The Value of Returnable Transport Items

Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) are utilized in all industries that rely on a supply chain— they provide a method for moving materials, parts, tools, and finished goods from one location to another. Examples of RTIs include bins, kegs, pallets, and racks, and, like any asset, they are completely traceable. Before jumping into RTIs though, it is important to understand them and how they work.


When discussing RTIs, the first point to note is their reusability. They eliminate the waste that one-way containers create and by doing so, give a much higher return on investment.

Consider two pallets, a $5 wooden pallet and a $100 plastic pallet. While the wooden pallet is cheaper, it is essentially a single-use transport item and will therefore cost $5 per shipment. The plastic pallet is durable and will last significantly longer, and after the 20th shipment it will have paid for itself.

The Trouble with RTIs

Although RTIs see a higher return on investment, they are much harder to track and keep stock of than one-way containers, which are instead used with a “ship-and-forget” policy. This stems from the fact that large companies often have thousands to millions of RTIs in use at one time. The larger an RTI fleet grows, the more difficult it is to track. Many companies even see shrinkage rates between 3-20%. This leads to wasteful spending practices—having to buy new RTI’s to replace the lost ones and hire additional laborers to manage them. So, in order to see any return on investment from RTIs, it is vital that supply chains have the right asset tracking solutions in place.

RTI Tracking Methods

There are three main ways to keep track of RTI fleets: paper-and-pencil, barcode scans, and auto-ID automated tracking. A paper-and-pencil system may work for extremely small companies, but larger companies will need an automated system. Where barcode scans are lacking (line of site requirements, no unique tracking of individual assets), auto-ID enabled RFID technology fills the gaps. RFID technology allows companies to tag each RTI and then scan that tag during points of transportation, collecting, analyzing, and even altering the data on it.

RFID scans are able to record the following information and more from auto-ID tags:

  •  Individual asset characteristics, including status, size, location, and type
  •  Unique asset history
  •  Fleet inventory information
  • Fleet RTI shrinkage rates
  • Shipping and receiving dates
  • Average RTI cycle duration

By providing a method to collect the most information possible about an RTI fleet, auto-ID automated tracking is considered the best option for RTI management. Implementing the right auto-ID system will allow companies to see a much higher return from RTIs, and these companies may even see gains in their supply chains and customer satisfaction.

This blog post was based off of a Whitepaper from TrackX. Download the entire whitepaper.

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