Feature Spotlight – Rental Flat Fees

Our ongoing Feature Spotlight series highlights one important tool in the TrackAbout toolbox to help you operate more efficiently and maximize the utilization of your assets.

Flat Fees

This month, we highlight a feature helpful to our clients subscribing to TrackAbout’s Rental Module.  Through TrackAbout Rental, clients have the ability to incorporate the use of Flat Fees in their monthly rental process, allowing you to optimize your rental while ensuring your customers know exactly what they’re paying for.  

TrackAbout supports several kinds of flat fees which can be applied to all or a subset of your customers and in a variety of scenarios.  Flat fees will be itemized on your TrackAbout-generated rental invoices to provide clear and transparent explanations to your customers.

TrackAbout

TrackAbout Release Notes – April 2016

TrackAbout regularly puts out new features and improves existing ones. Below are some of the changes in the next scheduled software release.

If you have questions about how you can start using any of these new features please reach out to our Support team at support@trackabout.com.

Collision Resolution – More information about merged assets

When a new asset is created that TrackAbout thinks may already exist in the system, we create what’s called a Collision.  When resolving collisions, the user has the opportunity to merge the new “colliding” asset with the existing one.  Once complete, the result is one merged asset.

We now provide better information on the website, displayed on the Asset History page, to make the merged information very clear to viewers.

Actions that have been merged into an asset’s history will appear in italics and display a (1) superscript.

MergedAssets

This enhancement is available to all TrackAbout Core Tracking subscribers.

 

Separate Complaint functions for “Full” and “Empty” assets

During the TrackAbout Proof of Delivery process, drivers have the ability to capture information about assets that are returning from customers with some type of “Complaint”.  Issues such as “Didn’t use it”, “The cylinder was empty”, “Equipment was dirty” are all common scenarios.

Previously, TrackAbout treated all returning items with “Complaints” as empty assets and the information was captured through just one Complaint button.  Now, users have the ability to choose whether assets are being returned as Empty or Full by selecting “Full Complaint Return” or “Empty Complaint Return”.

Here is a snapshot of the Proof of Delivery Complaint feature:

Complaint Flow Square

When saving a delivery record, assets with Complaints will be included in the Proof of Delivery receipt and on the delivery record available on the TrackAbout website.

For clients tracking asset Use States, these complaint assets will be updated in TrackAbout with a Use State of “Complaint”.  Those assets will not be permitted for use in other handheld actions until the complaint status is removed.

Registering Complaints during delivery is available to all TrackAbout clients using TAM6 and subscribing to the Proof of Delivery module.

 

Product Code Generation during Receive from Vendor

Did you know that TrackAbout can assign product codes for you?  Based on pre-defined rules, set by you, TrackAbout can generate product codes during certain TAM6 handheld actions.  This reduces time spent on selecting the correct product code for an asset and decreases potential errors that come with having your operators manually choose product codes themselves.

We’ve fixed a small issue during Receive from Vendor (Some companies call this action Vendor Received or Third Party Filling) that was preventing product code generation from supporting separate rules based on asset type (cylinders, containers, and bundles).   Now, even when scanning containers or bundles in from Vendors, TrackAbout will generate product codes to assign to your assets.

This feature is available to TrackAbout clients using using TAM6 with Core Tracking and is set up to use Asset Families.

Create Pending Interbranch Transfers from the website

Our Proof of Delivery module provides a terrific way to conduct interbranch transfers (moving assets between internal locations) without the need for physical paperwork.

Previously, the way to get information about your pending transfers into the TrackAbout was through a series of System Integration options. However, now you also have the option to enter the information manually through the website.

The Add New Order page on the TrackAbout website is used to create Pending Customer Deliveries (Orders). Now, this page will also support creating Pending Interbranch Transfers.

Add New Branch Transfer

You will be asked to enter information about the Pending Interbranch Transfer such as the date of intended transfer and items to be transferred along with the Origin and Destination branch locations.  Once saved, this information can be synchronized to your handheld devices to complete the transfers.

As with any transaction made through Proof of Delivery, you’ll then be able to compare this pending transfer information to what was actually transferred through TrackAbout’s mobile or website delivery capture options.

This feature is available to TrackAbout customers subscribing to the Proof of Delivery module.

 

 

TrackAbout

Recovering Delinquent Rental Revenue with TrackAbout

General Welding Tracks Down Rental RevenueOne of the industries TrackAbout has found success with is called Packaged Gas. Companies in this particular industry make all types of gases, such as oxygen, helium and acetylene for industry, medicine, manufacturing and research. Gas is placed in cylinders, which are then tracked using TrackAbout. Most Packaged Gas companies charge rent on the containers for as long as they’re with the end customers.

