Manufacturers around the world are consistently looking for ways to optimize their processes to increase throughput. Searching for cost-effective ways to do so has been difficult for most. Many have settled for manual solutions proving to be ineffective. The solution manufacturers have found to maximize operational efficiency while remaining cost effective is asset tracking. Let’s dive into what the solution offers that has led to this widespread success.
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What is Asset Tracking?
Asset tracking is the process of tracking the location and movement of physical assets. Since its introduction, it has come in various forms. The first way companies tracked their assets was with pen and paper. This manual form of tracking assets was time-consuming and the data was not always reliable, so companies began to search for a new process that was less labor intensive and provided reliable data. The search resulted in barcode scanning. Many companies are still using barcode scanners to track their assets and are unaware that a more automated process exists. An asset tracking system that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) or Ultra Wideband (UWB) takes the human out of the tracking process and provides manufacturers with real-time location information about their assets.
Types of Asset Tracking
Earlier, we mentioned the different types of asset tracking that manufacturers have used throughout the years. Now, let’s break down how they compare and which is better.
Pen and Paper
Pen and paper have historically served as rudimentary tools for asset tracking, used in manual inventory management processes. In this traditional approach, assets are logged onto physical sheets of paper, where details such as item descriptions, serial numbers, and locations are handwritten. Whenever an asset is moved or its status changes, entries are updated manually. However, this method is prone to errors, as illegible handwriting, misplaced papers, and inaccurate data entries can occur. Retrieving specific asset information becomes time-consuming, and the lack of real-time updates can lead to inefficiencies, delays, and mismanagement. As technology has evolved, digital asset tracking systems have largely replaced pen and paper methods due to their accuracy, efficiency, and real-time capabilities.
Barcode scanning revolutionized asset tracking efforts by offering a more efficient and accurate way to manage and monitor assets. By using this method, each asset is assigned a unique barcode label that contains relevant information such as item details and identifiers. Using barcode scanners, individuals can quickly and easily capture asset data by simply scanning the barcode. The scanned information is then automatically entered into a digital database. This technology eliminates most of the manual data entry errors that came from using pen and paper. These scanners are a better alternative to pen and paper, but there’s still one left we’ve yet to discuss that works even better.
Asset Tracking Technology
Real-Time Location System (RTLS) technology has revolutionized asset tracking by providing precise and continuous monitoring of assets in various environments. RTLS utilizes Bluetooth LE or UWB to determine the real-time location of assets. Each asset is equipped with a tracking device that communicates with a network of sensors and receivers, allowing organizations to monitor assets' movements and positions with high accuracy. This technology empowers businesses to optimize workflows, prevent loss, improve security, and enhance overall operational efficiency by ensuring assets are always precisely tracked and accounted for throughout their lifecycle.
Where Does Asset Tracking Fit Into the Manufacturing Process?
There are many moving parts throughout the entire manufacturing process. Asset tracking is able to improve each of these processes through its unique capabilities.
Raw Materials Tracking
Raw materials are the foundation of manufacturing operations and affect the rest of your production processes. If they are lost or misplaced, production is halted until they are found or reordered. The delay caused by misplaced raw materials decreases overall efficiency and even halts the supply chain, leading to unhappy customers. Asset tracking serves as a valuable tool for effectively managing and monitoring the movement of raw materials within a manufacturing environment. By attaching tags to raw material containers or pallets, manufacturers gain real-time insight into their location and movement. The visibility provided prevents stock outs or overstock situations that disrupt production schedules. Raw material tracking also leads to efficient resource allocation. Raw materials often have varying lead times and production requirements. With asset tracking, manufacturers can accurately predict when specific materials will be needed and allocate resources accordingly, minimizing production delays.
How much time do you or your employees spend searching for the right tool to finish production? Think about how much money is being wasted paying them to search. Think about how much more throughput your company could have if the time typically spent searching was instead spent on actual production. With less time searching for tools and equipment, manufacturing operations become more efficient. An asset tracking device can be attached to each tool and piece of equipment. The device provides manufacturers with visibility of those tags at all times. When an employee needs a specific wrench, they can search in the system for their location, retrieve it immediately, and continue their work. Companies can ensure efficient resource allocation by tracking equipment utilization patterns, allowing them to redistribute underused items and prevent over-reliance on assets. This ultimately reduces unnecessary purchases and maximizes the return on investment for equipment.
Certain tools have specific calibration requirements to meet safety and quality standards. Using the wrong tool for the wrong process leads to poor quality finished inventory and potential safety concerns. Tracking these special tools with an asset tracker helps to ensure the right tool is used in the right process, preventing poor quality finished inventory, which prevents the finished inventory from needing to be recreated.
Bottlenecks are one of the top problems facing manufacturers all over the world. They are one of the main factors that cause a delay in the production process. Oftentimes, these bottlenecks go unnoticed for long periods of time. Without these bottlenecks being addressed, they continue to slow down processes. An asset tracking solution can be used to optimize WIP. This solution monitors the movement and status of each work-in-progress item in real time. This visibility enables manufacturers to track the exact location, stage, and how long they are spent in each stage. This data enables manufacturers to know when and where there is a bottleneck so the cause can be addressed without delaying production. By analyzing historical data the asset tracker stores on WIP progression, manufacturers can identify trends to help identify any potential bottlenecks. Asset tracking also promotes streamlined processes. With accurate data on the movement and progression of WIP items, manufacturers can identify potential inefficiencies and areas that need improvement. This insight allows for more precise production scheduling, leading to reduced lead times and increased throughput.
Finished Inventory Tracking
Finished inventory is the reason production processes exist. If they go missing before being distributed to customers, all the labor and materials used for their creation is wasted. Asset tracking devices can be attached to the finished inventory to prevent its loss through the real-time visibility it provides. This visibility also helps to optimize storage. An asset tracking system helps to enhance order fulfillment. With accurate information on the location and quantity of finished goods, companies can respond to customer orders more efficiently and accurately. This minimizes order processing errors and improves customer satisfaction.
Asset tracking systems provide data companies can use to determine demand for specific finished goods, enabling them to allocate resources more effectively. This prevents underutilization of resources and reduces operational costs. Asset tracking also aids in maintaining accurate financial records. The solution provides real-time data on the quantity and value of finished inventory. Companies can improve their accounting and reporting processes by using this data the asset tracking software provides, leading to more accurate financial statements and compliance with financial regulations.
Going Beyond Manufacturing
Just because the finished inventory leaves the hands of the manufacturer doesn’t mean the supply chain process is completed. The manufacturing process naturally bleeds into the supply chain to get to the end consumer. The shortened production lead times lead to faster availability of finished goods. This directly influences logistics planning, enabling more accurate scheduling of transportation, warehousing, and distribution. With reduced waiting times for products to be ready for shipment, logistics companies can better plan routes and optimize delivery timelines. With manufacturing processes running smoothly, the risk of inventory imbalances decreases. This means fewer stockouts which decreases the number of supply chain bottlenecks. If you choose AirFinder for your asset tracking solution, the system integrates seamlessly indoors and outdoors. This means when the finished inventory is ready to be distributed, you don’t have to connect it to a new system to maintain visibility. You maintain visibility of it at all times.
Addressing Common Asset Tracking Challenges
With any technology will come concerns. This is understandable, but it’s also important to recognize the methods available to overcome those challenges.
Most companies assume that using asset tracking software means they have to risk their privacy. This is not the case when you carefully choose a solution. To ensure security, you should choose a solution that is end-to-end. This means the hardware, software, and reports are one solution and operate independently of the IT network.
Many companies have existing reporting software capabilities. Instead of storing all your data in separate locations, you want a solution that can integrate with your existing reporting software. This integration increases the privacy of your data. With less reporting structures, there are less avenues for the data to travel through, meaning less entry points.
The cost of asset tracking technology often deters companies from investing. They would rather suffer the cost of delayed production and repurchasing lost assets instead of paying for a system to prevent those costs. Companies often don’t realize that there will be ROI when they invest in asset tracking. The money spent on this solution is made back due to the increased productivity it leads to.
Industrial Asset Tracking With AirFinder OnSite
AirFinder OnSite is the best solution for improving manufacturing efficiency. This solution offers a comprehensive and precise way to monitor and manage your assets in real time, resulting in improved overall productivity. At its core, AirFinder OnSite utilizes various asset tracking technologies including Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), Xtreme Low Energy (XLE), or Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology to determine the location of your assets while indoors. These tags are attached to assets such as tools, equipment, and unfinished and finished inventory. A network of strategically placed gateways and access points captures the signals emitted by these tags, enabling real-time location data to be sent to the cloud-based platform.
This technology brings a multitude of benefits to manufacturing operations. The benefit it provides that impacts manufacturing operations the most is the asset visibility it provides. Manufacturing facilities are often sprawling environments with a vast array of equipment and tools. AirFinder OnSite enables real-time tracking of these assets, helping production managers locate items quickly, reducing downtime spent searching. Raw materials, work-in-progress items, and finished products can all be tagged and tracked, allowing manufacturing teams to have an accurate and up-to-date view of inventory levels. This enables better demand forecasting, prevents stockouts and reduces excess inventory. Tagging these items helps managers to quickly identify and address bottlenecks that arise throughout the manufacturing process.
The technology's impact on efficiency is profound. By knowing the real-time location and status of assets, manufacturing teams can optimize workflows, allocate resources more effectively, and prevent bottlenecks. For example, production managers can ensure that the right tools are available at the right time and place, reducing unnecessary delays and interruptions in the manufacturing process.
AirFinder OnSite also enhances security. Assets are less likely to be lost or stolen, as the system triggers alerts when assets move outside predefined zones or are taken without authorization. This not only safeguards valuable equipment but also prevents production disruptions caused by missing tools or assets. The data collected by AirFinder OnSite offers valuable insights for process improvement. By analyzing asset movement patterns and utilization rates, manufacturers can identify inefficiencies and optimize layouts to achieve higher levels of operational excellence.
Do You Have the Tools To Maximize Manufacturing Efficiency?
In the highly competitive landscape of manufacturing, optimizing efficiency is not just a goal—it's a necessity. Asset tracking has emerged as a powerful tool that empowers manufacturers to make smarter decisions, reduce downtime, and streamline processes. By harnessing AirFinder OnSite to gain real-time visibility into their assets, manufacturers can drive substantial improvements in productivity. Embracing real-time asset tracking is a strategic move that paves the way for success in the manufacturing industry. To learn what this solution would look like in your manufacturing facility, book a demo with our team!