Transforming Warehouse Management with Indoor Tracking

The consistent, successful flow of any complete supply chain, depends on a proper warehouse management system (WMS) – and for warehouse managers, true success lies in the orchestration of an efficient operation.

But how does a manager keep up with scaling, densified inventories?

Any information system that provides answers to the crucial “Who, What, When and Where”, is one that can help a manager succeed in running smooth operations. Information such as ID, time and incident descriptions are not as useful, if there is no physical location to tie in the insights.

In earlier practices of warehousing, tracking one’s assets meant manually maintaining meticulous logs – truly, a time-consuming process. With larger manufacturing, courier and other industries, a growing demand for efficiency and sophisticated tracking brought with it barcoding logging and more accelerated procedures. Real-Time Locating System/ Service (RTLS) has now become an integral part of many information systems.

The evolution and demand for these procedures has laid the foundation for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), bluetooth and real-time tracking without a direct line-of-sight scanning. The need for heightened tracking precision grew, especially within larger indoor spaces.

Why is Warehouse Tracking Important?

In a recent survey on Indoor Location Technologies, Techniques and Applications in Industry, researchers Hayward (2022) reference assessing numerous variations in tech, covering bluetooth low energy devices (BLE), Ultra wide band (UWB) and more for tracking indoor assets, and how they help to manage processes within businesses.

In researching various systems, including those that incorporate manual operations along with data input, researchers support how much more asset integrity stands to benefit employees, particularly when they are supported through transition periods, or the tech is incorporated into new or existing enterprise resource planning systems.

Why Indoor Tracking Technology is Important

Studies that explore; the absences of asset tracking information, major issues in manufacturing businesses, and how to prevent inventory discrepancies, all support the transformation of the supply chain and transportation industry.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices were studied, and how they performed when attached to assets to store material details, entry location, quantity, and associated documents.

Efficient tracking is more than just locating your assets. Indoor tracking allows managers to harness real-time data for analytics, optimize storage patterns, and predict maintenance needs for equipment and other heavy-duty tools.

With advanced tracking, managers can make major savings, run their warehouses with more informed choices that impact both their productivity and revenue.

The Evolution in Tracking Technology

While robust management practices are essential to creating efficiency, it is the integration and advancements of tracking technologies that provide holistic and complete solutions:

  1. Barcoding first streamlined inventory processes, making a significant transition from manual logging approach to a digital one.
  2. RFIDs elevated warehouse operations, introducing real-time tracking, and creating enhanced accuracy and efficiency in tracking.
  3. Managers still faced challenges through traditional approaches in warehouses with dense inventory. This prompted the need to innovate technologies made for precision within indoor environments.
  4. Bluetooth technology, best known for its short-distance connectivity, was most effective in application for indoor asset tracking. Beacons strategically placed within warehouse indoor spaces communicate with asset tags, allowing for precise location tracking.
  5. Before Ultra Wideband, or UWB positioning, similar technologies were referred to as base-band, impulse, and carrier-free and allowed tor incredibly precise and accurate indoor positioning of objects, or individuals. Using short-range radio waves with a large bandwidth, it has minimal signal interference.

Which Tracking Technology is Best for a Growing Business?

To better asses which tracking technology works best for your business, here’s a brief breakdown into its pros and cons, and features:

Wi-Fi Technologies

  • Advantages: It is widely/commonly used, making it an easy-to-integrate option with broad coverage
  • Disadvantages: It is prone to interference, lower accuracy, and possibly less security
  • Positioning Accuracy: 5-15 meters
  • Cost: Medium

Bluetooth Technologies

  • Advantages: It requires low power consumption, can be used in widespread devices
  • Disadvantages: It can have a limited coverage range, not accounting for larger indoor spaces
  • Positioning Accuracy: 1-10 meters
  • Cost: Low

For SMEs looking to streamline warehouse operations, while enhancing their safety measures, the collaboration between Navigine and MOKOSmart provides deeper insights into real-time BLE tracking.

