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Emerging mobile asset management software tracks containers, boxes through supply chain

Asset management software helps manufacturers keep track of physical pieces of equipment inside manufacturing facilities. Enterprise asset management oversees capital assets, while mobile asset management looks at assets moving around the supply chain, according to Tim Payne, research director at Gartner Research.

Enterprise asset management, which has been around for a long time, is specific to manufacturing or utility companies, said Payne. Noting that capital equipment needs to be "maintained" and capital assets "managed," he said that supply chain enterprise asset management software can schedule maintenance, manage the spare parts inventory, and analyze records to find which maintenance work has been done. It can also predict the probability of equipment breakdown.

Mobile asset management software, which is an emerging area, deals with assets that move around and get recycled through the manufacturing supply chain.

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With their focus on making products, Payne said manufacturers have never been very good at managing mobile assets like tote boxes, containers and other transportation products and returnable items. But these mobile assets have a big impact in terms of the flow of products. If manufacturers can see how many containers they're losing and having to replace, they can figure out how to save that money. Mobile asset management software is a means of getting visibility around that process.

Technology has helped mobile asset management to mature, though it's still an emerging area. "RFID is increasingly used to understand where assets are in the process," said Payne. Though the use of passive RFID tags requires special readers, newer wireless-enabled active RFID tags only need a wireless network to function. A manufacturer can implement these active RFID tags more easily, using their existing wireless infrastructure.

Mobile asset management software also offers users performance reporting and dashboards to identify the number of assets in the field and their exact locations. "It's relatively basic, focused on visibility and basic process control," Payne said.

In the future, Payne speculates that mobile asset management will combine with greater visibility in production scheduling in "mobile asset optimization." That would ensure the correct inventory level and positioning of assets and make sure cages or containers are at the right place at the right time when products come off the line.

About the author: Christine Cignoli is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers IT infrastructures and storage technology. She is a regular contributor to SearchManufacturingERP. Contact her through her website.

This was first published in December 2009

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