Asset tracking technologies, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Quick Response (QR) codes, enable companies to streamline management of their inventories or equipment. With these tools, maintenance teams and supervisors can tell the location and status of their assets in real time. But the future of asset management is going to be much more data and analytics-driven. Many industries, from transport to manufacturing, are increasingly turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect their hardware-monitoring systems, enhance visibility into their core processes, and streamline maintenance programs. Artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, and the cloud have a significant role to play too, going forward.
Here are 4 noteworthy trends to expect in asset management:
1. IoT-Powered Telematics to Streamline Fleet Management
Telematics is not a new concept—Formula One has used it to monitor racing cars/teams on the racetrack. But its integration with technologies such as the cloud and IoT will open up a broad range of capabilities to companies interested in tracking vehicles along with driver behavior.
By definition, telematics is a car tracking technique that provides much more data than traditional technologies. It doesn't render GPS or Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) obsolete, though. Instead, it relies on satellite or cellular networks to facilitate back and forth communication between a vehicle and a monitoring system.
How Telematics Works
In a typical fleet management system, telematics includes sensors for tracking each car in a monitored IoT network. The vehicles are connected to the system, while captured data is stored and shared via the cloud, making it available in real-time. The system gathers various types of information about each car, for example, where it is at a particular point in time, how long it's been there, and how fast it's moving.
Onboard sensors can also collect and send data about fuel consumption and the status of a vehicle's drivetrain. Fleet managers or other authorized parties may receive this information via a central management desktop-based or smartphone app.
Potential telematics applications include:
Insurers may use telematics to study driver behavior for risk analysis purposes. By collecting braking or speed data, these companies can distinguish between careless (high-risk) and careful (low-risk) motorists. They may use this information to work out personalized, customer-centric insurance premiums. Also, comprehensive traffic data and info on driver behavior might help stakeholders in the insurance industry correctly determine at-fault drivers in auto accidents.
Governments can tap into telematics to improve public transportation systems. The collaboration between the U.S. Postal Service (which manages its fleet using telematics) and municipal authorities is an ideal model for how the technology can work to streamline traffic flow within networked cities and other urban areas. If the deal materializes, municipalities will be receiving timely information about sections of the road that require repair or decongesting. That's because telematics will be capturing and sending geolocation data for on-the-road events, such as where cars hit potholes.
Electric Vehicles (EV) Management
Telematics has potential uses in cities that are struggling with the adoption of EVs. Municipalities can use the technology to help motorists to spot available public charging stations in real time. Many city residents are unable to move to EVs because the cars have a limited range, a problem that's aggravated by the shortage of charging stations. With telematics, drivers of these vehicles can access real-time updates on their onboard digital displays.
2. IIoT-Driven Asset-as-a-Service, Predictive Analytics, and Prescriptive Maintenance in Manufacturing
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been gaining momentum for some time now, and it's going to be a major driver of smart asset-management strategies in the industry 4.0 era. It's already driving the dawn of new business models for asset manufacturers, and it's at the center of the ongoing transition from predictive to prescriptive maintenance practices.
Asset-as a Service and Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance is catching on fast in the manufacturing industry as more and more factories innovate to optimize uptimes. Organizations are using it to build capabilities for detecting potential process faults and fixing mission-critical hardware before it's too late. Thus, today, manufacturers are embedding sensors on machines deployed on site as well as in the field to collect data on their status and health. Analyzing this information enables maintenance teams to track potential machine faults and implement preventive measures in good time. Such an approach to maintenance can save manufacturing companies a lot of money by preventing costly equipment failures and avoiding downtimes.
However, IIoT-driven predictive maintenance is going to have an even more significant impact in industry 4.0 by creating opportunities for new business models. And intelligence-powered asset-as-a-service is a perfect example of how future equipment manufacturers will be engaging their B2B customers in long-term business arrangements that are a win-win for all parties involved. Such relationships are very critical as businesses expect the mission-critical machines they buy to function optimally with virtually zero downtime, and they're increasingly relying on manufacturers to provide the necessary system availability guarantees.
With the asset-as-a-service model, a typical manufacturer, such as an HVAC equipment maker, undertakes to maintain, on an ongoing basis, the products they sell to B2B buyers. The assets have built-in IoT sensors that send status data to the manufacturer in real time. Predictive analytics enable technicians to foresee and fix potential problems to keep their B2B customers happy. So the HVAC device maker gets paid for not just selling equipment, but also for keeping it up and running with predictive maintenance.
Shifting From Predictive to Prescriptive Maintenance
Most organizations using predictive maintenance today are only able to tell when and where a problem is likely to occur. That's helpful already, but companies are now looking for ways to leverage data and smart analytics in the development of solutions to predicted process or equipment faults. Here's where prescriptive maintenance comes in—to prescribe appropriate solutions in advance based on in-depth intelligence.
Prescriptive intelligence tells technicians what they need to fix and how they should fix it. It also provides insights into the necessary operational changes that organizations need to implement to minimize interruptions to workflows during maintenance or downtime.
A typical application of such technology is commercial aircraft maintenance. An airline can use it to identify a plane that requires the most urgent attention in case of a predicted maintenance issue. The system scans personnel data for the entire carrier and recommends the most qualified engineer for the on-hand repair job. It's an integrated, cloud, AI, and IoT-driven solution, and thus, it can help analyze flight schedules so that the airline adjusts its plans accordingly. The idea is to minimize the impact of downtime on operations and financial performance.
