Confused warehouse worker

Time’s a’wastin’ when you’re not tracking your assets

Why are you spending hours looking for assets when there is a simple solution you can deploy in less than a day?

In any organization, hospital, warehouse, large retail operation, stuff goes missing. Big stuff, little stuff. Questions like “how can a pallet of engine transmissions disappear?” or, “we’re supposed to have three more oxygen tanks here, where are they?” or, “if we don’t get those parts in two hours, the whole line has to shut down, didn’t they come in today?” are all too common. 

And it’s often not anyone’s fault. Sometimes someone puts a pallet down where there is space at the moment, and forgets. Maybe the crash cart is moved out of the way in the ER because you need to get another stretcher in. And then the pallet is behind three other pallets and that crash cart is pushed into a side room no one goes into very often.

And it’s lost.

Then you’re spending hours and hours, losing time to find things that just aren’t where they should be. You start in the obvious places and work your way to the ‘why would anyone put that there?’ places. And sometimes that thing stays lost, costing you money to replace it plus the staff time spent looking.

The real costs of tracking–and losing–assets

There is more to misplacing an asset–or outright losing it–than the cost of the asset itself. Let’s look at a couple scenarios where misplaced assets have huge implications in time, money, and lives.

Scenario 1: A ‘just-in-time parts’ shipment is ‘just-nowhere’ to be found

Almost every assembly line in the world operates with ‘just-in-time’ parts deliveries. Instead of buying, storing, and tracking a large parts inventory, the factory keeps a much smaller inventory on hand and relies on a fast and efficient global supply chain. But a cornerstone of just-in-time manufacturing is you have the parts on time, every time, all the time.

You’re a large manufacturer, you have parts come in from your suppliers and organized across the plant so they are ready when needed. The assembly line doesn’t have room for more than a shift’s worth of parts, sometimes less for large parts, so it’s critical everyone knows exactly how many parts are coming in and where they are at all times. A new shipment arrived today from your supplier. It got to Receiving and was sent to be unpacked and prepped for going to the line, but that’s where things didn’t go as planned. A new employee backed a forklift into a stack of barrels full of hydraulic fluid. The employee was pinned in the lift and injured. Between the fire rescue crew, moving the damaged forklift, and cleaning up the mess, that shipment went missing.

When the people were bringing that shipment in from Receiving, the prep area was in the midst of full on chaos. So the shipment was set off to the side, out of the way of firefighters, paramedics, and clean up crews. The problem was that no one told the prep team the shipment was there. Because there was no one to scan the shipment, and that the receiving people had to get right back for the next arrival, as far as the system knew all those parts were still in Receiving. In reality, three pallets of parts were off in a corner, nearly out of sight in a corner.

A few hours later the line foreman gets a message his team is running low on a few parts. Not a problem–the docket said all those parts were in staging ready to come out. The request goes to staging to bring the parts to the line, but only two of the three components needed are ready, The system shows the final set is in Receiving. Staging calls Receiving and asks about the parts. Of course the parts aren’t in Receiving; they were dropped off hours ago during the great hydraulic fluid flood…

Two hours later, after searching acres of the facility, the parts are found in the corner. The assembly line had to stop for two hours while parts were prepped. It took another hour after restart to get things moving again. In order to make sure the day’s quota was met, workers needed to log extra overtime to make it up.

One small accident caused tens of thousands of dollars in wasted productivity, overtime, and production costs. All because no one knew where a few pallets of parts were sitting.

Scenario 2: Lifesaving equipment not where it’s supposed to be when it’s needed most

Hospitals have thousands and thousands of pieces of lifesaving equipment stationed to be  at the ready when they are needed. On one floor, one of their defibrillators needed servicing, so they borrowed a spare from another floor for a couple days. No problem, everyone knew about it and it was approved to be moved to the other floor temporarily. Service completed, the borrowed defibrillator is returned to the correct floor. The person bringing it back is told, “just leave it there, I’ll put it away later.” 

That defibrillator never makes it to the right place. It keeps getting moved around because it’s in the way. Eventually it winds up in a service closet.

Later that day there is a code blue on the floor. One defibrillator is already in use, everyone is looking for the second. Did it get returned? No one knows. One person starts searching the floor while another runs to the floor that borrowed it to see if it’s there. The clock is ticking.

In the knick of time, the missing unit is found just inside the supply closet door; it had been pushed out of the way to let a stretcher pass. The patient is fine. No real harm done.

Or is there?

In an emergency situation critical equipment wasn’t where it was supposed to be. The consequences could have been tragic. People have to borrow equipment all the time, but it’s easy to lose track of where something is, when it was returned, and if it was put back where it’s supposed to be.

It’s time for a better way

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) location tags are an easy way to keep track of assets. They are small, unobtrusive, and inexpensive. They can give you not only location, but condition data as well. They can be placed virtually anywhere and have a long battery life. But there is a catch–you need a way to actually locate them in your building. A way that can get around network dead zones. A way that is as easy to deploy as it is to use. On their own, a BLE tag isn’t that useful, but paired with a system that allows the device to communicate through gateways that are already all around it, now that’s useful.

Luna XIO leverages other devices (work smartphones, tablets, even Wi-Fi-enabled printers) to be those gateways. Installed through your MDM (Mobile Device Management) system, the Luna XIO app is available for iOS and Android devices, requires little training, and is automatically configured. Once sensors are attached to items, the system can be deployed in a day and lets you track exactly where all your assets are, and when they aren’t where they should be. Luna uses the gateways’ existing wireless connectivity, safely and securely with strong end-to-end encryption for every device. Luna can transmit device and asset data to your enterprise application through a secure cloud system enhancing your existing procedures and workflows.

If something–asset or device–is lost, the Luna app can let people know if a lost item is close by, or let people track something down starting from its last known location. Devices can emit an alert sound when a worker is close, so it’s easy to locate what you’re looking for.

Here’s the real difference with Luna 

Let’s replay the two scenarios and show how Luna would have saved time and money. With Luna in place there would have been no frantic searches or wasted time.

Scenario 1: Right parts, wrong place

The parts arrive at Receiving just as before, and the prep and staging area is still covered in hydraulic fluid. The people from Receiving still don’t get the pallet scanned into the system correctly. Everything is just like before, except, when the call comes into Staging for the parts and the third set of parts ‘isn’t there’, the Luna XIO dashboard shows the pallet is in Staging. Receiving and Staging can see exactly where the pallets are because they are equipped with Luna-enabled BLE tags that feed their location data into the factory’s ERP.

Because the parts weren’t prepped when they normally would have been, it’s still a scramble to get them to the assembly line, but they pull it off. The line doesn’t even skip a beat.

Instead of wasting hours with “I told you our folks dropped the pallet off in Staging,” and, “Well, they aren’t here! We had a bit of an accident you know–we’re still getting back up and running!” phone calls and people searching for pallets, in a couple minutes the pallets were found, moved, and the parts started to be unpacked.

Scenario 2: Right floor, wrong spot

One floor still borrows the defibrillator from another, but in this case the move is captured automatically in the system and everyone can see exactly where it is at all times. When the defibrillator is brought back to the correct floor, the asset manager is alerted that the item has been returned, but that it’s sitting in a hallway and not where it is supposed to be. The floor nurse gets a call letting them know their defibrillator is back on their floor, and is around the corner. The nurse asks an aide to put the defibrillator in the correct spot.

Later in the day when they need the defibrillator, it’s right where it’s supposed to be so the doctors and nurses can focus on saving a life, not running around the floor looking for their equipment.

See Luna in action and get a demo for yourself

Here is a short video showing how Luna asset tracking works in the automotive industry: