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How business continuity makes asset tracking and monitoring a must-have

From shipment visibility and control to asset safety to building customer trust, one industry expert shares how asset monitoring became a “must-have”

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As the business world gears up for a phased reopening, businesses that need to manage physical assets or rely on shipping goods are faced with many unknowns. How long will my shipment take to reach the customer? If there are delays, how can I prevent my fresh goods from spoiling? What can I do to protect my machinery from theft or damage?

Answers to questions like these form the heart of global shipment and asset monitoring company Roambee, headquartered in Silicon Valley. We recently connected with Sanjay Sharma, CEO and Co-founder of Roambee, for his insights on how businesses are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to not only cope with the challenges caused by the global pandemic, but also to prepare their operations for the business world’s “new normal.”

“…consumers like you and me are used to e-commerce and knowing the status and location of our orders.  Businesses want the same insight—or better—and have started putting pressure on suppliers to give us information in real-time and, in turn, those suppliers started putting pressure on their suppliers.”

Sanjay Sharma, CEO Roambee

The demand for granular information on the location and condition of goods and assets hasn’t always been as strong. Historically, monitoring every step of the shipping process wasn’t a priority—but that has changed. Sanjay took the time to share five key trends happening in the industry.

“What we are seeing since COVID-19, and the acceleration of e-commerce is that businesses are rejigging their supply chain, they are re-networking it…”

Sanjay Sharma

Perceptions of asset management solutions are shifting

“In the past, asset monitoring was only implemented in cases where there was a need around high value, time-sensitive and condition-sensitive assets,” explains Sanjay. “What we are seeing since COVID-19, and the acceleration of e-commerce is that a lot of the businesses are rejigging their supply chain, they are re-networking it, which basically makes real-time information a must-have.”

But the shift in thinking across the industry is not about disrupted supply chains and unanticipated borders closures. As Sanjay illustrates, businesses implementing asset monitoring solutions are well-situated to make the most of the opportunities arising from the eventual return to business.

A company might now say, “I can see all my trucks and where they are, but can you tell me how I should move these trucks once things open up? Should they go back to where they started? Or should they go back to the nearest facility?”

The data provided by tracking and monitoring solutions helps operations managers make informed decisions, identifying choke points in the network and even predicting and preventing future blockages.

Monitoring beyond tracking

Companies have learned that brand trust and loyalty are no longer built by the promise of performance alone; instead, we need the ability to see performance in actions. In business argot, “data driven transparency.” Real time monitoring of the condition and movement of assets is key to predicting any disruptions—and early warnings help manage risks.

But the advantages of monitoring assets in motion go beyond location and predictive route planning. “We have two chocolate companies as customers, and their hour of need happened when all shipments stopped,” explains Sanjay. These clients were concerned they would lose shipments because of spoilage. “They require answers in the new normal, where predictability is lower: which shipments are at the highest risk? Is there another truck in the area with enough refrigeration capacity and how long will it take to get it there?”

Although magnified in a crisis, these are decisions many businesses face on a regular basis. The information connected technologies provide is key to helping businesses succeed in a post-pandemic economy.

“…I think there is a huge role for IoT in this space where getting human beings to enter data manually isn’t particularly efficient, cost-effective or reliable.”

Regulations pushing real-time compliance

As IoT and connected devices increasingly play a larger role across all businesses, adapting to new government regulations becomes a natural concern for many. “I'm already seeing, for example, some of the governments around the world are enforcing temperature monitoring of facilities, whereby if you are a distribution center or a retail outlet, you will need to transmit your facility's temperature directly into a government portal,” explains Sanjay. When it comes to regulatory transparency, “I think there is a huge role for IoT in this space where getting human beings to enter data manually isn’t particularly efficient, cost-effective or reliable.”

Data security on a new level

As more data is collected and analyzed using AI and other tools, security becomes a top priority. For Sanjay, “Security is a multi-faceted initiative.” First, there is customer – the company that wants to monitor their assets. Next comes the solution provider, like Roambee, who provides the capability to capture the information. Now your telecommunications provider transmits the data. Finally, there is a need to comply with government reporting and transparency policies. If your assets cross borders or regulatory jurisdictions, that might mean multiple telecom providers and a host of different regulations. This is where the logging and data integrity aspects of block-chain technology may become important. “As operational transparency comes to the fore, agencies will want to be confident that data from multiple sources and multiple jurisdictions can’t be corrupted.”

Managing uncertainty on the front line

There is no handbook to manage the scenarios operations managers face today. But there is the technology to gain greater visibility into company operations and take control of the situation based on the available information. And operations managers are on the frontlines of these decisions.

“What that means is your front-line has to pretty much be transformed to a decision-making culture while still mitigating the risk that brings.” There won’t be time to wait for the head office to crunch the data and trends. Instead, “decision-making will be based on prescriptions,” says Sanjay. “I see prescription analytics playing a big role in the next 24 months, meaning if I'm a shipping supervisor, that data coming in will be directly translated into the one or two options that I need to take.”

As we consider the experience of governments, healthcare organizations and essential services, one thing that stands out in the global efforts to fight the novel coronavirus is the important role data plays in gaining visibility and informing decisions when there is no playbook to reference.

As business finds its “new normal,” Sanjay believes, “real time asset monitoring insights combined with decision-making capabilities will be a big differentiator between organizations.”