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Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

New IBM Software Uses Sensors to Speed the Movement of Shipping Containers

IBM today announced that it has enhanced IBM InfoSphere Traceability Server with a new capability called Returnable Container Management.  This capability is designed to track the location of containers and other reusable assets used by manufacturers, parts suppliers, governments, and others to ship and transfer parts and products.

While this may sound like a rather esoteric topic, it's big business.  Many automotive OEMs maintain container inventories in excess of $100 million, and using sensors and tracking software can help reduce inventory costs by as much as 40%.  From today's press release:

For example, an automobile manufacturer using the software can track containers filled with parts from suppliers to their manufacturing plants and ultimately back to container storage facilities. In doing so, they can expect to improve container turnaround time by as much as 20 percent; reduce container loss by between 5 and 15 percent, reduce container inventory by 10 percent; realize a 30 percent savings in container carrying costs; and reduce the need for one time packaging and expedited shipping costs by 80 percent. 

The new offering provides companies with a complete platform for tracking and analyzing the movement of these valuable mobile assets. Through the previously unavailable insight provided by this application, container owners can optimize business processes, asset inventories and in turn, gain a competitive advantage. In particular, clients can expect to eliminate as much as 40 percent of their container inventory by minimizing losses, optimizing utilization rates, and detecting and preventing unauthorized diversions. 

InfoSphere Traceability Server has wide ranging application beyond container tracking, of course.  For example, in the healthcare industry, Implanet, which sells medical implants such as hips and knees, is affixing RFID tags to the packaging of medical devices. Before a surgical procedure, the hospital scans the tag and stores information on the implant with the patient's records so the information on the implant can be retrieved if needed in the future (e.g., in case there's a recall or the patient ends up having a problem with it).