How It Works
If you work for a company or in an industry with global operations, the chances are that you are aware of the effort invested in tracking goods as they move around the world.
Even if you’re a company which ‘only’ sells clothes, for example, you will still have something like a barcode to track the asset from delivery until it is sold to a customer.
Tracking these goods is an ongoing project as well – as the tracking system will require sustained updates as more stock is moved and sold.
When a company has to track a good, service, or asset, this is known as asset tracking. Asset tagging refers to the process of assigning a unique tag or label to an asset to make it easily identifiable.
Just as one can track assets throughout the world, it is also possible (and, indeed, necessary) to track the assets used by the utility industry.
Given the enormous importance of utilities in both the household and the modern economy (utilities, quite literally, power the global economy), tracking utilities is a priority and often a project in itself.
But how does one tag utilities? Why should one tag utilities in the first place?
Before answering these and other questions, let’s briefly look at what we mean by ‘utilities.’
Utility service providers:
On the one hand, we have companies which provide utility services – such as telecom, phone, and electric power services.
And who provides these utility services? Well, when it comes to a telecom and phone service provider, think of your AT&Ts; when it comes to an electrical company, think of your Duke Energy.
Supporting the utilities' industry:
As nice (and as necessary) as it is to have telecom, phone, and electric utilities, all of these utilities will need infrastructure to support them. Even ‘simple’ things, like dialing a phone number, will require an adequate system to allow it.
So, for electric and telecommunications to work, we first need infrastructure to support the utility providers. Providing critical electric and telecommunications infrastructure, of course, will require significant resources to accomplish (both material resources and human resources).
Providing infrastructure services, whether it is telecommunications infrastructure services or any other sort of infrastructure to support utilities, can be done by a company that specializes in providing infrastructure services.
An example of a company providing infrastructure services would be Track Utilities, LLC, located in Meridian, ID.
As Track Utilities, LLC is located in Meridian, ID, the company provides mission-critical electric and telecommunication infrastructure services in the Northwest and Intermountain West. We will later discuss why a company like Track Utilities will need asset tagging and tracking.
The critical point here is that, regardless of the industry involved, all of this infrastructure built will have to be tagged, tracked, and monitored (as will spare parts and the tools needed for repair and maintenance). Luckily for us, some companies specialize in tagging and tracking assets.
One company that specializes in asset tagging is The NonStop Group (NSG). As per their NonStop Suite, the foundation of sound asset tracking systems are asset tags. So, what assets will a company like the NSG tag?
What assets are tracked?
The sort of assets/utilities that are tracked is dependent on the type of utility company; in other words, the assets tracked by a telecom company will be different from an electricity provider.
In general, the assets that will require tagging and tracking are essential to the functioning of the utility. Not only will the current asset be tagged, but so will the assets’ replacements and the tools required for maintenance work (including, amongst other things, their location).
When The NonStop Group helps gas and oil companies, they tag assets such as floaters, pipes, drilling equipment, buoys, cranes, and vessels. Each asset will be assigned an NFC/RFID tag to enable asset identification. As mentioned, asset identification saves time in diagnosing which assets (and tools) are needed to replace/repair it; asset tagging also provides a picture of inventory levels.
The project does not end there, however! To properly track utilities, one will also need to record the age, maintenance history, life expectancy, and the nature of the asset. When using a tag provided by the NSG, scan the tag with your mobile device, and all of this information will be instantly available.
With all of this data, it is possible for utility companies to be ‘ahead of the curve’ and to establish plans for when an asset needs to be replaced/repaired before it breaks down.
Asset tagging be used for predictive maintenance; when a problem does arise, the company can mobilize its resources to fix it as soon as possible.
As we can see, formulating tracking solutions should often be thought of as a project in itself; once the data are recorded, it will have to be monitored and updated when maintenance work is required.
How can asset tagging be beneficial in the utility industry?
There are plenty of benefits that the utility industry can reap through asset tagging!
Like many industries, the utility industry relies heavily on assets to ensure revenue. Thus, if these assets are faulty, damaged, or not functioning, their revenue stream would be affected.
An asset tagging system like the NSG’s will allow a company to save money in a few ways.
First, the resources needed to maintain and repair an asset can be easily found, especially in emergencies.
Secondly, asset tagging enables a company to quickly identify which assets need to be replaced or maintained at the appropriate time. Essentially, a monitoring system like this means a company can extend the ‘asset life cycle’ for longer at a reduced cost (thereby, of course, saving money). As offered by the NSG, predictive maintenance solutions will mean that only parts of the asset will need to be repaired or replaced instead of the tangible asset.
Asset tagging in action - Track Utilities, LLC - a company providing infrastructure services in the Northwest and Intermountain West region
Let us now see how a utility company can make use of the services offered by the NSG.
Track Utilities, LLC (Meridian, ID):
Previously, we used the example of Track Utilities, LLC as the company which provides infrastructure services; Track Utilities is located in Meridian, ID. It is located in Meridian, ID, Track Utilities, LLC provides mission-critical electric and telecommunications infrastructure for the Northwest and Intermountain West region.
Track Utilities, LLC provides infrastructure services: utility trenching and directional drilling services, standard utility trenching, and underground electric services.
Utility trenching and directional drilling:
Underground electric services:
This process involves laying high voltage underground cables to provide the power needs for their clients.
Joint utility trenching:
As the name suggests, joint utility trenching is digging one trench to bury different utilities together. The main advantages of standard utility trenching include saving costs and ease of maintenance.
As we are concerned with the need to track utilities for maintenance, joint utility trenching is an excellent way to do this – as all of the utility infrastructures will be in the exact location.
How the NSG can help:
Whether the service offered by Track Utilities, LLC is utility trenching and directional drilling, underground electric cables, or standard utility trenching, all the assets must be assigned tags to assist with predictive maintenance and extend the asset lifecycle.
This is more important as Track Utilities, LLC is the largest independent provider of critical electric and telecommunications infrastructure in the Northwest and Intermountain West.
If maintenance or emergency work is required, a robust tagging system that the NSG offers can help minimize disruptions and accelerate the repair work. Additionally, the NSG tags work on both metal and plastic, which is helpful to utility companies that work with both materials.
This brings us to the benefits of using asset tagging.
What are the benefits of using asset tagging?
There are many benefits in using asset tagging, but mentioning two will suffice here:
Reduce costs associated with loss:
With a good asset tagging and tracking system in place, one can easily replace damaged or faulty assets before impacting the broader revenue stream. Sometimes, only one part of an asset will need to be replaced, thereby reducing costs further.
Save time in locating resources and equipment:
Unsurprisingly, it will always take time to locate and mobilize the resources and equipment needed for asset repair and replacement. Using an asset tagging system like the NSG’s can save time as the geographic location of the assets will be known to the company. When NSG helps oil & gas companies, a priority is to ensure that the company has complete control and visibility of its inventory levels.
How can my organization improve asset management?
Systems integration is vital for improved asset management.
Any asset-intensive organization must be able to monitor, assess and maintain assets on a continuous basis. Gathering and analyzing of data to form insights and actionable intelligence is a key element of APM.
This is only possible if disparate data from different systems and functions are integrated in one system for a holistic view across the value chain.
Is it that important to incorporate into your organization?
Asset tagging solutions are vital for companies to operate. We only covered asset tagging in utility companies – in particular, those providing electric and telecommunications infrastructure services.
But, all sorts of industries can use asset tagging to help them succeed in the business world!