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Top 5 Asset Tracking Features – Your Guide to Best Supply Chain Management Solutions

Asset tracking Features

In the era of digital transformation, the rapid advancement of technology and its impact on the evolution of supply chain management has the transportation industry buzzing. 

As Big Data, AI automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to revolutionize business practices amidst the uncertainty of the economy, an array of asset-tracking solutions promising workflow optimization and the enhancement of operational efficiencies have flooded the market. 

Though the vast majority of fleet managers agree that a supply chain management solution is imperative to streamlining operations, improving cargo security, and maintaining a competitive advantage, determining the best fit for their company can be overwhelming. 

On account of the sheer speed in which these technological changes are taking place, keeping pace with the trends has proven difficult for even the most experienced and tech savvy industry professionals. 

To help you navigate this dynamic landscape, consider the top 5 asset tracking features that will serve as a checklist useful in determining the most important elements for your company:

1.Satellite vs. Cellular Network – Understanding the Difference and Why it Matters

GPS tracking products are commonly used for supply chain management and, for the most part, are effective in ensuring timely access to the location and status of your assets. Despite their popularity on account of market share and vast accessibility, it is necessary to consider some of the inherent flaws associated with their dependence on cellular networks. 

GPS trackers work by collecting satellite signals to determine their position and then rely on cellular networks to transmit that location data in real-time, provided the asset is in range. 

When an asset is in an area with weak signals due to the presence of obstacles that affect the module’s communication with the antenna, also known as a ‘dead zone’, it is no longer possible to collect accurate and reliable information. 

In instances where there are network disruptions or when assets are traveling through these cellular dead zones, the GPS system relies on a store and forward method of transmitting data if and when it is back in range. 

If an asset is parked in a dead zone, as is often the case in rural areas, it is not uncommon for it to remain there indefinitely, unbeknownst to its owner. 

Despite the clear benefits associated with real-time location data offered in GPS tracking solutions, many fleet managers are unaware of these problematic risks of cellular network dependency. It is important to note as well that with the evolution of cellular infrastructure, particularly in reference to network upgrades, maintaining GPS solutions can become a costly and arduous endeavour.

What is Meant by “True Satellite”?

True Satellite simply means that the tracking device is able to collect the GPS data from the satellite network and then is also able to transmit that data through the satellite network for accurate monitoring.

Unlike cellular GPS tracking solutions, true satellite coverage does not require the use of a cellular network when transmitting data to your operating system. This means that your assets will remain on your radar regardless of whether or not they are in cellular dead zones. 

To further illustrate the importance in understanding these differentiating factors, consider for a moment the implications of a lapse in critical data secondary to an asset falling out of range. 

For a fleet manager whose objective is to achieve optimal utilization, which equates directly to revenue, it is necessary to review the costs associated with cellular network dependency. 

As a basic example, if you have 100 trailers but can only visualize 80 of them, your baseline of data will be compromised by 20% and so too will your ability to maximize utilization through data-driven decisions based on accurate information. 

Consider in your journey to selecting the best fit for your fleet, the importance of uncompromised access to the ‘big picture’ as it pertains not only to peace of mind, but its role in mitigating the costly impact of underutilzation. 

2. Bundled ELD & Tracking Solution vs. Asset Management Specialists – Determining the Better Investment

With so many seemingly great options for supply chain management and asset tracking on the market, many fleet managers elect to bundle their asset tracking services with an ELD solution from the same provider out of what initially is perceived to be convenience.  Since it’s often assumed that grouping these facets of business together equate to seamless operations and cost savings, this is not always the case.  Consider for a moment the significance of value associated with your assets and whether the division of resources and subsequent focus is actually in your best interest. 

A Specialized Focus Ensures Nothing is Overlooked

Imagine, for example, attending a medical appointment with a designated specialist rather than your family doctor, otherwise known as a general practitioner. While both scenarios will surely yield a sense of medical competency as each are technically physicians; the specialist is able to draw from a higher-level of expertise and provide a more thorough, comprehensive, and laser-focused approach to enable a better outcome. 