Bluetooth Indoor Tracking

Utilizing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) gateways and beacons from MOKOSmart for accurate indoor asset tracking, the tech proved to help in:

  • Aiding warehouse staff to locate goods, raw materials with ease, and to transport them quickly, reducing operational downtime.
  • Providing Swifter notification systems for emergencies and industrial risks, improving overall warehouse staff safety.
  • Generating reports to facilitate effective management of working processes and resource coordination
  • Integrating with ease into existing tracking systems, providing high accuracy and reliability in data transmission, all while proving to be a cost-effective solution

RFID Technologies

  • Advantages: With low costs and simple deployment, it’s a quick and easy choice for businesses just starting out
  • Disadvantages: However, RFIDs require tags, and can be highly affected by the environment – for longer running equipment or an investment, RFIDs are passed on
  • Positioning Accuracy: 1-10 meters
  • Cost: Low

UWB (Ultra-Wideband) Technologies

  • Advantages: If you’re looking for high precision, strong anti-interference, and real-time data for more detailed insights, UWB is the choice to go for
  • Disadvantages: While it’s an investment into greater accurate tracking than other options shared, UWB are high cost, and its devices are not widespread
  • Positioning Accuracy: 10-30 centimeters
  • Cost: High

Geomagnetic Technologies

  • Advantages: There’s no extra hardware needed, using phone sensors which are already on hand
  • Disadvantages: However, these are susceptible to magnetic interference, lower accuracy
  • Positioning Accuracy: 1-2 meters
  • Cost: Low

An Example Success Story from Tire Supplier Distribution Inc

In the case of Tire Supplier Distribution Inc. Wi-Fi GPS tracking proved best for a fleet of ten vehicles. Geotab’s GPS LTE tracker was implemented after research and testing of multiple systems, providing:

  • Better responses to customer inquiries and efficient dispatching.
  • Near field communication driver IDs to monitor driver activity and vehicle usage.
  • Precise delivery time estimates, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Automated vehicle maintenance reminders, preventing missed oil changes and ensuring fleet reliability.

The case study showed a positive return on investment, and therefore, improving overall operational efficiency and customer service without significant overheads. As shared by Ryan Marenger, the company’s experience was “extremely positive,” and the system would be recommended to any fleet; “whether it’s two or 200 trucks”.

Final Thoughts on Indoor Tracking in the Warehouse with the Latest Technologies

Overall, bluetooth Indoor Tracking offers a cost-effective solution for smaller businesses with closer range areas. The beacons provide precise location data, removing complexity and high costs, making it ideal for retail spaces and compact warehouses.

For growing enterprises in manufacturing, logistics, retail spaces, RIFDs can track assets indoors for slightly larger spaces, with reliable operations.

Although UWB tracking comes with significantly higher costs, smaller businesses with critical tracking needs like medical clinics, high-tech manufacturers and precision assembly lines could all benefit extensively.

FAQs about Indoor Warehouse Tracking

What should businesses keep in mind when adopting indoor tracking technologies for the first time?

Major considerations for smaller businesses include the overhead costs to account for in security measures, integrating solutions with existing systems, scalability, and potential impacts on workforce dynamics.

With intentional planning, there’s no reason warehouse managers can’t ensure efficiency, precision, and future readiness.

What else can indoor tracking be used for?

Indoor tracking can be used to contribute and amplify employee health and safety. By monitoring your teams’ locations in case of emergencies or a crisis, such as fires or natural disasters, the ability to quickly and accurately locate personnel is a major advantage.

Indoor tracking helps to minimize response times and improve overall safety outcomes, all while optimizing operational workflows for health.

Small businesses with less staff shouldering multiple tasks, can identify potential congestion points, and areas prone to accidents, and implement preventive measures and rearrange workspace layouts. Several tracking options can assist in managing access control, while ensuring a secure and reliable working environment.

What are some privacy concerns when implementing indoor tracking?

When implementing indoor tracking, it is essential for managers and business owners to ensure clear, transparent procedures, while communicating with their employees of the purpose of indoor tracking. All privacy concerns should be addressed; implementing privacy policies and adhering to relevant data protection regulations is crucial, while maintaining the consent and cooperation of one’s teams.

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