In Industry 4.0, automation and actionable intelligence are key to giving organizations a competitive advantage. For business leaders who are looking for a way to better optimize their processes, Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) are proving to be a comprehensive solution. An RTLS is an infrastructure that combines hardware and software with radio frequency (RF) technology to track where assets are and when they’re moving in a given space. It consists of attaching tags to assets, which communicate with fixed readers to transmit location information. There are different RF technologies that an RTLS can use to connect the system: Ultra-Wideband (UWB), Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) among others. With the data that this location technology provides, businesses gain 360° visibility that helps drive actionable decision-making, and process efficiency. These are the top 5 applications for real-time location systems:
1) Locating and monitoring assets, vehicles, tools, products
RTLS can track a variety of different things, from merchandise and people tracking to vehicles and livestock. Monitoring these different assets gives managers control of their operations and allows them to make better business decisions. In a warehouse, managers would be able to track assets and see if they are moving according to schedule or notice if there’s usually a delay in a certain area. Tracking the flow of your items can help prevent productivity losses caused by delays and assets being out of place.
In an airport, there’s a lot that takes place for the plane to be able to depart - whether that means having fuel ready for the plane, getting the terminal bus to arrive on time or getting employees to clean the plane. With location awareness, scheduling is made easier and any misplaced assets can easily be found, saving time and money. This saved time is especially critical in industries like healthcare, where long search times for important equipment get in the way of medical professionals performing at their best, in life-saving situations.
RTLS can also be used to track and monitor livestock since the RF technology chirp works outdoors, ranging up to 1,000 meters. The tags attached to the animals have the ability to not only track their location and temperature, but use the data from their movements to be able to predict if they’re becoming sick.
In yard management, chirp also serves as a great option to support the tracking of goods whether they’re indoors or outdoors.
2) Worker safety
Many organizations adopt RTLS technology to keep their employees safe, because RTLS can track their location. The way it works is an employee will wear a tag attached to their ID badge, which is able to transmit their location information. That information is then received by the fixed readers in that space allowing managers to be accountable for all their employees.
This is especially useful in warehousing when your employees are operating large vehicles such as forklifts. With a lack of visibility, accidents are prone to happen - which is why organizations are turning to RTLS to keep their employees safe. The location awareness and geofencing capabilities of an RTLS can be used to create safety zones and work in conjunction with traffic management systems. In hazardous sites such as in mining or transportation, RTLS gives businesses a real time view of their employees so that everyone is accounted for. Location technology even helps with contact tracing during the pandemic, helping to limit exposure, and ensure that employees feel safe and comfortable.
3) Loss and theft prevention
Theft and loss of assets and equipment cost businesses millions of dollars every year, and RTLS can help boost ROI by preventing these situations. By assigning tags to all the assets that need to be tracked, you’ll be able to see where everything is and their movement across your facilities. Tracking what’s coming in and out at all times protects your most valuable assets from unauthorized removal and adds an additional level of security to your space.
Previously, you could only track what items were in your space. Now with the ability to track the where and when, there is no need to solely rely on inventory count, barcodes, and passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to do the job. It keeps not only employees but guests accountable. In a hospital, lost equipment costs valuable time and money. Through location awareness, if an item is misplaced or needs maintenance, managers will be able to see their real time location and make more informed decisions.
4) Enhancing and streamlining operations and processes
One of RTLS’ biggest benefits is its ability to optimize business operations. Many businesses are stuck using passive RFID tags to track what assets are in their building, but that information isn’t enough to really understand how efficient their facilities are operating. Using location data helps make better decisions, boosts ROI and improves production speed and quality. This can happen through RTLS integrations with existing IoT (Internet of Things) platforms such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).
By tracking the workflow of all assets, you can pinpoint which areas are prone to interruptions or need extra care. In a warehouse, the data from an RTLS can help understand what machine isn’t performing optimally, find the best route for incoming trucks and understand the best way for your space to be used. In a hospital, you can also receive notifications if any equipment needs maintenance or if a room is ready for the next patient to use, which benefits all stakeholders involved.
5) Regulatory compliance
Because RTLS offers real time visibility in a space, it allows organizations to comply with regulations in order to operate. RTLS helps organizations hold themselves accountable, by always being in control of their processes. In the case of faulty or missing equipment, facility managers will have the tools to know what needs to be fixed and when, so it doesn’t affect the quality of their product. This is also useful in the pharmaceutical industry, where organizations need to meet specific requirements listed by the associations like the FDA. In mining, RTLS allows organizations to have the wireless communication and location information needed to prevent accidents and meet the MINER Act, set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.
During the pandemic, RTLS allows organizations to meet constantly changing requirements such as contact tracing for employees. By tracking every person who enters and leaves the building, businesses can rest assured that they’re keeping employees and guests safe. RTLS can help meet requirements outdoors as well. Since some RTLS technologies like UWB are often not allowed to be used outside, chirp serves as an RTLS option that businesses can use both indoors and outdoors, without regulation constraints.
Interested in exploring more on RTLS? Watch our webinar on the top five challenges companies new to RTLS often face and how to fix them, here.