Occasionally a gas distributor finds itself with a customer that just refuses to pay its rental bill. TrackAbout’s customer General Welding Supply Corporation (GWSCO) of Long Island, NY recently shared the following story.

TrackAbout

Feature Spotlight – Capture GPS Coordinates

Each Feature Spotlight highlights one important tool in the TrackAbout toolbox that helps you operate more efficiently and maximize the utilization of your assets.

About GPS Capture (Smartphone Only)

TrackAbout is excited to announce the following enhancements to our iOS and Android apps.

  • Capture of GPS coordinates during mobile transactions, and
  • Display of maps on the web site that show asset and transaction locations

Get better information about your inventory.  Know where your assets are when you need them.

These features are available to TrackAbout’s iOS/Android subscribers and must be enabled by our Support team. Contact support@trackabout.com for assistance.

TrackAbout

Laser Scanner or Imager for Barcode Asset Tracking – Which is better?

This is a free preview chapter from the upcoming eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Barcodes for Asset Tracking authored by TrackAbout's Chief Technology Officer, Larry Silverman. If you’d like to be notified when future chapters are shared, please sign up.

  

Many of us think of lasers when we think of scanning barcodes. Indeed, lasers were the dominant scanning technology for the first several decades of the barcoding industry. Around 2007, new imaging technology became competitive with lasers. Today lasers are no longer the best choice in all (or even most) scenarios.

Dr Evil Meme: Frickin Laser Beams

 

In this chapter, we’ll explore the barcode scanning technologies that are being used successfully for asset tracking. In keeping with the theme of this book, we won’t be going into great detail about how the technologies fundamentally work. Instead, we’ll focus on what you need to know to make a wise choice in technology and have good outcomes depending on your particular use case.

We’ll explore:

  • Ability to read the most barcode symbologies
  • Reading a barcode on a screen
  • Reading at a distance
  • Motion tolerance
  • Reading poor quality barcodes
  • Lighting conditions
  • Discrimination
  • Labels
TrackAbout

TrackAbout Release Notes – March 2016

TrackAbout regularly puts out new features and improves existing ones. Below are some of the changes in the next scheduled software release.

If you have questions about how you can start using any of these new features please reach out to our Support team at support@trackabout.com.

NOTE: We are changing the naming convention for Release Notes, therefore, you will not see a “February 2016 Release Notes” blog post.  Release Notes will now be named for the month in which the features are available to customers rather than for the development period.

iOS and Android – GPS Capture!

TrackAbout is excited to announce the support for GPS capture on iOS and Android and the display of assets and transactions on a map in the TrackAbout website.

For each asset scanned, the app will attempt to capture the geolocation. The accuracy of the geographic coordinates will vary based on several factors, such as device capabilities and what networks are available (GPS, cellular, and WiFi).

If a geolocation was captured for a given record, the user will have an option to view a map when reviewing the record of the action (such as a Delivery) or in an individual asset’s details.

When viewing an asset’s details on the TrackAbout website, click the blue “Map” link to pull up the map view.

MapLink

 

Users will be able to change the zoom of the map view and will be able to see the following information:

  • Asset’s Tracking Number (Barcode)
  • Date and time of geolocation capture
  • The degree of accuracy of the coordinates as reported by the device to our app at the time of capture

MapView

When multiple assets are on one record, users can “View All Assets on Record” to see them all on the map.

 

MapView_Multiple Assets

Keep in mind, maps will only show when geographic coordinates have been captured. Therefore, records captured in the past will not have maps.

Users must allow location services and grant the TrackAbout application permission to capture location.

This feature is available to iOS and Android users as part of their TrackAbout smartphone/tablet subscription.

 

Simple Excel Output for “New Customers” report

The New Customer Report on the TrackAbout website is available for all Core Tracking clients.  This report will provide information on all new customers created within a specified date range and location.

New Customer Report

 

Users can now use the Export to Excel link on the report to create a simple Excel file from the report data.  This will allow you to manipulate and format the data outside of TrackAbout.

NewCustomerReportExport

 

Increased space for signature capture during Delivery

TrackAbout has increased the size of the signature field during delivery in Proof of Delivery mode.

Old Signature Capture Screen:

Old Signature Capture

New Signature Capture Screens:

New Signature Capture

In addition, these signatures will appear larger on the printed delivery receipts.