3. Voice-Directed Warehouse Operations are on the Rise
Voice-directed workflows are increasingly dominating warehouse operations these days. The technology is already impacting the supply chain, enabling companies to manage distributions centers more efficiently. In a typical warehouse, the system provides step-by-step voice directives to appropriate staff, such as order pickers, guiding them along the aisles to the location of needed products. It's helping to reduce picking errors substantially.
How Voice-Directed Picking Works
It's all part of an integrated inventory management system that recognizes the location and quantities of all items or products in a store or warehouse. The picker wears a hands-free Bluetooth headset with a microphone and speaker. There's a speech synthesis application that verbally tells the employee what to pick and where to find it. It provides the most efficient route to the item's location.
The picker communicates with the system via the microphone to confirm they've found the required order or accomplished any other intended task in the warehouse. Since the app has a speech recognition component, it processes and "understands" the employee's response.
Voice-directed warehousing technology will likely render technologies like radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanning obsolete with time. That's because it eliminates the need for staff to walk around with hand-held scanners searching for items in a store. The technology introduces several critical advantages, including:
- Data entry simplification: It eliminates the need for staff to enter data manually or take notes while locating items.
- Efficiency: It provides the quickest routes along the aisles, saving time and simplifying picking workflows.
- Shorter training time: It gives clear verbal directives that are easy for staff to grasp. To onboard warehouse employees, managers or supervisors no longer have to provide time-intensive training on tasks like data verification via computer keyboards.
- Increased productivity: Warehouse employees accomplish more within less time as they're able to pick orders correctly most of the time.
- Customer satisfaction: Picking orders correctly means shipping the right items to customers every time.
Only about 25% of warehouses and distribution centers in the U.S. have incorporated voice-directed order picking into their inventory management systems, but this will undoubtedly change as the technology's features and benefits become increasingly vital to operational efficiency and overall business success year after year. For example, Patterson Companies increased order fulfillment speed by 25% after implementing the advanced system in its 14 distribution centers. The company fills 25,000 orders on demand daily, and after doing away with the cumbersome and slow paper-based picking method, it has minimized errors and shortened employee on-boarding time.
4. Drones in Asset Management
There's no doubt that GPS-integrated QR code tagging systems have enhanced asset management and tracking in essential ways, including by facilitating real-time geo-tracking. But employees have to be physically there to scan QR tags with their mobile phones. What if drones could take the place of employees to do all the scanning and send equipment status and health data to a database in the cloud? These are the future of warehousing and asset management!
Drones for Tracking Warehouse Inventories
Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones are helping track, audit, or inspect assets more efficiently than ever before. A typical UAV for these applications is GPS-enabled, meaning that it can tell the exact location of an item after scanning its RFID tag or QR code. It has cameras and sensors for capturing videos and scanning product/equipment tags for identification purposes.
Some e-commerce companies are already using UAVs to assess inventory levels in their large distribution centers. These tools are capable of scanning thousands of items over an extensive range within a short time, eliminating the need for manual inspections. They can help provide an accurate picture of stock levels to prevent understocking, which typically shrinks sales revenue opportunities.
Drones for Asset Maintenance
Drones are transforming routine asset inspections, and they're gradually catching on in industrial facilities and areas where four dreaded conditions exist: dirty, dull, distant, and dangerous. With the increasing adoption of UAVs in a broad range of industries, from oil rigs to manufacturing, plant or equipment inspectors have versatile tools to reach remote assets that are otherwise risky and difficult to access and inspect.
For example, inspectors may send a UAV up a cell phone tower or factory chimney, rather than have personnel climb all the way up. The device has a camera and sensors on it, so it captures and beams footage to a technician on the ground. It can hover in one place for as long as it takes to survey an asset (or several items) and send comprehensive data to the technical team.
The use of UAVs in asset inspection and maintenance is rising steadily across the globe because of its many benefits, including:
- Low costs: Manual surveys are costly and labor-intensive. But a single drone can do the work of dozens of workers over the same duration.
- Personnel safety: UAVs can scale great, dangerous heights that pose the risk of on-the-job fall accidents.
- Uptime: Inspectors don't always have to take remote assets offline to carry out a routine inspection. They may sometimes use drones to inspect offsite equipment while it's still online, averting unnecessary downtime.
Conclusion: Asset Management is Constantly Evolving
The future of asset management is bright as revolutionary technology gives different industries and businesses more efficient tools for handling, tracking, inspecting, and auditing their inventories or equipment. You can expect the following trends to continue gathering momentum in the next few years:
- Telematics: An IoT of cars with onboard sensors, powered by satellite/ GSM and cloud technologies.
- Prescriptive maintenance: AI and IoT technologies can tell equipment owners and manufacturers what problem to expect and what solution to prepare in advance.
- Voice-directed warehousing: Software giving verbal directives to guide and streamline order picking workflows.
- Drones: UAVs for use in warehouse inventory management as well as conducting asset inspections in remote and dangerous locations.
Do you wish to learn more about futuristic technologies you should be leveraging to manage your inventories or equipment more efficiently? At GoCodes, we provide forward-looking asset management solutions for a broad range of industries and sectors, including education, healthcare, and manufacturing. Get in touch with us for more information!