How to best track assets and inventory with Ultra Wideband indoor positioning?

One of our largest customer segments is undoubtedly logistics companies. Their daily task is to minimise the lead times from receiving to shipping of goods. The challenge is to find the best real-time location system (RTLS) to fit your current and future needs, without overinvesting. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering Ultra Wideband RTLS for tracking people and inventory.

Logistics companies are increasingly interested in indoor RTLS technologies.  Most of them already have a warehouse management system (WMS) in place that fits their work processes.  The companies need added visibility from the RTLS to minimise the time spent looking for the right pallet, optimise routes, and prevent accidents. Here are our recommendations to help track assets with Ultra Wideband (UWB) indoor RTLS in the most efficient way.


Make sure the RTLS technology is accurate enough


Most logistics companies are already familiar with passive RFID technology. Many have used it to track their inventory and identify goods. However, as RFID tags usually don’t have a power source, which decreases their operational range to a couple of meters, the technology is designed more for identification than positioning.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are the most common indoor positioning technologies, but again, in real life, their accuracy is no more than 3-5 metres. This can mean that the worker ends up looking for the goods in the wrong aisle.

In recent years, logistics companies have been looking towards UWB-based RTLS. It enables to locate goods, assets, and people, in real-time and with an accuracy of 30 cm. It also requires investments in infrastructure, which raises the cost of the system.


Track the forklift, not the pallet


Once you know you need a better overview of your stock, it’s intuitive to want to track each item individually. However, having hundreds or even thousands of tags can cancel out any benefits the RTLS generates.

In addition, it is often difficult to find a good placement for the tag on the pallet. A cubic meter of any material on top of the tag will block the signal. However, when the tag is positioned on top of the goods on the pallet, there is a risk it will be accidentally damaged by the forklift.

Instead, it is better to track the forklifts or the pallet trucks. By tracking their movements, it is possible to identify every picking and dropping action.

You start by identifying the pallet the forklift picks up (for example, using barcoding). Once the forklift drops the pallet in its new location, the RTLS can communicate this new location to the WMS. The system then saves this as the location of the pallet until it is moved again. Once this data is integrated with the WMS, both the location of the pallet and how long it took to arrive become visible to the management. It is unnecessary to continuously track each and every pallet, or to equip all of them with UWB tags. This lowers the cost of the system and ensures you get the full benefits of precise tracking.


Build the right analytics to suit your needs


UWB RTLS enables you to track inventory and movements of people and forklifts in real time. There are many ways to combine and analyse the vast amount of coordinate data. Therefore, every implementation requires an initial needs analysis to identify existing processes, gaps in performance, and potential sources of efficiency. Only then can an RTLS be put in place to bring transparency and accountability to the warehouse management system.

In conclusion, indoor positioning RTLS using Ultra Wideband technology is a great choice when accurate tracking of assets and inventory is needed. Contact us to learn more about the system and possible use cases.

Written by

Liisa Parv