Real-time location technology sees the space between
After decades of steady progress, the industry prepares for a flood of technology to capture and act upon real-time location of assets, people and goods.
Despite being an industry focused on the movement of goods, until very recently, the materials handling industry had flourished using a fairly basic assortment of checkpoints and transactions. Aside from time elapsed, so much of what happened in the movement of goods went unmeasured.
In its efforts to respond to unprecedented consumer demands, the industry has labored under operational holdovers from the days when folks allowed six to eight weeks for delivery. Despite incredible progress, compressing the transactions hasn’t increased visibility of the spaces in between.
A new generation of location-based data analysis tools are working to collect information about the movement of items, employees and assets. The possibilities are tremendous, leading one solution provider to boldly declare that a Holy Grail has been found. But it’s also reminiscent of some 20-year-old claims surrounding RFID. Modern spoke with industry experts to determine how the latest technologies are different, what already works and what might be coming soon.
Building a detailed map
John Hill, director at supply chain strategy and logistics consulting firm St. Onge Co., says, at least conceptually, comprehensive location data is not at all new.
“Now we have the technology,” Hill says. “I love the idea of being able to identify something’s location down to the centimeter. That’s wonderful. But, people assume you can just do it. ‘Why not put a tag on everything, then we can press one button and get an instant update?’ That sounds nice, but what’s the value proposition?”
Cost is always a factor, but not everyone knows what they’re buying. People now take bar code and, to some extent, RFID for granted, Hill says. “It works” the uninitiated think, assuming that an integrator or inventory management supplier will.