Cargo theft comes in all shapes and sizes, with cargo lost or stolen in transit across supply chains accounting for over $15 billion in lost revenue every year in the United States. The exact figures are difficult to determine, as several thefts are unreported or are not classified appropriately. As we discussed earlier, different avenues report cargo theft like CargoNet, Carrier411 and TIA Watchdog. The problem though is that they operate in silos, thus creating a data disconnect on the actual size of the problem.
FreightWaves spoke with Robert Johnson, vice president of business development at Concept3D to discuss the impact of cargo theft in warehouses and distribution centers as well as to understand how technology and meticulous planning could help circumvent the problem.
“I would say that more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 companies are actively trying to understand the impact of cargo theft in their business, and are looking at tracking warehouses and their logistics operations through a combination of the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, tracking softwares and other hardware technology like beacons,” said Johnson. “Companies that have assets out there are looking to more effectively track them and understand their health, location, how fast they are moving and their transit times.”
Johnson contended that there are many different methods through which businesses could track inventories, pointing out an instance when a shipping customer of Concept3D went to great lengths to identify and account for items before they were loaded into shipping containers. At the warehouse, the company outlined rectangular boxes on the floor using duct tape, modeled to the exact dimensions of a shipping container. The company proceeded to check in items into those boxes first, using radio frequency identification (RFID) to tag them as they were put inside and also activating geofencing around the area to make sure nothing was lost or mishandled.
Once this was done, the items were loaded into the shipping container when it arrived, making sure the items were scanned in and out. This meticulous process helped the company minimize cargo theft within warehouses, as it helped put more visibility into individual pieces that were being shipped in a specific container.
Johnson spoke about the advantages of using a 3D interactive map for tracking inventory with an accurate visual representation of indoor activities. “Being able to visualize the indoor settings of a warehouse on a map can help put perspective on missing or stolen items. A mapping platform tells you exactly where an asset is in real-time, and is easy to track when it is in transit,” he said. “Our platform on Concept3D does this. It is a location-based platform that allows you to associate items with the data that comes from them, and as you can visualize the current location of items, it can help reduce inventory theft.”
Interactive maps allow companies to recreate indoor areas with precision – be it the loading bay, offices, storage closets, doors to rooms, and even the emergency resources mounted on walls. By digitally twinning (physical assets represented one-to-one in the digital space), the entire inventory can be represented in a scaled-down 3D map, and with the right software and RFID tags, it is easy to identify the movement of assets from one place to another.
“You can track things that have not been shelved yet, like palettes waiting on the loading dock. You can also note the location of new packages or shipments that have been assembled and are waiting for transport,” said Johnson. “Warehouses are large and often busy, and an interactive map can offer heat maps of congestion and interrupted flow. From this business intelligence, new layouts can be created digitally. Once tested, it is clear to see how the heat maps compare to previous layouts and flows.”
The idea behind visual mapping is to make it simpler for the warehouse management to understand operations visually, minimizing their inordinate dependence on spreadsheets to manage cargo flows. For instance, high-priced products in limited stock can be tracked a piece at a time to ensure that a fair number of the products are kept in stock. Johnson explained that interactive maps allow management to track cargo in multiple ways – like RFID tags, customized barcodes and radio transmitters – to ascertain its safety within the premises.
“In a fast-paced industry, asset tracking is very useful for the equipment inside the warehouse or construction facility. Using sensors to track your key facility assets can ensure that losses are reduced, and to identify the last location of assets in case the products are lost,” said Johnson. “Using interactive maps can help companies keep a closer eye on inventory and as a result, help it safeguard products and thereby save money.”