TrackAbout clients subscribing to the Proof of Delivery module will receive this enhancement automatically after updating to the latest release. 

Prohibit unknown deliveries to customers

Clients using TrackAbout’s Proof of Delivery have additional options for controlling items being delivered to customers.  We now support the ability to limit deliveries to only items that have been specified on Orders (Pending Deliveries).

If a driver/operator tries to deliver an item that was not previously specified on the customer order, they will receive an error message and will not be able to scan those items.

DeliveryMessage (1)

The same restrictions are not enforced for items being returned from customers.  Drivers will be able to accept all assets coming back from customers regardless if they were previously identified on the order.

TrackAbout

Pitfall: Serial Numbers are Not Unique

This is a free preview chapter from the upcoming eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Barcodes for Asset Tracking authored by TrackAbout's Chief Technology Officer, Larry Silverman. If you’d like to be notified when future chapters are shared, please sign up.

  

Choosing a Tracking ID

When tracking your equipment, every item must have a unique identifier (ID) assigned so the system can tell them apart. This can be called the “tracking ID”, “tag ID” or “barcode”.

But how do you choose the format of that unique ID? What do you encode into the barcode?

Depending on your industry, this might already be decided for you. The GS1 organization helps many industries standardize their barcodes. As a company, you would register a globally-unique barcode prefix with GS1. Your company is then free to use the remaining space in the barcode to encode your own unique numbers.

If GS1 barcodes aren’t right for you, then the most important thing is that you choose numbers that are going to be unique among all your supply chain partners, among all their assets and all the systems they might use.

Many assets have serial numbers assigned by the manufacturer. The serial number may be on a sticker, a metal plate, or indelibly stamped or engraved into the asset.

TrackAbout recommends capturing the serial number in the asset tracking system whenever possible. The serial number serves as an extra way to find an asset should the barcode or RFID tag become unreadable or lost.

You might think, “Hey, the manufacturer went to all this trouble to stamp this serial number on here. It’s unique, let’s use it as our tracking ID.” Please believe me when I say this is a Really Bad Idea.

Cereal Numbers

These are not the cereal numbers we’re talking about.

We can’t stress this enough: Do not use a serial number as your tracking ID.

Let’s talk about why.

Serial numbers are NOT unique!

Manufacturer-assigned serial numbers are NOT unique and TrackAbout has the data to prove it. Serial numbers may be unique among assets of one specific type from one specific manufacturer, but they are not guaranteed unique among assets of all other types from all other manufacturers.

Truthfully, you should not even trust the manufacturer to keep their own serial numbers unique over years and years of manufacturing assets, through changes in company ownership, mergers and acquisitions, etc.

Serial numbers become even less likely to be unique once you begin exchanging assets with your suppliers, customers and other business partners.

Having a self-assigned unique tracking ID really matters when you’re using a system like TrackAbout that lets you exchange and integrate asset tracking data with other parties.

You’ll have to print your own tags

Let’s say you’ve chosen to ignore our advice. If you insist that your tracking IDs should be the same as your serial numbers, then you’re on the hook for printing all your own tags. You’ve got to get those serial numbers onto labels.

You’ll need a software system that allows you to easily collect serial numbers and print labels.

You’ll need to set up a labeling solution at each of your locations where you’re adding assets to the system. Good label printers and label stock aren’t cheap.

At these locations, you’ll either need to make your labeling solution mobile so you can take it around to the various places where your assets live or you’ll need to bring all your assets to the labeling station. If you want to be able to add more than one asset at a time to the system, you might need multiple labeling systems per location.

You’ll want the entire system to be integrated so you’re printing and affixing your asset tags at the same time and in the same place where you’re adding assets to the system, plus collecting any other meta-data about your assets that you want to track.

It’s unlikely you’ll be willing to purchase high-quality label printers for all your locations that will beat the quality a professional label printing company can produce. The labels TrackAbout sells its customers are high quality, extremely durable and proven over many years of use in the field. They have UV protection to prevent fading from sunlight. They have highly-aggressive adhesive so they stay put once affixed to an asset. They are made of a strong material that resists tearing and other physical damage. Your self-printed labels aren’t going to last as long.

For more on TrackAbout’s labels, see What Makes a Great Barcode Label?

People are really (really) bad at accurately reading and writing serial numbers

Serial numbers are challenging for people to collect under the best conditions. It’s especially hard to accurately read serial numbers under poor lighting conditions or while transcribing from an asset that’s dirty, been painted, scuffed, etc.