Assets = Profitability

In the transportation industry, trailers typically outnumber tractors in a 3:1 ratio. With this in mind, it’s important to note that assets – a key factor in revenue – represent significant value on their own and indeed require careful, specialized attention.

To both complement an existing ELD solution as well as yield unparalleled results in strategic software development, utilization, customer service, and advanced security features, choosing a specialized company whose main focus is geared entirely towards your assets ensures an attention to detail that is simply impossible to match.

3. Robust and Reliable Tracking Hardware – 5 Important Elements To Look For

With so many aspects to consider when choosing the best asset tracking solution, it can be easy to overlook some of the key features to look for in the actual tracking device. 

To simplify this step of your buying journey, the following checklist carefully outlines the 5 most important questions to ask when evaluating your options for a reliable asset tracking device: 

What is the installation process and will It result in a disruption to workflow?

This is something that will directly impact your bottom line as time is our greatest and most precious resource. 

Some devices on the market can be installed in less than fifteen minutes, whereas others require upwards of 1-3 hours. Ensure that your tracking device is so user-friendly that installation can be done quickly and without significant disruption. 

Additionally, regardless of whether you require an untethered tracking device or one that is hardwired, it is recommended to determine which option provides the highest versatility and suits your needs without compromising time, energy, and revenue opportunities.  

Ensure a device that is versatile with options to include both tethered and untethered tracking.

Is there a warranty?

A company that stands behind their products will reinforce their commitment to your satisfaction by ensuring you always have access to a high-level of support. 

Your warranty is essentially symbiotic with the level of customer service that you should expect from your solution provider; a hassle-free warranty that provides you invaluable peace of mind is something you should expect as part of your investment. 

Consider asking how long the company is warrantying the product for, a longer warranty proves the reliability of the device and the company’s commitment to ensuring its longevity.

Does it contain Smart Dongle technology?

Protecting and managing the cargo inside your trailer is as crucial as keeping tabs on the asset itself. 

Whether regarding temperature monitoring which include real-time alerts in the event of temperature deviation, or to ensure a higer level of protection from theft with advanced anti-tamper technology, look for a device with capabilities aligned with best practices to protect your cargo. Bottom line: ensure your device IoT connectivity includes protection capabilities to enable real-time alerts.

Is it solar powered?

In addition to being environmentally responsible, as a renewable source of power, using Solar energy provides the invaluable peace of mind that your device is both cost-effective as well as maintenance-free. 

This is an important consideration for fleet managers who would, as a result, be able to divert resources reserved for battery maintenance elsewhere.

Does it have the highest safety rating?

Regardless of the nature of your business, it is key to never compromise safety. 

To ensure your tracking hardware is of the highest safety rating, refer to the following list of important certifications:

  1. Intrinsically safe
    This means it will not cause any sparking or arcing due to its inability to store sufficient energy to ignite a flammable gas or vapour, nor will it produce a surface temperature high enough to cause ignition.
  2. ATEX/IECEx certification
    This ensures safety in an explosive atmosphere typically found in industry sectors such as onshore and offshore oil and gas rigs, petrochemical refineries, fuel distribution depots, food manufacturers, wood processors, grain handling & storage where dust is created, printing and textiles, producers and users of solvents, paints, varnishes and other flammable liquids, and engineering where dust is created from machining, grinding, and sanding.
  3. HERO certification
    This means that the ordnance safety margins required are met when the unit under test is exposed to the high levels of electric fields required by MIL-STD-464 (Military standards).
  4. IP68/69K
    In the case of IP68 protection, the test involves prolonged immersion of the product in water to a depth of over 1m. The IP69K water-resistance test is designed to ensure that the product can withstand high-pressure and high-temperature washdowns

4. Seamless Software – How Versatile Integration Capabilities and Actionable Insights Improve Workflow

When it comes to setting your team up for success, intelligent software is everything. 

Since data is only useful if it is organized, strategically filtered, and analyzed, the benefits of asset tracking on an operational level really comes down to one thing: choosing the right software.

This section will illustrate the importance of integration, customization, and adaptive innovation fundamental for streamlining business operations through the application of effective, intelligent software. 

