Physical assets lie at the very centre of the transport and logistics industry. Ultimately, the assets contained by a fleet of vehicles are its raison d'être. This is why it’s so essential that what is being transported remains paramount. The term ‘asset’ in this context refers to those forms of physical assets such as inventory, equipment, vehicles, material economic resources, and any number of the variable types of a business’ investments.
It’s plain to see that it’s integral for any business which relies on physical assets to be informed on where these are located at all times. If this is not the case, then certain intangible assets like organisational efficiency become affected. Of which, the negative consequences for a brand are comprehensive. Saliently, it is fleet managers who are solely responsible for the tracking of a fleet’s assets.
Naturally, if the scale of the assets being handled by the fleet manager are substantial, then there is room for significant error if there isn’t a cohesive system of measures in place. It’s for this reason why we’ve put together this guide, to explain how asset tracking works fundamentally, as well as why it should be included within an integrated solution so that it may function properly.
What is Asset Tracking?
Simply defined, asset tracking is the method used by fleet managers in order to accurately monitor and record the location, status, value, ownership, and maintenance history & schedule of the physical items being housed by a fleet.
Although related, asset tracking is entirely distinct from inventory tracking in that the latter is concerned only with accounts of those items which have been acquired from suppliers and are now held in stock with the primary intention of being either sold or distributed. Whereas, a fleet’s assets pertain to anything owned by a business that they will benefit from during their regular operations involving long-term income generation, as opposed to short-term profitability.
How does Asset Tracking Work?
Traditionally, asset tracking would work by having the fleet manager carry out the aforementioned processes manually. At first, this would have meant paperwork being physically filled out with a pen. As technology advanced, the method of using spreadsheet programs on computers took over, a method which continues to experience widespread use today.
Despite digitised asset tracking via a spreadsheet being markedly superior to paper forms, it still necessitates manual data entry. Manual data entry is an issue for fleet managers because it consumes a great deal of time, and also creates opportunity for human error. This makes it a barrier to achieving optimal productivity in fleet management.
Instead, automated asset tracking is a method that is now favoured due to the efficiency it implies surrounding all that is entailed within this area of enterprise asset management. The possibility of relatively automated asset tracking is down to the technology that is currently available. There are three main types of asset tracking technology. Namely, RFID, Barcodes, and GPS.
Asset Tracking Technology
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and represents a way of tracking a fleet’s assets by sending and receiving signals from specific frequencies. An RFID interface consists of tags and chips which transmit relevant information across radio frequencies to a receiver. Importantly, RFID enables the scanning and data collection of multiple items simultaneously from a remote distance, all while producing actionable tracking insights.
Barcodes are ubiquitous and have been for decades. Although barcode technology is slightly older than RFID, the technology adapted around it is constantly being improved upon. Consequently, barcodes remain a mainstay within asset tracking, especially in the case of items which are to be returned. Barcodes manifest as stickers that convert into digital information. As such, they are cost-effective, require a quick implementation process, and boast a high degree of accuracy.
Asset tracking that incorporates GPS technology evinces itself as a reliable, accessible, and singularly accurate method of tracking. GPS often sees best usage in particular circumstances, such as if items are being transported from one country to another. Nonetheless, GPS is comprehensively applicable. The primary advantage of GPS is that locations can be accessed so long as an internet connection is present. Like barcodes, GPS devices are low cost and straightforward. However, they additionally offer real-time location tracking, geofencing capabilities, and do not need manual scanning, i.e, sustained labour is not a requirement.
Why Integrated Solutions Should Include It
Regardless of the fact that the above technologies inherently automate certain aspects of the asset tracking process, a level of manual work is still involved if they are implemented in a standalone manner. On the other hand, if RFID, barcodes, and GPS comprise part of a purpose-built system, then the benefits of each are combined. Followingly, such solutions evidently offer the ability to provide a wider array of options in regard to task automation.
For instance, an asset’s information may be firstly recorded onto a cloud-based register before being designated with a barcode so that it becomes inextricable from the data present on the monitoring system. Thereafter, its physical location can be tracked in real-time, with updates being expeditiously and automatically recorded within the online database. Subsequently, members of the fleet are then afforded the ability to request asset transfers online, all the details of which are organised and so visible to the fleet manager on a dashboard for prospective performance analysis.
The Benefits of Asset Tracking
The benefits of an integrated solution are clear. Foremostly, the fleet manager is supplied with a distinct level of visibility over a business’ assets. That is, being notified when fleet assets reach significant touchpoints, as well as knowing where each and every asset is exactly so that cases of theft can be addressed. Moreover, functions like maintenance scheduling, utility optimisation, and dispatches can be easily controlled and seen from the online dashboard.
Considering the scale of information that is generated, asset tracking demands time and attention if it is completed manually; integrated asset tracking solutions categorically streamline this responsibility. The end result is a dramatic reduction in fleet costs, alongside extensive improvements in operational efficiency.
To conclude, asset tracking in a basic sense is the crucial method of ensuring that a fleet’s assets are where they are supposed to be. And, although the involved fundamental technology has been with us for a while, modern integrated solutions are necessary to get the best out of it so that fleet managers can perform their role optimally. Asset tracking today isn’t just about fulfilling the basic requirement of the job, but streamlining the mandatory duties by automating every intrinsic element of the process. If you’d like to reap the benefits of an integrated solution, then feel free to make an enquiry into our services.