Our guide to Asset Tracking
At Cross-Check we are passionate about Asset Management & Auto-ID Solutions. We have been producing software for over 16 years and get a real buzz when a project goes live and our clients start seeing the business benefits of asset tracking.
We thought we would share some of our knowledge with you in our Guide to Asset Tracking.
From reading our guide you will:
- Know what an asset is
- Understand what types of assets can be tracked by RFID
- Explore what can be achieved by using RFID
- Understand what equipment is required
- Gain knowledge of RFID Tags & Software
What exactly is an Asset?
An asset is an piece of equipment of property that has value to a person or company. The significance of the asset can of monetary or of intrinsic value.
What types of assets can be tracked by RFID?
One of the most popular uses for RFID tracking is for IT equipment or hardware. Anything from a keyboard or mouse to Server tower can be tracked.
You may have noticed when you started at a new company that there is a sticker with barcode on the underside of your laptop? If so, that’s the company utilising RFID to regain control and visibility of their assets.
RFID Tool Tracking is a great way to maintain the investment in your tools and create accountability with employees. Some companies have to manage hundreds, thousands and in some cases – hundreds of thousands of tools. Most find a simple barcode approach to be inefficient and labour intensive.
RFID can be a massive help to such asset heavy companies – but when dealing with metal, one must be careful how the RFID is deployed as metal can cause serious signal interference between RFID tags with conventional dipole-based antennas and RFID readers.
There are some types of medical devices that government needs to know actually where they are. So, for devices that you are required to track, you either track them with a human being every day or you track them automatically with RFID. The cost justification is easier because to have somebody track the cabinet manually daily is a very expensive proposition.
Medical devices are also implantable, to check the status of these devices (battery life for example) can be utilised by RFID.
Certain manufacturers are starting to electronically tag stillages, the metal cages used to usually transport components. This could save manufacturers millions of pounds in lost equipment and lost production by preventing them going missing.
The savings that can be gained by this technology are enormous – each missing stillage costs hundreds of pounds but more costly is the loss in production triggered by the hold ups caused by not having a stillage full of key components in the right place at the right time.
When evidence arrives, it is logged into the tracking system and given an RFID tag. A unique tag is affixed to each piece of evidence or envelope. RFID antennas are installed at the entry point of each vault. When an officer walks into the vault, the RFID antenna does two things:
- Reads the officer’s name/ID tag (noting that this officer had possession of the evidence)
- Reads the RFID tag for each item being carried
The same thing happens on the way out: the ID of the officer is noted, along with the evidence in his possession. Now, a full chain of custody is established, which is particularly important for evidence transfers.
Fire safety is extremely hard to manage. Job sites and facilities can literally have hundreds, if not thousands of fire extinguishers. Which ones need an inspection? Which ones have to be sent for servicing? It is almost impossible to track and manage.
RFID can help you completely automated your fire extinguisher inspection process.
RFID can be used effectively in the automotive arena to track components for different reasons, here are our top 3:
Increased equipment and tool utilisation
An RFID system allows workers to locate tools quickly and easily, preventing the need to stop the assembly line and search for a misplaced tool. It can also help provide insight into how often certain equipment is used, allowing you to better control the depreciation of high-value assets.
RFID help track supplies and tools in the auto industry to increase employee accountability and make sure that assets don’t leave the building.
Instant restocking of supplies to prevent shortages
Concerned that you’re running low on supplies and don’t have time to do an inventory? With RFID, this problem disappears. Automotive managers can get constant visibility into inventory levels and can configure their systems to automatically reorder supplies to prevent shortages when supplies run low.
Other clever uses…
Here are some examples of innovative ways RFID is being used around the world:
Smart fitting rooms
Retailers are requesting interactive dressing rooms. For a customised experience, your items are scanned to display product information, related items, and even collect feedback. As an added bonus technology in the process. RFID dressing rooms offer a reliable anti-theft technology in the process.
