibration” device is checked-out from a storage location. Alerting the staff to correct errors immediately at the time they occur can significantly improve safety and compliance. Real time utilization metrics and other key performance indicators are also available for assets from the tracking system to support continuous process improvement.
S3Edge can deliver a turn-key asset tracking solution customized for your specific business needs using a combination of the capabilities described above.