Shine a Light on Warehouse Assets

 OP MANUFACTURERBy Kaynam Hedayat

Facility managers tasked with keeping a site up and running seamlessly and efficiently have come to rely heavily on smart building technology. As the smart building becomes more sophisticated, facility managers are leveraging this technology to automate tasks, reduce energy consumption and costs and optimize staff roles, all while keeping the premise safer and more secure than ever.

In industrial settings in particular, various elements of the smart building have become essential to powering and ensuring operations are fully optimized. From intelligent and fully-networked HVAC systems to safety and security solutions, facility managers rely on the data and insights gleaned from these smart systems almost as if they were an employee.

Indoor positioning technology, which can locate not only inventory and assets but also people via sensory information collected by a portable computing device, is one tool that most facility mangers of industrial spaces consider a must-have. There are myriad benefits that this technology provides, including:

Streamlining operational processes: Indoor positioning technology provides insight into asset and staff traffic patterns within the building. Facility managers can thus understand if there may be a more efficient way to place inventory that streamlines staff movement within the building or if there may be opportunities to optimize the flow of employee and equipment traffic within a facility for improving operational performance and efficiency.

Building automation maximizes energy savings and cuts costs: Indoor positioning technology can automate building processes. One application of this is automated personal settings, which allows certain controls to be adjusted according to an employee's individual preferences, and can even alert the systems that the employee has arrived to the building. By tracking staff movement around the facility, integrated HVAC systems – which traditionally have been set up blindly and without insight into other operational functions can granularly adjust temperature according to employee behavior and preferences or be turned off if the area isn't in use. Integrated lights can also be automatically dimmed or turned off depending on staff utilization, time of day, or availability of natural light. Not only do these automated tasks streamline functions within the facility, it also cuts back on energy usage and associated costs.

Facility safety and security: The technology can make warehouses safer and more secure. Facility managers can receive alerts if assets or inventory have left the facility when they were not supposed to, or send an alert if the facility perimeter is breached, keeping the facility -- and everything inside it -- secure. 

Indoor positioning technology also keeps staff safe by correctly implementing automated guided vehicle, forklift and pallet traffic pathways via the technology's ability to map movement. It can also be used to automate speeds within certain paths, so that forklifts or other heavy machinery automatically slow down or re-route in highly trafficked areas.

Asset tracking: Lastly, indoor positioning technology allows facility managers to have unprecedented visibility into facilities daily operations with real-time access to the exact location of all their assets products, equipment, and people all from one dashboard. This solves the "where is the box" problem that many warehouses face, and allows staff to stay efficient and therefore more engaged.

Although the benefits of this technology make it seem like a no brainer, it's actually difficult to deploy without an existing intelligent network. The technology requires the object in the facility such as equipment, inventory or even a member of the staff to have a low-cost tracking tack attached. The tag is tracked by beacons located throughout the facility, which map out the location of the asset. Therefore an intelligent system, one networked with beacons, must already be in place in order for the solution to work.

An intelligent lighting platform is one such system that can serve the role of the existing intelligent network, and is extremely powerful in doing so. The lighting fixtures are connected via a network of sensors, and given their high density throughout a facility, they provide constant access into what's happening below. By tracking asset tags on the floor with beacons embedded in the lights, managers have unrivaled insight into building operations, security and staff behaviors.

By leveraging an existing intelligent network and incorporating indoor positioning technology, facility managers can make their facilities much more efficient and productive environments. This can have a ripple effect by increasing employee happiness, cutting back the building's energy consumption, and ultimately contributing to the bottom line.

Kaynam Hedayat is vice president of product management and marketing at Digital Lumens

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