Race tracking is one of the most popular uses for RFID tags. Bibs or wristbands are embedded with unique IDs tracking the runner’s time.
In addition to loss prevention, RFID embedded casino chips can be used to see how much you spend and where you spend it. This information is used for analytics and also to serve you well-timed drinks.
What can be achieved by using RFID for asset tracking?
Managing and tracking your assets is crucial in preserving your capital and couldn’t be easier utilising x-Track Asset Tracking Management software.
- Do you know the value of your assets?
- Where are your most valued company assets?
- Can you identify areas of significant loss?
- Spending days tracking your company‘s assets at the end of your financial year?
- Electrical items all PAT tested?
- Fire extinguishers checked?
However, just as it can be easy to misplace a sock or even your car keys, when assets are on the move they can easily get lost. Our asset tracking software will solve this issue for you as our solutions are tailored to suit your company.
In addition, you’ll be able to identify any missing assets, produce a printed report and charge the relevant customer for the loss. Later on, if the asset is returned, you’ll be able to credit the customer accordingly.
Simply by adding a barcode or RFID tag (dependent on system requirements) to assets such as computers, power tools, pallets or roll cages, you can check if your asset has been returned or track them to a specific location.
- Locate a specific asset in a room, yard or warehouse.
- Track an assets journey through a manufacturing, sterilisation, or repair process
- Keep accurate historical records of repairs, usage, etc.
- Manage inventory in a fixed or mobile location
- Prevent assets from being lost or stolen.
What type of equipment is required?
A Reader acts as the brains of the operation – aided with software it’s programmed to perform at specific times or omit certain power levels. There are different types of RFID readers on the market to accommodate specific environments or applications.
Handheld Readers – Ideal for checking items in/out or performing maintenance operations.
USB Readers – Ideal for reading close range, checking items in/out and writing tags.
Fixed Readers – Ideal for conveyor, portal areas. Used with various antennas they can create a large coverage area.
Integrated Readers – Low cost alternative to fixed reader. Reader and antenna combined in single enclosure, ideal for lower volume.
Antennas & Cables
RFID Antennas and cables work together with the reader, tags, and software to complete the RFID system. Antennas are made with different technical specifications to fit a wide variety of applications. RFID Antennas can be sorted using four primary characteristics:
Each of these categories contain options that need to be completely understood before purchasing an antenna. Understanding the environment, read range needed, country of application, and angle of tag reads will help the user choose an option per category. Using the information gathered from each category above in addition to existing hardware specifications will help to determine the best antenna for individual applications.
Antenna cables are available in various lengths, insulation ratings, and connector types. Make sure you use the correct cable.
RFID Tags & Software
Determining the ideal RFID tag for an asset tracking application depends on the asset as well as its environment, read range needed, as well as any processes it must go through. The material of the asset will greatly affect the type tag required and the three most common groups of materials along with information on tags and attachment methods.
Even though metal causes RF interference, metal assets can be tracked using RFID. Metal-mount RFID tags are tuned for use on metal and, as such, can actually have greater read range than some of their counterparts. Metal-mount tags can be attached to assets a few different ways such as screws and rivets, epoxy, and embedded to name a few.
There are quite a few RFID tags that are tuned for plastic and perform well. The main considerations for tagging plastic assets are tag size, shape, and method of attachment. Manufacturers suggest a specific set of attachment methods that are proven for each tag. The environment in which the tags will be used in also plays an important part in the selection process. Some tags are required to work in high temperature or rugged environments which narrows down tag selection.
Assets comprised of wood, ceramic, glass, and other miscellaneous materials generally have a smaller selection of tags available for use.
Asset Tracking Software
Asset Tracking Software is a critical piece of any RFID system; however without it, readers can read tags, but no data will be stored. A key piece of an asset management RFID system is the storage and utilisation of the information collected from tag reads.
Do you have a query about asset tracking?
Drop your question on the form below and we will get back to you.