Some letters and numbers look the same to the human eye.

Asset with ambiguous serial numberHere’s a nice, clean, painted, well-maintained gas cylinder. Perfect conditions.

  • Is that a zero or a letter O (or maybe a D or a Q)?
  • Are you looking at an uppercase I or a lowercase L?
  • A lowercase L or the number 1?
  • G or 6?

What will your worker decide? Will they care enough to make the right choice? Is there even a “right” choice?

Will the person who tries to look up that asset three months from now by keying in the serial number make the same decision the last person did? They might not find the asset at all. Perhaps they’ll assume the asset wasn’t added to the system, and add another one just to be safe.

In support of unique tracking IDs

There are many benefits to going with unique tracking IDs over serial numbers. Here are just a few.

  • Checksums – A checksum is a form of automatic error correction. It’s a digit that is calculated from the other digits of the ID using a standard formula. The calculated digit is placed at the end of the ID. It’s recalculated by the scanning engine to ensure the scanner read the tag correctly. More importantly, if you have good software, the checksum digit will also be checked whenever someone manually keys in the ID. This is a huge benefit that goes a long way to ensuring quality data entry.
  • Standardization – When you go with a unique tracking ID, you have a say in the format. You can ensure it’s, say, always 10 digits, for example. This enables your workforce to spot anomalies and avoid scanning the wrong barcodes.
  • Customization – Some of our customers assign prefixes to their tracking IDs that carry special meaning. So starting a barcode with a “C” might indicate a customer-owned asset. We can build special workflows and logic around this.

We have the evidence

As a global provider of cloud-based asset tracking software, we have incontrovertible evidence that duplicate serial numbers exist both within a single customer’s TrackAbout environment and in aggregate across all the assets that TrackAbout manages. We see the problems and frustrations this causes.

When a customer insists on using serial numbers as the tracking ID, and when two assets have the same tracking ID, the system can’t tell them apart. When your worker scans the barcode on either asset, the system might think they are one and the same. Or, a smarter system might know there are duplicates and prompt the user to reconcile, to choose the correct asset. Will the user choose correctly? It’s more likely that in an offline, disconnected environment, the worker’s handheld computer is not aware that there are duplicates, and just lets the scan go through.

Now a problem has been created down the line that someone else is going to have to solve. Which asset gets attached to the delivery record? The worker is done, out of the picture, moved on to the next customer. Someone miles away without visibility into the situation is going to have to make a judgement call. And odds are good without perfect information, they’re going to make the wrong call.

A wrong decision might remove an asset from a customer’s balance to move it to another customer. If your company depends on rental revenue, you’ve just lost out.

We have one very large customer who chose to use serial numbers as the tracking ID. Years later, they’ve told us they wish they had not as it’s causing the kind of problems mentioned above. The customer now has millions of assets under management and the cost of relabeling them to move to unique tracking IDs is daunting. Their data quality is not as good as it could be, and as a result there are all-too-frequent headaches for both them and us.

You don’t need this hassle when it’s easily avoidable. Don’t use the serial number as your tracking ID.

This is a free preview chapter from the upcoming eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Barcodes for Asset Tracking authored by TrackAbout's Chief Technology Officer, Larry Silverman. If you’d like to be notified when future chapters are shared, please sign up.

  
TrackAbout

Feature Spotlight – Order Picking

A new posting for our series called Feature Spotlight. In each new article we will highlight one important tool in the TrackAbout toolbox to help you operate more efficiently and maximize the utilization of your assets.

About Order Picking for Delivery

Ensure your drivers get out the door with the items they need to fulfill customer deliveries.  Even better, do it without having to carry around a ton of paperwork. TrackAbout provides functionality to assist in preparing your orders for delivery. Some industries call this process “Preparing Orders for Delivery”, “Staging”, or “Sort Trip Load”.

Step 1 – Entering Orders in TrackAbout

Load customer orders into TrackAbout.  This can be done manually through the TrackAbout website or through one of several integration methods.

Customer Orders entered in TrackAbout will include which trucks are to be used to make the deliveries.  These orders are grouped into “Trips” by truck.

Order Search

 

Step 2 – Scanning Assets

Use handheld devices to scan items in preparation for delivery.  TrackAbout will display to the user what has been ordered and will track what items have been scanned in preparation for delivery.
Picking

Then, the system will compare what was ordered to what has been scanned and let you know if anything for that order is missing.

