It may be already be a challenging and unprecedented year, but 2020 is also a milestone year for software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions innovator TrackAbout.

Twenty years ago, the company set out to change the way the world tracks and manages portable, physical assets, the vision laid down by co-founders Jim Glessner and Tim Fusco.

Through continuous collaboration with its customer base, including world-class organisations in over 30 countries, TrackAbout has become the leading authority in asset management technologies in years since, offering innovative solutions for tracking, managing, maintaining and renting portable, physical assets.

The company is committed to continuing to service and support its integrations with a wide variety of ERP packages – and during these times of coronavirus pandemic, it has found that the world of asset tracking technologies has firmly come into its own.

gasworld caught up with Cai Weiguo, Partner at TrackAbout Inc. Asia Pacific, to coincide with the launch of its gasworld Asia-Pacific platform and learn more about the company’s current operations in the region.

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“I’ve never told a customer that enabling their asset management team to work from home during a pandemic is a reason why they should use TrackAbout, but I will be starting now!” Weiguo observed.

“Technologies provide benefits for situations that we have yet to experience, and continue to provide competitive advantages to TrackAbout’s forward-looking customers in an increasingly complex world.”

TrackAbout has been trackingwell in the Asia-Pacific region for years, and particularly so since the launch of its dedicated Asia-Pacific business in 2017. Weiguo affirms that TrackAbout Inc. Asia-Pacific has grown its presence in the region from five to nine countries and even one of its customers, Pakistan Oxygen, has developed into an exclusive distributor for the company in the country.

“We’ve also recently hired an additional full-time staff based in Australia, so we’re aiming to do much more in this region,” he says.

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, TrackAbout Asia-Pacific’s plans for the region in 2020 centred on the further roll-out of new tracking features and technologies, as well as continuing to play its part in the development and acceleration of the required culture of safety.

“A lot of new features are being built by TrackAbout’s Developers and Product Management team in the US,” says Weiguo, “and that helps us to make our customer’s wishes become a reality. We’re laser-focussed on improving our software offering and helping our customer better track their assets, and that hasn’t changed in 2020.”

Weiguo cites that culture of safety as the biggest challenge for the region in the next five years, and explains, “As the industrial gas market in this region grows, the biggest challenge we face is for the safety culture to grow at a much faster rate. This is applicable to tonnage, onsite, and especially merchant businesses where industrial accidents happen far too often.”

Clearly the biggest challenge facing everyone right now is the continued Covid-19 pandemic, and Weiguo is no different; our interview comes as a minor break in his own daily efforts to help the medical community in the region.

“My main focus now is helping Home Medical Equipment (HME) suppliers in Asia-Pacific track their rental equipment,” he says. “We don’t want any respirators, oxygen concentrators, portable beds or wheelchairs lying around when they need to be deployed right now.”

“I’d like to express my appreciation to global gas suppliers reading this who ramped up on medical gas supply and cylinder conversions that have helped hospitals and medical facilities focus on providing patient care,” he continues. “Imagine having to worry about pallet oxygen supply at a time like this, so thank you!”

Whilst thanking those on the front line, it’s clear as we continue to talk that asset tracking innovators have a key, easily overlooked role to play in tackling the crisis and ‘flattening the curve’.

“This global healthcare crisis has highlighted this requirement for asset management. Digitisation enables and supports working from home and remote operations, and TrackAbout users – from order taking to invoice collection, with the exception of field staff – are able to work remotely and access data and reports seamlessly,” he enthuses.

“Regardless if you’re managing 10,000 or one million cylinders by means of manual data entry and handwritten serial numbers, you’re unwittingly increasing the hidden costs of cylinder leakage and exposing employees to risks that can be avoided in times of a pandemic.”

“Not only can digitisation help to ‘flatten the curve’, it also keeps us more productive!”

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Weiguo confirms that HME rental tracking has been a ‘bright spark’ for TrackAbout Asia-Pacific during the crisis, but also points out that “like many, our new businesses have been impacted.”

He adds, “We are very grateful that our customers, especially the industrial gas, waste management and medical equipment customers, provide essential services so we continue to provide the best service while they cope with additional demand.”

And TrackAbout itself has been dependent upon the digital technologies all around us during these difficult days, just like everyone else. As a cloud based Software-as-a-Service(SaaS) company, we keep operations lean by working remotely unless absolutely necessary,” Weiguo says. “Our support and implementation teams have started working from home since the onset of Covid-19, but we’re happy to share that Zoom video calls and Slack messaging have been the norm for TrackAbout.”

“When flights got cancelled, one customer in Thailand had looked like their implementation will be delayed and agreed to do it remotely. We immediately shipped their QR codes over, and resolved the gaps via the LINE messaging app. We’re indebted to customers like them, and remain committed to supporting them, despite the global challenges.”

“Weekly Zoom calls with the team goes a long way to keep team spirit up, and we’re all in this for the long haul. Stay positive!” he adds.

On that note of staying positive, we askWeiguo what lessons can be learned from this pandemic and crises like these as a whole. A strong Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is imperative,” he responds. “Not only are we dealing with an infectious virus, but fear and misinformation are real concerns that need to be dealt with.”

“Companies that have clear established BCPs will be able to transition quicker, keep staff motivated and focussed on serving customers.”

“Businesses in Asia-Pacific have evolved through the Asian financial crisis (1997), SARS (2003) and the global financial crisis (2008), and since built-in resilience and dynamism. Digitisation is already developed in the retail and commercial space, and industries are fast catching up.”

This is all intertwined with where Weiguo sees the greatest opportunities ahead for the Asia-Pacific region – digitisation – citing examples such as China launching an online portal for the sharing of industry information with live webinars by keynote speakers. “Digitisation is the greatest opportunity today for companies to become leaner and more productive.”

In concluding, we ask Weiguo what his one final message would be to readers – and like so many of us, he’s already looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ and physically seeing friends, colleagues and clients again. “I’d like to wish all GW readers good health and look forward to meeting you face to face in better circumstances. Take care!”