In business, knowledge is power, and with it comes efficiency, productivity, safety, and profits. Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) provide this knowledge by delivering precise visibility of critical assets—supply chain, manufacturing, and human, in real-time.
For transportation and logistics enterprises, this knowledge means having end-to-end visibility and traceability of all containers, pallets, and packages. For manufacturers, it enables intelligent management and flow of all critical assets, whether in the facility or at a sprawling storage yard. In security and safety operations, it means controlling employee access, and ensuring they do not linger in hazardous areas beyond safety requirements.
GPS vs. RTLS
While Global Positioning Systems (GPS) offer some RTLS capabilities, GPS signals cannot penetrate most construction materials, leaving indoor facilities inaccessible. Furthermore, GPS receivers are highly complex, costly, and require significantly more power than RTLS tags, and lack fine-grained accuracy. Ultrawideband (UWB) RTLS tags have accuracy greater than one foot, and consume minimal power.
Depending on the RTLS application, tags contain a battery life of up to seven years. RTLS tags can attach to forklifts, containers, hospital and test equipment, trailers and containers, and personnel identification cards. RTLS tags feature programmable transmit rates, and support a configurable “blink” rate that sends out identification and telemetry data at fixed intervals.
Once activated, the tag transmits a signal to identify its precise location. Location sensors allow flexible placement in and around a facility, a shipping yard, on light poles, or corners of outdoor buildings. The combination of location data from the RTLS system and the telemetry data enables a nearly unlimited set of applications.
Why You Need RTLS
Controlling hundreds or thousands of assets throughout large indoor and outdoor production environments is a daunting challenge. RTLS allows operations to find assets in seconds, as opposed to taking hours using a manual process. Beyond the ability to locate a sub-assembly or final product on demand, operations can use the tracking data to optimize processes, workflow cycle time, and dwell time.
1. Reduce Search Time for Misplaced Assets
RTLS allows users to view the precise location of assets and eliminate time-consuming manual searches and audits. Location data integrates into existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, allowing enterprises to realize more value from their IT infrastructure.
2. Reduce Equipment Movement
Real-time enterprise visibility minimizes the need for equipment relocation. Instead of moving equipment to central locations, assets can be stored closer to the point of use, which increases production velocity.
3. Improve Audits and Recover Lost Property
With real-time, online auditing of assets, workers can locate equipment quickly. If equipment leaves a defined area, RTLS automatically triggers an alert.
Throughout logistics operations, workers can use location sensors to scan the product or container’s RTLS tags and verify shipment authorization. The shipping system provides another key RTLS integration point, which includes rail management, haul away, and electronic data interchange (EDI) for complete distribution and logistics visibility.
4. Inventory and Warehouse Management
Automate inventory control, pick and put-away location, shipping lane verification, and data entry tasks, while providing opportunities for faster time-to-delivery and elevated customer service.
5. Inbound and Outbound Logistics
Track the most demanding, variable warehouse and operations assets as they move throughout a facility, yard, or industrial complex. The result is higher efficiency of physical storage areas and equipment, and faster process speed and execution.
6. Transportation Management
Plan and control inbound and outbound truck, car,rail, and vessel movement with constraint validation, sequencing tools and stowage validation. Fully integrate gate to yard to vessel operations to increase responsiveness throughout port and terminal operations.
7. Capture Disparate Data
ERP systems integrated with middleware that read any set of auto-ID technologies (RTLS, bar code, RFID, etc.), can quickly capture events, filter, and map disparate data. The ERP system can intelligently process the real-time information so you can make proactive business decisions.
8. Improve Cycle Time
Track items and personnel, in detail, as they move through zones and processes. Managers and process engineers gain access to actionable information required for driving efficiency, such as reducing inventory cycle time to minutes vs. hours, days, or weeks.
9. Create Return on Investment Opportunities
Timely knowledge of asset movements helps expedite tasks and transactions, enabling accurate forecasting and improving asset value while reducing the order-to-cash cycle.
10. Improve Safety and Security
Traditional personnel tracking methods rely on passive RFID and GPS, which suffer from RF interference, short range, and slow data rates. Slow transmit rates mean that a person could walk through a large area and the tracking system would miss key information, possibly causing safety or security issues. RTLS enables low latency alarms, essential when operational requirements mandate “a need to know” where all personnel are located at all times, and how long they were there.
Whether tracking containers through a supply chain, optimizing manufacturing processes, or providing wide-area asset traceability, RTLS provides actionable and constant value. RTLS extends asset visibility out to 1,750 meters (5,700 feet)—far beyond the abilities of passive RFID. RTLS communicates the physical location of assets by zone, yard slot, and/or intelligent interactive graphical mapping along with historical visibility into the asset’s location, with accuracy of within a few feet.
The optimal RTLS platform integrates hardware and software with existing BI and ERP solutions to help enterprises align their strategies cross-functionally. When coupled with passive RFID and bar code systems, RTLS allows your business to stand above the competition by precisely tracking, locating, and managing critical assets across the value chain.