What Are Returnable Assets and Why Their Digital Tracking is So Crucial? 

Nobody likes it when valuable items go missing, especially not the businesses that would have to invest money to replace them. This is the reality of returnable assets. As the name suggests, the assets are supposed to be “reused” in the supply chain. Surprisingly, the chances of returnable assets being lost or stolen with manual tracking are quite high. Then how do businesses keep tabs on them and is it really helpful? Let’s dive in. 

Returnable Assets – Definition and Importance

Returnable assets are any type of packaging material that can be used multiple times in the supply chain. Therefore, they are also referred to as reusable assets or returnable transport items. 

Examples of returnable assets include: 

  • Containers
  • Bins
  • Totes
  • Pallets
  • Transportation frames 
  • Crates

You can see that such assets are available in abundance worldwide. They are installed or in transit during the transportation process. Businesses use returnable assets to make supply chain packaging costs more bearable. They also increase efficiency of the operation, reduce global wastage, and reduce product damage. 

Returnable assets are often not considered valuable but in-depth analysis shows that such assets are actually quite expensive. It can become burdensome for companies to replace the items if they are frequently lost. 

Effects of Returnable Assets on Supply Chain

Returnable assets form an important part of the supply chain. Their misplacement is problematizing and businesses must understand why they are being lost or underused. It is also crucial for companies to be aware how their returnable assets are being used. 

Why Is It Difficult To Manually Track Returnable Assets?

Transportation puts the assets at high risk of being lost or stolen. In fact, various studies have pointed out that countless returnable assets are lost each year during the transit. 

Returnable assets are expensive and the loss incurs financial burden on the businesses, sometimes as high as $5000 per unit. The whole point of reusable/returnable assets is that they can be recycled in the supply chain. If they are lost or stolen, it dismisses their whole purpose. 

As important as it seems, tracking returnable assets is not that easy. 

Businesses will need to invest in a lot of labor, money, and time for manual tracking. Now, digital solutions promise a reliable approach with the help of which companies can accurately track their assets and optimize their transit. 

Reliable Methods To Monitor Returnable Assets 

What are Returnable Assets

There are solutions available with which businesses can track their return assets with precision. Thanks to technological advancements, affordable and accurate monitoring systems make it possible to track assets using IoT technology. 

Bluetooth 

With the help of tags, Bluetooth Low Energy can be used to track returnable assets. The position of the tags is picked up by mobile and fixed gateways with precision. Bluetooth is often the preferred mode of tracking because it is cheap and easy to implement. Additionally, indoor tracking is efficient too unlike GNSS. 

However, there is a downside. Bluetooth monitoring has a set range. If assets move in and out too quickly or far, the tracking can become inaccurate or you may even experience gaps. Therefore, the risk of assets getting lost or stolen is high with Bluetooth. 

RFID 

RFID tracking is similar to Bluetooth such that it relies on RFID tags to retrieve the whereabouts of the assets. The tags, also known as smart labels, are made using serial numbers or short descriptions unique to each returnable asset. 

RFID tags are identified with fixed-point readers which makes the tracking system quite limited. One can also confirm that the asset has reached a certain point but not monitor it on the go. Additional infrastructure that provides capabilities to track an asset during transportation is available but costly. 

GNSS

It is a great option for worldwide tracking that suits most of the businesses with returnable assets. GNSS makes use of satellites, tags, or electric devices that remotely monitor the assets. The tracking is precise as long as the asset is outdoors but moving it indoors can shield it from the signals thus resulting in weakened precision. 

To Wrap It Up 

When it comes to tracking returnable assets, there are a lot of considerations. For example, sometimes the cost of installation of a tracking system outweighs the overall cost of the asset being tracked. Depending on the solution you choose, a digital solution for tracking returnable assets can be quite useful. 

Also read about How To Choose a Solar Installer To Finance B2B?

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best way to track returnable packaging? 

Bluetooth, RFID, and GNSS are some of the recent technological solutions to returnable asset tracking. 

What are some examples of returnable assets? 

Crates, bins, boxes, or pallets count as returnable assets. These are packaging materials that can be used in the same form again. 

What is the difference between a returnable asset and an expendable asset?

Returnable packaging can be reused multiple times during the supply chain. On the other hand, expendable packaging has lower upfront cost and short-term use only. 

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