December 2001 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

Ensuring Security Through Visibility

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We have all become more security conscious in the last few months. Keeping tabs on processes has never been a bad idea, but under today's circumstances better visibility, closer attention to procedures, and tight recordkeeping make the flow of information about personnel and goods all the more useful within the supply chain.

Supply chain video monitoring and tagging systems using Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) technology can go a long way toward offering security through visibility. These technologies help a supervisor or manager be in two places at once. Greater visibility can provide alarm verification, remote management capabilities, error and theft reduction, and company policy verification in a host of remote sites. While, at first, these technologies may look more suitable for airports and stores, they can be used in wider industrial applications.

Axcess Inc. of Dallas, Texas, offers a set of product systems that fall within this security/visibility realm. Its Remote Video Surveillance system uses networked-based streaming video for asset management solutions, offering remote viewing of a number of sites from one central location.

Real-Time Location Tracking

In addition, Axcess offers an Active Tag RFI system that consists of small wireless transmitters. These transmitters can be affixed to assets to give real-time location and tracking information. They can also provide condition monitoring and be utilized for vehicle, equipment, and personnel tracking and access control.

For instance, transmitters can be mounted on trucks to offer automatic identification at a dock or doorway. The tags are rugged and thin in profile and can be used to track objects moving at least 20 mph. Axcess's aim is to provide solutions that improve productivity, asset and inventory management, and physical security.

Axcess' all-digital remote access video network makes use of what it calls a LANcam streaming IP camera, connected to a LAN infrastructure. This setup links to either an industrial viewing station or a computer. With Internet service it can be hooked up to web viewing or streaming video monitors.

What functions would a video monitoring system serve in a warehouse or crossdocking environment? "In addition to the normal 'passive surveillance' that most closed circuit television (CCTV) systems can provide, our tag reads trigger event-based alerts that automatically bring up camera views and call the operator's attention to where tagged assets or people are moving, such as out of a dock, door, or restricted area," says Rick Brown, director of RF products for Axcess.

"The systems also automatically record tagged assets and personnel activities," adds Brown. "The event data is linked directly with the video file, all of which is available on a desktop computer or PDA. These capabilities allow operators to selectively view and investigate events—such as when a box is missing—or be able to verify that all four boxes were loaded on a trailer."

In addition to surveillance, Axcess's remote access video network can record and archive information for future review, especially in a loading area.

"Loading and distribution areas can benefit the same way warehouses do," suggests Brown. "But our video system also lets you visually 'return to the scene' in order to see exactly what took place."

Axcess has also marketed its video surveillance systems to the manufacturing component of the supply chain. "There are four key benefits the system brings to manufacturing," notes Brown. "First, it can leverage line supervisors by allowing them to monitor work flow of myriad lines and processes—even those scattered across multiple sites and facilities. This monitoring can also be done from the desktop.

"Second, the video network can be used to view and analyze line activity after the fact, to determine what may have gone wrong. This can prevent similar problems from happening in the future.

"Third, it is a tool to train employees and supervisors, letting them view actual worker behavior—both good and bad—in order to improve quality, safety, and productivity based upon actual performance.

"Finally, it is a way to avoid suits or claims through the recording of visual evidence," Brown says.

Axcess' remote access video system can fit into any niche within the supply chain needing either active visibility within the system or the ability to review past performances or alert situations. Its accessibility and functionality make it an ideal fit for warehouses, loading docks, and manufacturing facilities.

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