Trialling GPS trackers on cargo handling equipment

GPS trackers on cargo handling equipment have the potential to provide an efficient and reliable means of locating handling equipment and improve the supply chain for our breakbulk customers says Johanna Karlberg, WW Ocean’s head of handling equipment.

Stack of handling equipment

Why are you trialling the use of trackers across your handling equipment fleet?

We’ve been looking to find a technical solution for equipment tracking for some time and wanted to test a number of different trackers to find the most efficient and accurate solution for our handling equipment fleet.

Transporting breakbulk can be a complex undertaking involving specialist handling equipment, which is why it’s important that this equipment is easy to locate and readily available.

With Covid-19 disrupting supply chains across the world, embracing new technology to maintain momentum is more important than ever, so we’re excited to be testing trackers in the hope that a less time-consuming, more accurate tracking method can be applied to our fleet.

What does the trial involve?

We are testing the suitability of various GPS-enabled trackers, which use a combination of 3G/4G and blue tooth connection. We are also evaluating LPWAN connectivity. In order to do this, we have mounted four different types of trackers on each of the 10 roll trailers selected for the trial.

We are trialling the trackers in various ports around the world as this will enable us to thoroughly evaluate the technology and determine if it works even in remote locations. Some of the tracker units have been sent to ports outside designated trial locations, to simulate a ‘lost’ unit. This gives us the ability to analyse what data can be collected from a unit that is moving outside our regular global ‘grid’.

Sensor trial

Tests were conducted to determine the most convenient location for the sensors.

How did you decide where to install the trackers?

Before we could mount the trackers on the roll trailer units, we conducted tests to determine the most convenient location for them. We had to make sure they wouldn’t be in the way of lashing equipment or impede any type of lifts to the unit. We also had to make sure the tracker was mounted in a place where the signal had as clear a view of the sky as possible.

What information are you collecting and how do you plan to use it?

The trackers enable us to collect information on the exact location of each handling equipment unit included in the trial. As we are testing various different trackers, we are also comparing information regarding location accuracy, as well as stability and battery life to enable us to find the best solution for our fleet. Once we have selected which GPS tracker gives us the most accurate results, we will look at what other data can be built-in to tell us more about the actual status of the unit in question. For example, determining if a roll trailer is full or empty, in a stack or single.

Once the trial is complete, what’s the next stage?

There is no fixed end date for the trial, but we envisage it will last for another eight to 12 months in order to give us as many different scenarios as possible. After the trial, all information gathered will be analysed to determine if this is a beneficial and financially viable way of working. If so, we will equip the fleet with permanent GPS trackers.

How do you envisage the trial will benefit customers?

We believe that a modernised, automated way of tracking can save a lot of time and relay more precise information about the location of our cargo handling equipment fleet. This will ensure we always have equipment available for our customers’ products, thereby making our service even more reliable and attractive.

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