The inability to track and trace returnable assets can have a financial impact on a business. This article highlights 5 spots where and how an efficient returnable asset tracking system can help you save costs.

1. Traceability

Whatever the product, the asset is a key driver for traceability as the product moves across the supply chain. Creating a link between the product and its original container will establish a foundation for traceability. And being unable to track and trace these can jeopardise the ability to ensure end-to-end traceability and visibility. In turn, this can result in costly mass returns instead of a targeted recall when there is a flaw in the process.

2. Excess Stock

Poor visibility of your returnable assets pool could entail greater expenditure in order to sustain operational efficiency. Not knowing where assets are located or when stakeholders will return them generates a need for excess inventory, to ensure the continuity of operations. In situations where the value of the returnable asset exceeds the value of the goods in transports (as is often the case in the fresh food industry), being able to monitor these correctly can generate significant savings. Also, in cases where various providers are using similar assets, that can often be separated in different components (e.g. roll cages), ensuring to pick up the assets that have previously been delivered reduces the need for extra stock.

3. Productivity

Likewise, tracking assets is essential to maintain productivity because poor visibility of the available pool has an impact on planning and preparation. Time may be lost looking for containers or roll cages that have been stored inadequately or not collected from stakeholders, which may delay the completion of the next step in the order fulfillment process, or delay or even stop the production line. For companies tracking their returnable assets using a paper-based process, productivity of the back office is also affected as it implies double-work to input the information gathered by the operators in the ERP.

4. Customer Disputes

With returnable assets continually moving along the supply chain, it is important to have clear visibility of who owns what. Without a proper asset tracking system, returnable assets are easily lost and no one can be held accountable for the cost and disruption created. Particularly in the case of unattended deliveries, when there is no one at the customer’s to sign off for delivery (as is often the case in overnight deliveries), it is key to be able to prove the asset has been delivered.

5. Lifecycle Monitoring

Lifecycle and process monitoring are critical, especially when processing hazardous goods or food products. Identifying, tracking and tracing barrels, cylinders, totes or any other asset type helps avoid flaws or interruptions to the cleaning and control process. Cleaning, sanitation, or leak testing can create another ‘money pit’. Since these processes need to be executed on a regular basis and have an expiry date, organisations can waste significant amounts of money when executing these processes on multiple occasions if their assets are not properly tracked.

4 Questions to Take Into Account Before Implementing Asset Tracking

A variety of solutions are available which track and trace returnable assets and can help you avoid the problems highlighted above. Choosing a system or technology that offers the best fit for an organisation will depend on your existing business process. Here are four questions to take into account before considering how best to implement a returnable asset tracking system:

  • How much money are you losing each year on your assets?
  • How many assets do you actually own and how many are surplus to requirements?
  • Can your processes allow for unattended systems (e.g. RFID, Vision) or not?
  • Is your primary objective to improve traceability, or do you also wish to make productivity savings?

Depending on the processes, RFID, Vision, and/or barcode-based systems may provide the right benefits. Several technologies can even be combined in order to achieve full efficiency in one or more processes. An independent supply chain expert with extensive experience in the field of returnable asset tracking will be able to advise you on the right returnable asset tracking system that will help you save costs.