March 2007 | Commentary | IT Matters

Hitting the Asset-Tracking Trifecta: Bet on Visibility, ROI, and Safety

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Throughout the transportation industry, losses due to cargo shrink (theft, damage, and spoilage) total an estimated $100 billion annually.

Many companies have turned to RFID to help prevent cargo shrink, monitoring assets throughout the supply chain so they can identify when a particular asset enters or departs one facility or another.

This method, however, doesn't give shippers and logistics providers the visibility they need to know the status of their cargo "between dock and stock." Visibility means predictability; predictability helps companies reduce or eliminate process inefficiencies.

Thanks to current capabilities in satellite, cellular, and sensor technologies, manufacturers and logistics providers now have access to accurate, real-time, remote monitoring solutions that offer total supply chain visibility.

Advancements in these untethered asset-tracking solutions give users the ability to fulfill stringent short- and long-term ROI objectives, offer a broad range of value-added services, and streamline the service delivery process.

These solutions help shippers meet short-term ROI objectives by reducing cargo shrink, and provide significant long-term ROI by increasing supply chain productivity through improved asset visibility.

Logistics providers using asset-tracking software gain ROI because the solutions help them reduce customer churn with value-added service offerings; increase margins by reselling asset-tracking services; and reduce operating expenses by partially shifting customer support functions back to the customers themselves.

Intermodal asset-tracking devices also offer companies the crucial ability to maintain the security and integrity of their cargo as it travels throughout the supply chain.

Banking on Safety

Cargo safety is particularly important for companies transporting sensitive data. Because of the increasing threat of identity theft—which carries the burden of heavy financial costs—some financial institutions now require their logistics providers to offer enhanced security measures when shipping their data back-up tapes.

Take a logistics provider transporting financial records for a banking institution, for instance. The provider could install multiple trackers within several of its trailers to boost security efforts for the bank's shipments.

By affixing Zigbee wireless tags to boxes containing the financial records of the institution's customers, the provider could articulate a fixed proximity between the boxes.

Tracking devices hidden in the trailers would function as Zigbee signal receivers—they also provide GPS location information—to transmit proximity data back to the bank. Using the Internet, the bank would be able to monitor box movement within the trailer cargo bays.

To further protect the bank's financial records, sensors could be attached to the trailer doors to detect any unwarranted door open/door close activity.

If, during transit, the doors were opened or the cargo proximity thresholds violated, the sensors would transmit an alarm back to those monitoring the assets, and alert the drivers of the breach.

In this and countless other situations, the enhanced safety features of real-time asset-tracking technology provide shippers and logistics providers crucial visibility information and the peace of mind that comes with cargo safety.

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