Returnable Transport Items (or RTIs) are an efficient and effective means of assembling goods for transportation, storage, handling and product protection in the supply chain. Commonly used RTIs in industry include roll cages, racks, pallets and totes.

However, keeping track of RTIs – particularly if you use non-automated procedures like barcode scanning – can be a real challenge because manual tracking is inevitably time-consuming and prone to error.

Without comprehensive RTI tracking you’ll find yourself with lost, damaged, or misplaced assets, which can translate into significant costs; an annual shrinkage rate of 9% is not uncommon. That’s a compelling reason to think carefully about how you are going to keep tabs on your RTIs.

Lost or stolen RTIs are often seen as a cost of doing business, but they shouldn’t be. A properly managed RTI pool brings efficiency and enables you to make substantial improvements to the company’s bottom line by avoiding the continual, draining cost of replacing missing RTIs.

The question is, how can you better manage and monitor RTIs? The US-based Automotive Industry Action Group has come up with a novel concept – it has created an online portal to help connect OEMs and suppliers who have lost RTIs with those who have found them.

This is a great idea, but it has a significant downside – it requires people to know about the website and search it thoroughly to find their outstanding RTIs. It’s also difficult to identify the items if they are not tagged.

Besides, the portal is not going to address the issue of theft, whereas accurate tracking could reduce the opportunity for it by highlighting culprits.

The chances of monitoring RTIs successfully are vastly enhanced if RFID technology is integrated into them. RFID tags allow you to identify each pallet, roll cage, tote or rack individually and this helps to tighten control and improve the management of assets.

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