Editor’s note: If you experience troubles with tracking your assets, read on for Serge’s valuable tips on the matter. And if you are ready to combat your asset tracking challenges, you are welcome to study ScienceSoft’s dedicated offer in software development.
You’ll surely agree that the absence of adequate asset tracking, especially for mid-sized and large businesses, comes at a price. For example, unclear locations and usage patterns of movable assets result in scheduling conflicts and may lead to asset losses, which lowers the return on assets (ROA).
As for current assets, if their flow is not transparent, it becomes difficult to forecast their required amount, which results in either excessive stock or stock-outs.
And for assets subject to compliance in an organization operating in a regulated industry, no sound asset monitoring means the risk of not meeting the industry regulations. And even if the required standards are met, the organization probably pulls that off with an excessive amount of manual labor.
So, is there a way to achieve a higher ROA, improve production planning, and be certain about meeting industry regulations?
My answer is to gain transparency into the asset flow by rolling out asset tracking software. Below, I explain why I consider it an optimal solution to asset management problems and explore custom asset tracking software from the perspectives of its architecture, functionality, and added value.
An asset tracking system comprises two parts – hardware and software. Depending on the assets to be tracked, the hardware part may include GPS trackers, barcodes, QR codes or RFID tags. Placed on an asset, a tracking device communicates with the software (directly or via a scanner), providing it with the data about the asset’s location and properties. The right selection and configuration of hardware are important for ensuring tracking software reliability. Therefore, I recommend providing hardware vendors with a detailed specification for installing and configuring the hardware components.
The software architecture of an asset tracking system may vary depending on an application’s purpose and richness of functionality. To give you an idea of how a high-level architecture of asset tracking software looks like, I refer to an example of a fleet tracking application ScienceSoft delivered for one of the customers:
The application uses drivers’ mobile phones as GPS trackers instead of relying on dedicated devices. The app collects raw GPS data and transfers it to the cloud backend for analysis. The results of the analysis are presented to application users on a mobile app, so that they can track all of the company’s vehicles on a map.
Since asset tracking is an integral part of asset management (for fixed assets) and production (for current assets) processes, to uncover the maximum value of asset tracking apps, I recommend integrating them with available asset management, supply chain management or enterprise resource planning systems. In the case described above, we integrated the app with the customer’s ERP for telemetry data to be automatically imported in it, which allowed the customer to achieve better visibility of transportation-related processes, lower their transportation costs by 11% and improve ROA by 14% over the year.
While it may be tempting to customize asset management or production planning software you already use with asset tracking functionality instead of developing a new application, this option has two downsides.
First, if one part of a system’s business logic gets overloaded, the whole system may stop as it can’t proceed to the next operational stage, hence, you risk facing a complete system shutdown. Second, as your asset base grows, or, say, as there appears a necessity to track assets in real-time, your system has to deal with a higher load, and in a monolithic application, performance can hardly be scaled.
My colleague Vladimir Sinkevich, Head of Java Development at ScienceSoft, adds: “Imagine you need to upgrade your system, say, add new features. Even in case of minor changes, you’d need to rewrite pretty much of it, then stop the old version for some time (which means lost asset or production data) to replace it with a new one. Moreover, you’d have to be very careful about newly introduced changes since they might damage the whole system.”
Modern asset tracking software is well-suited to tracking a wide variety of assets:
- Movable assets
When it comes to tracking industrial assets, vehicles, and other types of movable assets, gaining visibility into their locations lays the foundation for getting valuable insights about the movable assets’ utilization as well. For example, we at ScienceSoft developed a custom asset tracking solution for an upstream oil and gas company that had troubles with monitoring the locations and utilization of their onshore oil drilling rigs. With an asset tracking solution, the company achieved the desired level of transparency into the locations and usage patterns of the rigs, improved asset utilization, and reduced downtime.
- Assets in regulated industries
Modern tracking technologies facilitate healthcare asset tracking and management of assets in other regulated industries. In laboratory diagnostics, for instance, proper handling of lab samples influences the accuracy of test results, which, in turn, impacts therapeutic decisions and patient care. Thus, a diagnostic laboratory turned to us to optimize its sample labeling, storage, transportation, and disposal processes to comply with ISO 15189:2007. We implemented an asset tracking solution that utilizes barcodes and has a HIPAA-compliant cloud database for storing the data about lab samples’ locations and properties. As a result, laboratory personnel obtained the possibility to access real-time data about the statuses, locations, types, and requisition dates of lab samples.
To ensure reliable and continuous inventory tracking, you should keep in mind what conditions inventory items are subject to, what the volume of inventory is, whether this inventory is temperature-sensitive or breakable and whether it is comprised of individual assets or comes in packages or bunches. Based on this information, it’s possible to choose an optimal tracking method and build a solution architecture in a way that enables avoiding signal collisions and ensures continuous tracking of large inventory volumes.
With a variety of ready-made asset tracking applications on the market, you may consider opting for an off-the-shelf product. Still, my experience shows that the majority of ready-to-use asset monitoring apps have limited functionality and cannot meet the unique requirements and local labor regulations of the customers. So, it is worth choosing a ready-made application only if you have a small volume of similar assets and do not need any specific functionality.
On the other hand, if your asset base is large and varied, you operate in a regulated industry or need to have specific features and reporting capabilities, as well as want to ensure proper integration with other enterprise systems, custom asset tracking software should be your choice. My team and I are enthusiastic about helping businesses improve their asset management, so if you need our assistance in developing your own asset tracking software, you are welcome to leave us a request.
In software development since 1989, ScienceSoft helps companies streamline their asset management with digitalized asset planning and optimization.