Devising an asset management strategy wasn't something that Rick Pople could postpone when he joined NYK Logistics Inc. last February. The focus of the company, a third-party logistics provider, is asset management, yet he encountered no automation, just chaos and delays at the Long Beach, Calif., distribution center. As NYK's new general manager, Pople had to find a solution to locate, document and precisely control asset movement (cargo containers and trailers) through the center. Picture the management challenge: a 70-acre site with 1,100 parking slots and 250 dock doors. Multiply that by an annual asset flow of 50,000 inbound ocean freight containers and 30,000 outbound trailers. Unfortunately his tools consisted of golf carts, a rusty old pickup, walkie-talkies and clipboards. Pople's research led to a wireless-based location solution from WhereNet Corp., Santa Clara, Calif. The result: a labor-saving, real time location system that includes communication, telemetry and messaging capabilities. A configurable rules engine, the WhereNet Yard Rule Manager, controls asset movement in the 70-acre yard including departure verification. For example, when the yard-management system detects that a dock door is available, the rules engine automatically scans the yard for trailers that are eligible and generates a trailer move request for a hostler driver. NYK configures the rules to ensure that the lowest cost carrier is selected first. Labor savings are substantial. The only human intervention in the process takes place when the hostler driver receives the request via his wireless tablet PC, "maps" the location of the requested trailer via his touch screen and pulls the trailer to the designated dock door. Pople estimates that automated data capture at the gates halves the time drivers spend on site to complete a double transaction. The hardware enabler is a small active radio transmitter, a WhereTag, that is attached to every cargo container and trailer entering the facility. The WhereTags interact with the yard's array of 35 WhereNet wireless locating access points. Deployed in less than 75 days, the NYK implementation is expected to pay for itself in less than a year, says Pople.