Ensure Your Tracking Software Integrates with Other Platforms

The first step in determining your best fit for asset tracking software is to find out how well it will integrate with your current system. In other words, all data should be found in one place.  The only way to avoid the dizzying swivel-chair phenomenon that occurs when using multiple platforms is to ensure your tracking software is compatible with other software programs. When researching your options, be sure to inquire about the inclusion of an API with your software as this will ensure seamless integration with your current system.  Remember that this is an investment to make your business run smoothly and efficiently so the installation process should be quick and not result in significant disruption to workflow. 

Prioritize Automated Software That Is Actually User-Friendly

For software to be effective, it must also be easy to use. 

Unfortunately a common issue faced by fleet managers is convincing all respective departments to actually use the software features in a way that improves workflow and communication, eliminates inefficiencies, and provides real-time actionable insights.

A solution that has confusing elements or is finicky in any way, regardless of its objectively impressive features and capabilities, will simply not be used properly. To no fault of your team, if something is seemingly complicated, it will be either too intimidating or frustrating to take full advantage of. 

In the era of smart connected devices and AI automation, it is virtually impossible to convince people that there is value in technology unless it is also easy to use.

To ensure your team will use your software as it was intended, it is imperative that learning to use it is a positive experience and not a headache. 

To streamline the onboarding process and set your team up for success, your investment into a tracking solution should include an account manager to work with and empower your team into embracing the software features and use them to their full advantage. 

The Benefits of Multiple Users and Customization

When it comes to collecting data, unless it is filtered in a way that is relevant to your business objectives and makes sense for your team, you run the risk of not benefiting from the key insights derived from your reports. 

Rules and reporting features should be versatile, proactive, and accessible to multiple users. A system that has limitations and lacks customization options will inevitably become a redundancy problem for fleet managers who will ultimately find themselves responsible for communicating these insights to other departments. 

To best optimize operations, it is crucial that filtered, relevant data is accessible to multiple users wherever and whenever it is convenient. 

Using a proprietary software application from your asset tracking provider means that it is adaptive, scalable and – most importantly – always improving. An easy way to guarantee a product that will evolve with industry trends, as well as to suit your unique needs, is to invest in a solution that has a team of innovative software engineers passionately dedicated to the efficacy of their creation. 

5. Customization – How Telematics and Automation Equate to Profitability

The Digital Transformation era has given way to unprecedented access to the actionable insights associated with the power of fleet telematics. 

Reduce Operational Expenses

Gone are the days of manual yard checks which, as a basic example of eliminating expenses, typically cost middle sized fleets an average of $60,000 each year. 

As well, predictive and mileage-based maintenance scheduling results directly in less downtime and operational waste as telematics intelligently enable the strategic deployment and use of assets. 

With quick and programmable dwell and detention reports, the return on investment revenue potential from automated demurrage billing will often cover the entirety of expenses associated with the tracking solution rendering it essentially free. 
The right asset tracking solution has the potential to save your fleet hundreds of thousands of dollars each year while strategically diverting resources to substantially increase revenue opportunities. 

Attract and Retain Drivers

With industry trends and dire statistics pointing to a nation-wide driver shortage, it has never been more important to ensure you are running a business that stands out among your competition by staying ahead of the technological curve. 

In an effort to attract and retain drivers in what can only be described as an impending labour crisis, it is recommended to eliminate any hassle your drivers may experience through the ease of automation. A surplus of job vacancies will result in an era of drivers who will simply not tolerate the redundancy of engaging in historically manual practices that ultimately delay them from getting on the road. 

Modernizing and optimizing all facets of business is highly recommended to remain competitive and, ultimately, to ensure you are on track to meet your revenue potential.

Conclusion

To summarize, your asset tracking solution should make you money through intuitive streamlining and automation without enabling inefficiencies or resulting in disruptions to workflow.  If your team is using a software platform or application that is not easy to use or does not integrate with your existing system, it is perhaps time to evaluate whether it is working for or against you.  Though it’s evident that the world of asset management in the face of our rapidly evolving technical landscape can be difficult to keep up with, knowing your business objectives as they pertain to the ‘big picture’ and working backwards from your goals will ensure your investment in a tracking solution goes the distance.