Geo-asset management is a persistent issue in a plethora of industries and a reactively new area of engagement for resident GIS specialists and company facility managers. To better understand the issue — and how a combination of GIS and sensors can fix it — here are some representative use cases from the health care and food and beverage industry:
Geo Tracking For Health Care Asset Management
Assets come in all forms in health care — from medications to lab equipment to vehicles, wheelchairs, mattresses, and beds. In all of these areas, hospitals are struggling with cost containment in their supply chains. For this reason, it is important to better track and control the assets that are under management.
In the area of medications and pharmaceuticals alone, health care loses billions of dollars. One cause is improper temperature and humidity controls for sensitive medications. In the hospital facility area, it is also important to regulate temperature and humidity in buildings and hospital rooms. To address the latter, Texas Hospital used RFID technology to track temperature and humidity in its facilities. This geo tracking and monitoring assured that facilities were being properly maintained at appropriate environmental levels and also met health care environmental compliance requirements.
Geo Tracking & The Food And Beverage Industry
Meanwhile, in the food and beverage industry, temperatures and humidity controls (and geo tracking) of assets are one way to address the problem of food waste, which can tally up to $160 billion annually. Some of that waste occurs before crops even hit the market — on the farm, or while goods are enroute or in storage.
Environmentally sensitive sensors that are integrated into GIS capabilities help to address unique issues that producers might not even think about. Consider this: A study by Zest Labs, an agtech company, found that there was up to 86 percent variability in the true “best by” freshness dates that a producer had labelled on pallets of strawberries that had all shipped in a same-day load.
In the Zest Labs study, the strawberries’ optimum freshness capacity was determined to be 14 days. However, that timeline only applied to strawberries that had been properly refrigerated. It didn’t apply to strawberries that had encountered more exposure to heat in the field or to heat on trucks or in packing plants. Consequently, some pallets from the same load had an end-of-life number as low as two days instead of the 14-day number the producer had labelled them with.
These use cases demonstrate how sensors integrated with GIS capabilities can reduce costs by tracking cargo, supplies and even fixed assets — but how many companies are actively using sensors and GIS to do this? A majority of companies fall short. This is why asset management is an important area to advocate for if you are in a GIS/geospatial role.
What are the key strategic focal points in a GIS-oriented asset management approach? The following six steps can build a geo tracking strategy, or they can be a selling strategy to promote your geo tracking skills and services.
#1 Identify the business problem.
For most companies, the issues concerning assets are going to be cost controls and/or cost avoidance. It costs money to write off product losses or to account for equipment that is missing. A dollar value can be attached to that. Identifying specific areas of asset losses and developing a plan to reduce these losses, is a good place to start.
#2 Gain management support.
It is advisable to work with the finance department so you can attach a dollar value that illustrates the potential cost savings and/or loss avoidance that can be gained by tracking assets and combining them with geo locations. Once the numbers are identified, you are likely to attract management’s attention and support.
#3 Look at your existing vendors.
You might already have an asset tracking and/or GIS system. Check in with your existing vendors to see if extensions can be made to include sensor-based tracking. In many cases, you will find that there are. If your GIS and/or asset management system vendor provides these capabilities, take a look to see if there is a fit with your business situation.
#4 If your existing vendors don’t have sensor-based asset geo tracking, search the market.
If your existing vendors can’t assist you in extending your GIS to track and monitor corporate assets, there are sensors out there that can. A next logical step would be to develop an RFP that states your needs and requirements, and to interview prospective vendors about their capabilities in geo tracking.
#5 Think about investment protection.
If you have a legacy GIS or asset management system that can adapt to working with geo sensors, it’s worth a hard look to see if you can accomplish your objectives by using systems that you already have. Similarly, if your company has made a substantial investment into RFID devices, it’s worth it to seek out a GIS or asset tracking system that can integrate with these devices. What you want to do is to get as much as you can out of your existing IT assets.
#6 Develop and track metrics.
Management will want to see results, and so should you. How much do you estimate the company can save from asset losses by more acutely monitoring and geo tracking assets? Did you reach your goals? This final feedback loop into a geo asset tracking project is the most important step you can take to transform corporate asset management into a geo- and cost-relevant exercise.