Managing and tracking assets are different tasks that people often assume are the same. The source of confusion is obvious – one activity (tracking) is part of the other (management). When deciding to invest in the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s important to understand the difference between asset tracking and management solutions.
Management involves all aspects of procuring, owning, maintaining, moving, and replacing high-value objects around an organization’s facilities, or assigning them to specific business units for accounting purposes. Tracking, however, specifically addresses the movement of those assets to provide enterprises with visibility into the whereabouts of those items – based on last known (passive) or real-time location (active) preference.
Both tracking and management are critical to a well-run operation. They enable organizations to better budget for their high-value movable assets, improve utilization, keep maintenance schedules, and replace assets at the proper time – when they reach the end of their lifecycle – as opposed to when they’re misplaced or believed to be lost.
Many industries rely on movable objects for their day-to-day operations and can benefit from asset tracking and asset management. For instance, pharmaceutical companies need to keep track of expensive lab equipment that moves around large campuses for research and product development. They also need to understand how frequently a piece of equipment is being used and whether there are peak usage times.
Other industries such as logistics and transportation businesses operate much more efficiently – and lucratively – if they know exactly where each package is at all times, where it came from, and where it is supposed to go. The same applies to vehicles transporting those packages, whether they’re forklifts moving around a warehouse or delivery vans on city streets. It’s also critical to keep those vehicles well maintained.
Tracking concerns itself with the where of the asset management strategy. It tells you where an object is, where it was previously, and in some cases, where it should go next.
Having this knowledge incorporated into a well-defined strategy is critical. For example, without real-time tracking capabilities, it can take hours to find a missing wheelchair in a hospital, spectrophotometer in a lab, or handheld scanner in a warehouse. As a result, efficiency declines and staff productivity suffers. And, because time is money, looking for misplaced objects becomes expensive.
The good news is, organizations looking to implement IoT-based asset tracking have a wealth of options to choose from, including RFID, Bluetooth, and low-power wireless solutions. Understanding variables like range, hardware costs, and location accuracy helps decision makers identify the best technology solution to meet their unique needs.
MachineQ’s RTLS (real-time locating system) solution combines BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy) short-range tags with locators and data backhaul using LoRaWAN gateways for an optimal mix of sub-room level accuracy and long-range communication. Because data is securely transmitted without touching a company’s IP network, the solution avoids overburdening Wi-Fi networks and IT teams.
Asset management is an all-encompassing discipline that involves various tasks related to the what, where, when, why, and how of a company’s assets. Those assets can include anything from laptop computers to hospital beds.
Additionally, these systems tell you everything you should know about your assets – how many there are, where they’re located, who is using them and for how long, and when those objects will need maintenance, servicing, or replacement. The real-time tracking capabilities of an RTLS solution, for example, are essential for proper management and preventative maintenance purposes, making it easier to quickly find a device that needs calibration, servicing, or repair.
By reducing extraneous fees and setting more consistent, automated maintenance schedules, asset management enables better equipment utilization, which translates to increased operational efficiencies and enhanced user productivity. What’s more, organizations can gather the data needed to plan inventory and equipment replacement cycles more proactively. And, substantial cost savings can be realized by reducing expenditures associated with right sizing inventory and repurchasing, leasing, or renting misplaced supplies.
The key to efficiency, like most other business activities today, is to collect and properly manage data – from gathering, aggregating, and recording data on all assets throughout their entire lifecycle, to issuing alerts when it’s time for maintenance, and in some cases, when troubleshooting is necessary.
Set the Strategy
While asset management and asset tracking are not interchangeable terms, it’s clear they’re closely related. A company can have either without the other, but it’s best to have a strategy for both to realize the benefits of improved budgeting, efficiency, and productivity. To learn more on how to implement an asset tracking and management solution, schedule a consultation with MachineQ to discuss your specific needs.