Transport logistics has rested at the core of many businesses and urban environments for a long time, but over the past few years, efficiently running transport hubs, ports, industrial loading docks, and warehousing facilities has only become more difficult. Shortages in staff, increase in fuel prices, more diverse transport fleets (including EVs), and the expense of land for parking and loading have all applied pressure to this critical work.
On top of this, pressure on global supply chains due to COVID-19 has meant that many logistics enterprises now have to operate to extremely tight schedules to keep their businesses profitable. But technology is coming to the rescue.
RTLS – A brief Introduction
An RTLS (Real-Time Location System) is designed to track all key assets within a physical space (usually an industrial environment, transport hub, warehouse etc), with the aim of granting far greater oversight of that system than originally possible. AI can be applied to the incoming data, allowing for predictive modelling and complex trend spotting. Time consuming tasks can often be automated, providing cost savings and freeing up workers for other essential tasks.
All this is achieved through the use of sensors, tags, and specialized software. All vehicles, crucial machinery, and even personnel can be tagged, allowing for a digital twin of the environment to be created. There are many RTLS companies with technologies suitable to different transport logistics requirements, but Ubisense’s DIMENSION4™ technology is already widely used in transport hubs and industrial environments due to its competition-beating UWB technology.
So, how can a system like this address the issues facing transport logistics in 2023?
RTLS and Transport Logistics
Whether it be in an industrial or warehousing yard, or in a mass transit hub, there are many similar issues that occur when organizing large fleets of vehicles and how they are parked, dispatched, maintained, and staffed. Here I will highlight some of the key areas where RTLS is helping to reduce the strain:
Eliminating search time is one of the easiest ways to bring about benefits quickly with an RTLS deployment in a transport logistics environment. Though almost all transit yards and mass transit systems like bus depots will have systems for parking vehicles, most of these systems don’t operate in real-time and they are prone to human error. By tagging every vehicle in your fleet you can ensure that vehicles are directed to specific parking spaces and loading bays, and if they go missing, you can instantly locate them on a real-time dashboard. Automated alerts can be set up to notify managers when vehicles are idle in the wrong location.
Updating planning systems with real-time data can allow managers to adjust schedules for the arrival and dispatch of vehicles and alter staff schedules ahead of time, preventing bottlenecks and staff shortages. Certain vehicles may have priority over others, and if they arrive on site in an unexpected sequence, other drivers can be altered to an adjusted parking/unloading plan. If vehicles are delayed on route, then other vehicles will automatically take priority, and their unloading/maintenance can commence more rapidly.
Increasing space utilization is one of the great benefits of an RTLS. When a large fleet of vehicles requires parking and maintenance, a complex system of shuttling is required to store the vehicles in the most economic and time-sensitive fashion. Often small changes in a schedule can result in many vehicles needing to be maneuvered to make the highest-priority vehicles accessible to personnel and static machinery. An RTLS can calculate the optimal way to park vehicles across a site with the minimal amount of effort. This can save countless man-hours and reduce the size of a site required, due being able to block in lowest priority vehicles.
Controlling entry and exit from yards and depots can be automated, allowing only correctly tagged vehicles to enter through barriers, and vehicles can be prevented from exiting until approved. This can improve security and reduce the need for a staffed entry barrier.
Specific solutions for Industrial Transit Yards and Warehouses:
Automating inventory management can make the interfacing between an industrial site or warehouse and a transportation operation more seamless. An effective RTLS solution can monitor stock and products as they move through a factory or warehousing space, ensuring that staff are notified in good time when items require either loading or unloading. Staff can also be alerted to incoming vehicles and can muster in the correct unloading bays, ensuring tasks are completed on time. Managers can check that all tagged items are present on a vehicle before that vehicle is dispatched, without having to be physically present. Drivers can also be assigned to the correct vehicles.
Tracking vehicle proximity to loading bays can help trigger a variety of alerts, which can speed up loading and unloading times and ensure vehicles are directed to the correct bays. A UWB system like Ubisense’s is perfect for tracking the movement of assets between indoor an outdoor environments, making loading bay management a much simpler undertaking.
Specific Solutions for Transit Hubs:
Automatically separating EVs and automating EV charging station usage are two ways in which RTLS is helping bus depots avoid the risk of (albeit rare) EV battery fires causing chain reactions. The fires caused by EV batteries can be intense, and separating EVs helps prevent a single fire getting out of hand. Making sure charging stations are used effectively, factoring in charge times, is also essential for any new electric fleet. RTLS software can cater for the specialist needs of a modern transit fleet.
Highlighting vehicles in need of maintenance and refueling on a customizable display can allow all employees to keep on top of tasks. With the use of handheld devices, employees can see what vehicles are yet to be worked on, utilizing color-coded vehicle symbols that also reveal precise locations. This ensures that all vehicles are ready on time for dispatch.
Although far from exhaustive, the above shows some of the common ways in which RTLS is already helping streamline and demystify transport logistics across different industries. If you would like to know more about how Ubisense’s DIMENSION4™ system could benefit your business, feel free to contact us here.