There is hardly an escape from the Digital Age. Nearly one-third of the top 20 market leaders will experience disruption by 2018, regardless of industry. Asset-intensive industries — including those in utilities, manufacturing, logistics, aviation, and construction — are hardly immune to the upheaval; if anything, they are plagued by competition from lower-cost countries, wounded by unpredictable events like natural disasters, and harassed by pressures to maintain high health and safety standards, environmental efforts, and more.
The only conceivable solution to these problems is embracing digital technology. By adding connected and smart devices to the supply chain, asset-intensive businesses can have greater control over quality and costs while continuing to innovate products and services. Yet, to do this effectively, businesses also need IT asset visibility.
What Is Asset Visibility?
At its most basic, asset visibility is having accurate information on the identity, location, movement, and status of units, equipment, materials, supplies, and personnel. Asset visibility isn’t a new concept; the term has been in use for well over a decade. Indeed, most industries take pains to know exactly where their resources are at all times, including the military, which coined the term.
For many years, businesses have struggled to gain total visibility of total assets — meaning, they can view some assets all of the time or all assets some of the time. For example, total visibility or some assets provides rich information, typically concerned with tracking, monitoring, and control, of an organization’s most strategic assets, such as its products. Barcodes were perhaps the biggest breakthrough with total visibility. Conversely, an example of visibility of total assets provides a comprehensive and unified look at an organization’s resources, usually for the purpose of a risk management. However, this latter situation doesn’t give leaders deep data on their assets, only enough to get by. Total asset visibility combines the benefits of both options to give organizations complex intelligence and complete control over their assets.
In the past, asset visibility consisted of records of departed shipments. Thus, when shipments were in transit, neither businesses nor customers could know for certain the location of those assets. Modern asset visibility systems provide real-time tracking of assets, so interested parties can determine exactly where their items are. Even better, advanced systems use dynamic forecasting to track variables like route congestion, loading processes, and more to provide accurate predictions of delivery. This information ensures greater control over assets, which is beneficial in a variety of ways.
4 Ways Businesses Benefit From Visibility
Knowing where assets are and what they are doing is valuable in at least these four ways:
- Businesses can track assets inside their facilities. Employees can waste hours searching for the items they need to accomplish their daily tasks. For every minute a nurse spends looking for an available wheelchair, a patient is not receiving appropriate care. Asset visibility should tell employees where their tools are to maintain smooth operation within an organization.
- Businesses can track their assets in transit. As mentioned above, without asset visibility, shipping predictions are little better than educated guesses. Assets should be tracked every minute, especially when they are on the move, so businesses know exactly when they will arrive and be usable.
- Businesses can maintain an accurate inventory. Inventory work is notoriously laborious — but not with asset visibility. Because businesses track assets from their creation to their sale, inventory systems linked with asset visibility systems should function flawlessly. No more will a business promise a customer an item that is no longer in stock.
- Businesses can monitor equipment status. Equipment that isn’t working — or isn’t working to the best of its ability — costs undue money. If a food processor stores its goods in a freezer that is even a few degrees off, the entire inventory might be spoiled. With asset visibility, businesses can monitor the performance of vital equipment and take preventative or remedial action as soon as something looks awry.
Asset Visibility and the IoT
IT assets, meaning computers, servers, routers, and similar devices, are relatively straightforward to add to asset visibility systems because they already boast connective technology. Given the right management system, any IT team could have a company’s assets visible in a snap.
However, thanks to the Internet of Things, more assets can be visible than ever before, and the process of tracking and controlling those assets is increasingly easy. Large machinery, individual products, vehicles, and more can be fitted with sensors that communicate with the central asset visibility system, providing comprehensive information on their status and location. If the future is asset visibility, then the IoT is bringing the future into now.