“Precise inventory management” is the key to growth for a business. Increasingly, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - also known as drones - are becoming an attractive technology to help achieve these goals.
This white article will illustrate how visibility technologies such as RFID mounted UAV(s) can alleviate the pain points for manufacturers and enable highly efficient business processes that ultimately lead to a reduced cost of ownership for returnable containers in the supply chain.
UAVs will extend and amplify what humans are already doing by adding aerial asset visibility.
Solution to a chronic and wasteful Logistic Problem
Some parts or items are stored, shipped and consumed using returnable containers in the warehouse. These containers range in size from not much bigger than a shoebox to pallet-sized for larger parts. The inventory of these RTI(s) normally demands several days and personnel efforts.
The challenge has been finding an effective way to track, count and manage RTI asset in the logistic yard and warehouse. Units are often used by non-owners with little accountability, so accurate manual audits can be neglected. Another issue is that shrinkage can reach 25% annually as RTIs are damaged, lost, stockpiled or simply cycled inefficiently.That results in additional purchases and larger-than-optimal inventories just to avoid shortfalls and downtime.
Automating the management of RETURNABLE TRANSPORT ITEMS (RTIs) means all companies can be held accountable for the units that pass through their facilities, so shrinkage and other losses can be curtailed, cycle times can be optimized and RTI inventories can be right-sized and lean.
HOW UAV CAN IMPROVE RTI MANAGEMENT
RFID-Mounted Drones is a UAV solution ideally suited to meet the challenges of RTI asset management, enabling the real-time tracking of each individual RTI asset in a large logistic sites or warehouse.
Each RTI is equipped with a unique, durable Smart TAG (RFID passive or beacon) that identifies the type and size of the unit, as well as the date it was placed in service and other essential data you need to monitor. RFID tags are available in many form factors, from adhesive-backed tags to tags specifically designed for ideal application and performance on metal RTIs.
The RFID-equipped UAV flies near or above RTI(s), which are marked with unique Tags, and collects data.
Once an RFID-Mounted Drones-enabled RTI solution is in place, information on the tags can be automatically captured whenever the unit is within a range of a Drone reader. Error-prone paper processes are replaced with highly accurate data capture processes – including a complete audit trail for regulatory and contractual compliance.
The UAV-RFID capacity does not require line of sight. Multiple RTI(s) can be read simultaneously without any human intervention. By completely automating the tracking of RTIs, you get an accurate count of RTIs at any known point in the Warehouse, in real time. For some, UAV means greatly improved inventory and tracking accuracy. For others, it can mean having access to inventory data that was never available before because it was simply too costly to generate.
Aerial Intelligent Asset Inventory and Monitoring
Smartx delivers scalable cloud-based solutions that leverage an extensive Internet of Things (IoT) sensor network that includes passive RFID, GPS and cellular technologies to capture and share real-time information in your supply chain players.
Smartx Hub systems is a Complete Smart Cloud Solution for Scanning RFID, Bluetooth, Wearable & Smart Sensors with any commercial grade UAV/Drone.
The asset management application generates a variety of important alerts whenever things do not happen as planned. Typical examples of alerts and escalations are that a given returnable container has not moved in the system for a certain number of days. As we have discussed, this can trigger an inquiry when containers are out-of-location or wrong workflow.
The data management of returnable containers in the asset management application allows for the use of standard reports as well as for custom report development.
Conclusion and outlook
Detailed knowledge of how returnable containers move through the system allows reliable assessment of how many returnable containers are needed and helps reduce inventory as well as avoid excessive spending for the next program.
The true value lies in the visibility that UAV+RFID provides seeing inventory whether in motion in a yard or in stock at all times. UAV(s) can fly, sense the Tags and transfer the data to the Platform. Based on this, the Smartx Hub know exactly when and where an item was last seen.
The UAV as a Service ® and asset management application to returnable container tracking is just a first step. Several applications that can be built on top of returnable container tracking to leverage its infrastructure and its advantages even further. In this white paper, we have briefly outlined some of these capabilities, such as aerial volumes inventory. However, the UAV as a Service(r) application along with RFID technology can be used beyond that for manufacturing or yard and remote sensor telemetry.
