Red Prairie: securing inventory and assets across the supply chain

Red Prairie: securing inventory and assets across the supply chain

Michael Dempsey

With advances in supply chain execution systems, it is fairly easy to track inventory in warehouses. What is more difficult is tracking inventory and returnable assets (containers, trailers, pallets and reusable packaging) across today’s global supply networks. A new genre of applications, mobile resource management (MRM) systems, has emerged to address this challenge.

There are several business drivers for which MRM systems are a natural solution.

High Value–Generally, mobile assets have high value. This may be actual value, as with shipping containers, refrigerated trailers, or specialized packaging, or intrinsic value, where the value of the contents is high compared to the cost of the container. Mobile assets may also have regulatory value, where the contents are subject to tracking and reporting requirements for hazmat or homeland security purposes, or strategic value, where availability of the contents for just-in-time production or customer contractual requirements outweighs the cost of the asset.

Mobility–The mobility of supply chain assets makes it difficult to track them through traditional means. Barcodes may be difficult to read and are subject to wear and environmental deterioration. Scanning devices may not be available in places such as ports, open yards and container storage areas. Plus, it is often hard to get customers to scan assets that don’t belong to them.

Complexity of supply chain operations–The handling of assets across global supply networks has become more complex. Time zones, geographic locations, third party handlers, multiple shipment modes and control systems, import/export documentation, homeland security and traceability requirements all contribute to the need for more advanced asset tracking.

Security and condition monitoring–Mobile assets and their contents must be secure from theft, tampering, loss and environmental damage. Therefore, they must not only be tracked, but monitored for changes in status and condition. For example, a refrigerated trailer filled with perishable meat or produce must maintain temperatures within proscribed limits to avoid spoilage.

Mobile resource management systems employ the latest in RFID, GPS, cell and sensor technologies to address these business challenges. Mobile assets have active RFID tags embedded or applied, sometimes with tampering and condition monitoring sensors attached. These tags emit signals that can be read by hand-held, mounted or portal readers. The data is sent via satellite, cell or Internet communication to the MRM system for centralized tracking, monitoring and analysis. Events and conditions outside of defined limits are immediately reported for appropriate response.

RedPrairie’s MRM system enables customers to achieve higher levels of supply chain security and efficiency. It reduces loss from non-locatable and non-returned assets (10-40 percent annual loss is typical), having a major effect on bottom line results. Knowing where assets are also enables better utilization and capital deployment.

Tracking assets and monitoring contents also reduces loss from theft, tampering, mis-shipment, spoilage and expiration of inventory, while enabling the traceability, content monitoring/verification, and tampering protection required for FDA, regulatory and homeland security compliance.

RedPrairie’s MRM system provides certain ROI, security and brand protection in an uncertain world.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group