Between long delivery cycles, missing assets, inaccurate tracking data, and complex manual processes, businesses are often left in the dark about the location of their assets. This harms their bottom line, either because day-to-day operations are hindered by asset-finding delays or they have to spend more money replacing lost assets every year, ultimately impacting the customer experience. But the Internet of Things (IoT) can help put a stop to all that.
How poor data hurts asset management
We estimate that billions of dollars in assets are lost or go missing every year, with expensive, cascading negative business impacts. Worse, complying with stocktake obligations becomes a time consuming and logistical nightmare without having precise location data for business assets. And customers, meanwhile, whether consumers or other businesses, insist on greater knowledge of where their products are located.
Limited asset visibility can cause other problems, too. Consider a business that has its assets spread across multiple worksites and depots. When your business needs to locate an asset, how do you quickly know its location? Or maybe continued production is contingent on an upcoming delivery.
These problems have real consequences. A manufacturing company lost more than 400 hours a year to production delays caused by waiting for asset deliveries across three key facilities, with knock-on consequences for its customers. Similarly, another company spent $750,000 a year on hiring equipment because their own assets were either missing or couldn't be shared efficiently between sites.
"Tracking customer's assets, whether they're large or small, is not a new thing," says Praveen Senadheera, IoT Senior Specialist at Telstra. "People have been doing it for ages. But a lot of the tracking that happens now is actually fairly manual." It's labour-intensive, paper or spreadsheet-based record keeping rife with error. One council, for example, found that mistakes in its handwritten tracking records led to a loss of $800,000 worth of missing assets over three years.
Various technology-based solutions have emerged in recent years to help automate the process and improve asset visibility, but Senadheera notes that they're mostly used on high-value assets and they have problems of their own. Battery-operated GPS trackers can be handy on pallets and shipping containers, but they're too expensive to use on masse and in any case you get the logistical headache and high cost of replacing batteries every six months.
RFID tags offer another option. They scale better to large numbers of smaller products, and the tags themselves don't cost much. But tag-reading infrastructure is expensive and only provides visibility at choke points like warehouses and shipping yards. "What happens when that pallet leaves the warehouse," notes Senadheera, "is you lose visibility. So the technology only gives part of the picture when the customers are looking for end-to-end visibility."
IoT-based tracking, like Telstra's Track and Monitor, provides a better solution. It's cost effective to roll out and maintain, with a range of tracking devices to suit different asset types and use cases, so it can be used even for assets that are otherwise individually too low in value to justify spending money on tracking. IoT devices transmit less data, therefore typically require less power meaning that some trackers can utilise a single battery for multiple years. Depending on the device, it can tap into existing infrastructure like Telstra's low-power wide area network (known as Cat-M1 or LTE-M) IoT technology and/or the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi location-finding communities. With IoT asset tracking you can actually see each asset’s last known approximate location and set up alerts and geozone filters to help manage their use. This means no more calling around to depots to find an asset, less delays in business operations because of missing assets, and reduced time manually recording asset location data.
For some businesses, this extra transparency can have unexpected benefits. "When you enable mass tracking," says Senadheera, "then suddenly you've got this level of transparency automatically. That will drive certain shifts in behaviour within business as well." And it can improve business efficiency and can removes false economies that build up around manual tracking.
Plus customers can be kept in the loop— based on where an asset is in the supply chain. Better yet, adding this IoT asset tracking data to data that already exists in a business can create opportunities to improve customer service. One logistics company, for instance, realised it could leverage tracking insights to help customers choose how to deal with deliveries — to indicate to the driver whether to drive straight to the loading bay for unloading or park in the parking bay for a more relaxed process. "That's not something we anticipated initially," admits Senadheera. Based on 1200 large moving assets, this company has also forecasted an average of $100,000 per moving asset, and an overall $3.8 million in savings over one year.
It's little wonder, then, that IoT asset tracking solutions are predicted to create $1.9 trillion in economic value for the global supply chain and logistics sector — plus trillions more across all business sectors from improved asset utilisation, employee productivity, and customer experience.
End-to-end asset visibility
In a world that's always-connected, it's important for businesses to have total visibility of all their assets. They need easy-to-manage data and analytics that helps allow them to simultaneously reduce operational costs and capital expenditure, assist to improve overall business efficiency, and deliver a seamless customer experience.
IoT asset tracking is about bringing end-to-end control and transparency to your business. Automated solutions like Track and Monitor can assist with all sorts of pain points around managing business assets, and best of all they can help generate real economic value for a business and its customers — so that everyone can focus on the bigger challenges ahead.
How can Telstra Track and Monitor transform your asset monitoring? Find out here.