Imagine you are standing out in a large gravel yard, the size of three football fields. The yard is entirely filled with HMMWVs (Humvees) parked in neat lines, all the same desert tan color. You need to find one specific truck to perform scheduled maintenance before it goes out on a deployment, and it is not where your inventory system says that it is located. You’re holding the work order receipt that details the spot location and serial number that you are looking for, but the truck just isn’t there.

It’s hot. You’re sweating, even more so when you imagine being late on this job. The work order with the location noted is the official method that everyone uses to locate vehicles, and now that you have determined the truck you need is not in the recorded location or anywhere nearby, you really aren’t sure what to do next

You look around in a circle, and for as far as your eye can see, they are all the same. That could be your truck—but so could that one. Or any of the hundreds of others parked in this yard, and now a manual search begins. With no other alternative at hand, you make your way to one corner of the yard and start checking the Humvees one by one. Depending on where the one you need to find is actually located, it could take hours or even days to find.

Or, maybe your domain is indoors, in a warehouse or large processing facility. You have hundreds of rows of shelving, each shelf 50 feet long. Shelves that hold small objects – thousands of small objects – that are essential to equip your workforce and complete objectives for your mission. Maybe these shelves, and the bins and containers stacked on them, hold the small but critical parts required to perform maintenance on that missing truck. When your manual search turns up empty, new parts are ordered to perform the essential maintenance activity scheduled. The work gets done, but with additional inventory costs, crunched schedules, delayed deliveries, and frustrated workers.

These same scenarios can occur an IT supply room with rows of servers and desktop PCs, or indeed, any kind of setting that requires inventory tracking.

Keeping track of assets is essential for almost every type of organization, whether public sector or private, civilian or military, large or small. In the Department of Defense (DOD), the task involves hundreds of thousands of pieces of military equipment that are continuously being stored, worked on, moved, or deployed around the world.

With an enduring partnership built on domain knowledge and innovative technology, CGI has supported passive radio frequency identification (pRFID) inventory management with multiple clients, including organizations within the DOD, helping them improve and digitize manual processes, reach 100 percent -accurate inventory counts that remain updated in real time, and realize significant time and cost savings. pRFID can turn a needle-in-a-haystack search to an automated process that locates inventory items in seconds.

Why passive RFID?

Passive RFID tags do not broadcast any signal. They require no batteries and are inexpensive and lightweight enough to put on almost anything, no matter how small, and are a significant cost savings compared to active RFID tags. Through a custom configuration of pRFID readers, a pRFID solution enables organizations to baseline their inventory operations at 100 percent accurate, and managed real-time. As a result:

  • Maintenance cycles are shortened because you know exactly where the parts needed for a job are located.
  • Costs are decreased because you do not need to purchase additional inventory to make up for what is missing.
  • Your workforce becomes leaner and more agile because they are not limited by manual processes, and can focus on improving quality and outcomes because they are equipped with exactly what they need.

Total Asset Visibility

Instead of the manual time-consuming search for a missing truck, imagine getting into an electronic cart equipped with pRFID readers and GPS, and simply driving up and down the rows through the lot to generate an up-to-date inventory. The pRFID readers detect the RFID tags on each vehicle and record its location. From your tablet, a map shows updated GPS coordinates of the truck you are looking for, and you can drive over to it. An exhausting, days-long search is replaced by a task that takes just a few minutes.

Additionally, in the warehouse scenario, TAV solutions can visually pinpoint inventory locations on a 3D rendered map of the warehouse, in real time because of pRFID readers mounted in the ceilings and shelves. You know exactly which aisle, shelf level, and even the exact bin in which items are located, bringing inventory efficiencies of up to 99.96 percent. Even if something ends up on the complete opposite side of the room from where it should have been, it does not matter, because any time an item is moved, the new location is updated automatically.

Fast Forward

Future TAV developments include implementing predictive analytics capabilities, adding cloud computing capabilities, and connecting organizations’ inventory data with enterprise and supplier data to further extend the ecosystem of the supply chain lifecycle so that clients can make quicker and more informed decisions based on the data from your assets.

CGI’s Total Asset Visibility (TAV) solution and services have a proven success record. For example, we have located more than 150 missing trucks, recovering more than $18 million of previously written-off inventory for our DOD client.

For more about TAV and other technologies important to the Army, read my colleague Dr. James Peake’s blog, “5 critical investments for the Army of the future.”

About this author

Picture of Jaime Showalter

Jaime Showalter

Senior Consultant

Jaime Showalter specializes in defining strategies around asset management solutions.

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