Returnable Transport Item Tracking using Smart Technologies
The use of returnable containers (pallets, roll cages, returnable plastic containers, tote boxes, ingredients bins, dollies, IBCs, intermediate bulk containers, gas cylinders, and kegs etc) is an increasing phenomenon in the modern supply chain, with companies constantly seeking to reduce costs, increase handling efficiencies and improve environmental responsibility through less waste. Increasingly stringent traceability regulation worldwide requires companies not only to provide a complete audit of product and ingredients movement in the supply chain but also compels them to track secondary packaging and materials handling equipment flows associated with product shipment.
In addition, the supply chain suffers significant costs annually, associated with the loss of equipment/assets and their subsequent replacement.
A common requirement is for companies to track mobile assets that would originate in their facility, get shipped to a trading partner’s facility, and then return. This scenario is the basis for many asset management applications, where the goal is to track the location and status of assets in order to improve asset utilization. The same scenario is also the basis for various consignment scenarios.
SmartX Hub offers an affordable and efficient way to get the greatest value from RTI inventories.
RFID tags on each individual unit make it possible to accurately and automatically track its movement, using fixed readers at strategic in-and-out portals at the distribution center or mobile devices (handheld, cell phones, tablets) readers for mobile read points at remote /customer facilities.
Benefits of implementing SmartX Hub
- Accountability. Automating the management of these mobile assets means all users can be held accountable for the units that pass through their facilities, so shrinkage and their losses can be curtailed, cycle times can be optimized and RTI inventories can be right-sized and lean.
- Visibility. A RFID container tracking solution automates the process by providing real-time visibility for tracking and managing reusable containers wherever they are located within your facility. Whether your business uses totes, bins or containers, a RFID container tracking system will improve productivity and reduce lost or stolen items – which leads to lower inventory carrying costs.
- Reduce counterfeiting. Pool players can improve their sales and their brand image (i.e. authentication of pallet quality) by gaining more visibility on the locations where counterfeited assets arrive in the supply chain.
- Adjust the pool size. With visibility on asset flow and asset stock at each location, pool players will have the opportunity to adjust their pool size with actual customer demands.
- Optimized exchanges with partners. With accurate visibility, companies can plan efficient collection of empties with their partners. They can also control both the quantity and authentication of assets being collected in order to balance their partner’s account and prevent recovery of lower quality, counterfeited pallets.
The standard RTI process supported by SMARTX HUB software includes the following steps:
- Tracking of returnable container current and historic locations, from supplier to customer and back again
- Commissioning and maintenance of RFID tags or bar codes placed on returnable assets using the standard global returnable asset identifier
- Tracking of the asset through the various operations within the supplier’s facility, such as packing, loading, unpacking, and unloading
- Tracking of the asset through the various operations within the customer’s facility
- Automatic monitoring of events, such as empty and full status, using event management tools that alert relevant parties of unintended or unexpected events or changes in status
SmartX Hub is able to accomplish your operational efficiency with the least waste of time and effort:
- Manage RTI pool shrinkage due to “stockpiling” in the distribution channel or at customer sites.
- RFID read point at “ownership” transitions in the supply chain.
- Account for damaged and lost RTI’s in financial budgeting.
- Increase availability of existing container supply by a proper allocation based on need/volume.
Implementing Smartx Hub® at your company, the high cost of old inventory management can be used to invest in your company growth since Smartx Hub® offers:
- Confirm cargo loads by quickly scanning RTI’s, reducing mistakes in shipments… much faster than barcodes!
- Reduce cost of leased RTI’s through more efficient inventory tracking.
- Reduce theft of high-value cargo by assigning responsibility… the customer knows the RTI is being tracked.
Smartx Hub® has the capability to provide your company with the desired Asset tracking results:
- Tagged RTI’s can facilitate regulatory compliance by tracking origination (i.e. fresh food products) and destination (particular store or DC) for an audit trail.
- Manage RTI cleaning schedules for regulatory compliances.
- Manage periodic maintenance requirements by cycling inventory back to factory/production plant.