Just a few years ago, every one said it was unnecessary; that customers didn't want it, and that even if they wanted it, they weren't willing to pay for it, and to top it all, it was too expensive. Everyone thought the technology needed to be adapted. Not any more.
We're talking about GPS, or Global Positioning Systems. This system is used to accurately pinpoint the location of a vehicle or entity on the surface of the earth, whether on sea or land or air.
A typical GPS system consists of over 24 satellites at around 22,000 km above the earth, a transponder-receiver on the ground unit, and a GSM, or the cellular network on the ground.
The idea is triangulation: signals sent from the satellites are collated, analysed for distance and location in the ground unit and bounced off to the cellular network by sms.
Digitised maps can be superimposed to get the location of the truck. GPS is already being used for purposes as diverse as vehicle tracking, to earthquake and water body measurements.
The use of GPS in India for supply chain management is relatively new. The method most preferred is still the truck driver reporting in his location, but such a method necessarily has a time lag -- you know the location when the driver calls in, and that he may not do the delivery on time.
With GPS, this is no longer an issue. Depending on the number of times the signal is polled and sent by sms to the base station, the location of the vehicle can be extremely accurately determined.
Of course, the higher the number of sms sent from the truck to the base station, the greater the cost.
Why is vehicle tracking so critical? These days, companies treat transport as inventory on road, and build in this stock into demand fulfillment; in other words, total stock at the point of sale is made of stock at destination plus the stock on road.
If the truck carrying the goods is late, diverted, stuck or just not started off, fulfilling demand will quickly become a major problem. Loss of sale follows instantly.
Under these circumstances, knowing where the stock is on road gives everyone concerned vital information about what action to take – ration stock, or take new orders.
For the transporter as well, there's faster delivery and safety of goods transported, quicker help in case of emergency, information regardless of weather conditions and location, driver and passenger safety.
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