In this example, 2 Industrial Oxygen cylinders have been ordered, but 0 have been scanned.  The system will alert the operator to the mismatch.

SortTripLoad

You have several options to control how your operators scan assets to stage them for orders.  Some of these include:

  • Limit scanning to only products that have been included on the order
  • Limit operators to only include assets that are uniquely barcoded/tagged
  • Allow operators to include Hardgoods/Consumables

Step 3 – Satisfy Customer Orders

Load and Deliver!  TrackAbout now knows which assets are staged for delivery.

Based on your specific processes, your operators/drivers would then use the Load Truck functionality to get assets onto and associated with a truck, ready to satisfy those customer orders.

Because the preparation phase is more efficient using TrackAbout, you can get your drivers out the door earlier and with better information.

 

Step 4- Efficiency!

Improved preparation for deliveries:

  • Allows delivery personnel to feel confident that they have the inventory they need to fulfill customer orders.
  • Improves alerting capability about product shortages and back orders
  • Reduce manual entry and errors!  Operators may still choose to carry along paperwork as back-up, but all the Picking information operators need will be available right through the handheld. 

This Picking functionality is available at no additional cost to clients who subscribe to TrackAbout’s Point of Delivery module.

Contact our Support team at support@trackabout.com to get started.

 

TrackAbout

TrackAbout Release Notes – January 2016

TrackAbout is always putting out new features and improving existing ones. Below, you’ll find information about some of the changes coming out of TrackAbout in the next scheduled software release.

If you have questions about how you can start using any of these new features please reach out to our Support team at support@trackabout.com.

Features and Updates

Beeps and Vibrations – Device feedback  

Operators are sometimes scanning larges numbers of assets in the course of their day and need to get through their processes as quickly as possible.  For some handheld devices, TrackAbout provides audible and haptic (vibration) feedback when scanning so that operators can receive messages without having to take time to look at the screen after each scan.

For instance, if an asset if scanned and the system successfully recognizes the barcodes, a beep will sound.  If the asset barcode is not recognized or there is an error during scanning, the handheld will emit a different kind of sound, vibrate and flash red (if applicable, by device).

TrackAbout’s beeps and vibrations are available to all scanning clients, but are only fully supported on some handheld devices.  Please contact our Support team if you are interested in this feature.

 

Proof of Delivery – Support for Sales Order Numbers in Orders Integration

TrackAbout’s Proof of Delivery module allows users to send Orders/Pending Delivery information from their accounting system to TrackAbout.  This provides personnel all the information they need about deliveries right from their mobile device.

Some companies use a Sales Order Number to link together their Orders and their Deliveries.  TrackAbout now supports Sales Order Numbers in the integration of Orders between accounting systems and TrackAbout.  In addition, we now print this information on the Delivery Receipt that is left with the customer.

SalesOrder

This feature is available to clients using TrackAbout’s Proof of Delivery module, and needs to be set up for you by TrackAbout Support.

 

No More Interruptions during New Releases! 

TrackAbout has made improvements to the way we release new versions of our software.  “Zero Down Time” deployments mean you can go about your regularly scheduled business while a new version of the software is being released.  No longer do clients need to be aware of the time window in which deployments will take place as there should not be any disruption to your use of the system. For the short term, however, we will continue to publish maintenance windows and only update code during these windows until we’re 100% confident in the new method.

iOS and Android – Time to upgrade your Operating System

As of March 2016, TrackAbout will no longer support updates for Apple iOS 7 on iPhones and iPads.  Clients utilizing our mobile application on iOS 7 devices can continue to use the application, but should be cautioned they will not receive any further updates to the application.

iOS7 users should upgrade their devices to a more current operating system to continue to receive great new updates for TrackAbout’s mobile application for use on iOS smartphones and tablets.

TrackAbout

Big Breakthroughs are Transforming the Way Distributors Do Business

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of CryoGas International. It is reprinted with permission.


Doug O'Dell Vice President of Sales, TrackAbout

Doug O’Dell

Award-winning author Thomas Friedman said, “Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/opinion/friedman-come-the-revolution.html) Friedman was referring to the “college education revolution” where advancements in technology made it easier for more people to receive a college degree for a lower cost via an online platform. But history is full of big breakthroughs resulting from innovations that filled a desperate need. The printing press gave greater access to information and set the stage for a transformation of social literacy. The steam engine enabled growth of the railroad and boosted intercontinental trade. Electricity sparked a host of other inventions that account for most of our modern life. And now, cloud technology and mobile computing are changing the way compressed gas distributors operate.

TrackAbout