The use of real-time software to track and trace containers and other portable assets around the world is increasing as demand for goods continues to grow. Tracking by serial number ensures accurate identification. Data offers irrefutable evidence of a container’s lifecycle.
The part played by technology in shipping and logistics is becoming increasingly important in improving the efficiency of the supply chain. One key advancement is real-time container tracking.
The tracking of containers, cylinders, or other portable assets is a hot topic right now, particularly given that the number of containers in service around the world continues to grow and efforts to keep track of them during a complicated and often lengthy shipping process can go awry.
Not to mention the significant cost involved should a container be lost and need replacing. Note that containers can be either owned outright or rented and leased to customers.
With several million containers in transit at any one time and global trade expanding, it is easy to understand how a software tracking service that helps monitor their journey could help – particularly if it can be seamlessly integrated with your existing ERP software.
Companies are increasingly relying on cloud-based applications that track, manage, and maintain containers or other portable equipment that have a circular lifecycle. For example, this software can be used to track a container by the serial or identification number, which is made up of a four-letter prefix – or owner code – a six-digit serial number and one check digit.
The owner code identifies the owner of the container, while the check digit can be used to identify any mistyping errors in the serial number, as well as making sure that the owner prefix and the serial number are genuine.
There is also a global standard – ISO 6346 – that helps to standardize the tracking and marking of containers around the world.
After a barcode, radio-frequency identification (RFID) or GPS tag is placed on the asset in question, an app for mobile devices collects the data in the field, while a website allows users to set up the system and view reports.
Essentially, for any company that moves containers or cylinders around the world, it offers a fail-safe method of determining where that particular asset is during its journey, for instance whether it is in transit, waiting for loading/unloading, or delivered to its final destination.
The data can also include information about the container’s content, as well as the service record of the container itself, for example when it was serviced or painted, and even when it reached its end of life and was decommissioned. Effectively, tracking the full life-cycle of a container provides irrefutable evidence of where it has been and what has been done to it.
It can also detect duplicate serial numbers, data entry errors, lost invoices and mobile units that are syncing out of sequence.
Besides its tracking abilities, these applications can also confirm and balance a company’s rental fees at the end of the month. For example, the system will balance the assets returned versus the ones that are still retained, calculating any outstanding monies owed.
Not only does it make the payment system quicker and easier, but it can also reduce the discrepancies that arise with lost equipment, potentially causing arguments with customers, which can harm business relationships.
This can be applied to any portable asset that is returned and reused – think intermediate bulk container (IBC) totes, medical equipment such as wheelchairs, beer kegs, and gas cylinders.
To illustrate the software’s potential benefits, take as an example, a welder working on a huge construction site, say building a skyscraper, where there will be multiple contractors and equipment, including gas cylinders. With so many parties working together and sharing the site, it is inevitable that someone can grab the wrong cylinder, or ‘borrow’ one when their own runs out of gas.
In this scenario, when a worker returns the cylinders, a ‘wrong’ one could easily be credited to the wrong owner. This could not happen if the cylinders were being tracked by serial number as it would be immediately clear in this sort of situation who owned the cylinder, with the balance being credited to the correct company.
Datacor believes there is a strong value proposition in tracking by serial number. But it does require some work upfront to enter all the serial numbers into the system and label them accordingly with a barcode. Plus each asset would need to be scanned on a device each time it is delivered and returned, adding some – albeit very short – time on each transaction.
Digitization is transforming the way we work, live and shop. Companies like Amazon have made the traditional buying and shipping process much more visible, and people are expecting similar transparency in other industries.
Eventually, each container could have tracking software, which would bring not just much-needed visibility along the supply chain but also improved security as theft costs firms huge sums annually.
Datacor acquired TrackAbout, the market leader in asset tracking and management software, in October 2019 and new features and functions are regularly launched and updated to help users protect their assets and manage the supply chain. By providing real time updates and complete control over returnable assets, we’re helping improve efficiency, cut costs, and save time.
If your company has returnable or reusable assets spread around the world, then tracking them makes sense in many areas, and the cost of installing the system will quickly pay for itself. Not only that, it will bring companies other advantages in their operations, such as higher efficiency, more accuracy, better visibility and accountability – what’s not to like?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I track my containers, totes, and cylinders?
Our TrackAbout software solution is ideal for reusable asset tracking.
What is asset management and how does it work?
Using dedicated tracking software and applications helps businesses monitor and manage their assets – and can result in significant savings in terms of time, money, and effort.
Is TrackAbout a Datacor company?
Datacor acquired TrackAbout in 2019, joining our range of business management software solutions, Datacor ERP and Datacor CRM.