Amazon’s warehouse is perhaps one of the prime examples of how human and machines can collaborate to improve work efficiency. Employees no longer have to roam around scanning each item or search for the missing bar-codes. There are robots with built-in cameras and QR readers to quickly identify items accurately.
IoT is making supply chain management less challenging and more efficient, providing companies an opportunity to expand beyond bounds. In fact, logistics is one of the primary sectors to embrace IoT with such an open heart. And why shouldn’t it? With the ability to improve operational efficiency and enhance revenue opportunities, IoT has the power to revolutionize the supply chain sector within the next few years.
As data-driven technology, IoT allows extraction of data from every entity part of the loop. For logistics and supply chain companies, availability of a larger set of real-time data and the ability to analyze it can improve the strategic decision-making capabilities.
The pace at which this sector is embracing IoT is such that it is difficult to summarize its real impact at the moment. However, a look at how it is being implemented as of now can clearly indicate the potential it holds.
Better Location Tracking
IoT is enhancing the overall visibility in the supply chain. You can track the location of your shipment down to the individual unit. Location tracking is not just limited to ensuring timely shipment. In fact, the location-based data captured through IoT technologies helps shipping companies ensure the quality of goods from the manufacturing unit to the time it reaches its destination.
This information is useful in case of perishable goods, fruits for instance. Location-based data can help companies decipher information regarding the exact point where the quality might have declined. Similarly, for long route shipments, contextual location information can play a vital role in choosing the best alternative route in case of a potential disruption. Real-time location data, therefore, offers a more insightful understanding of each link in the supply chain.
Company Spotlight: Pfizer – a pharmaceutical company uses real-time tracking devices to obtain information depending on the route involved.
Better Environment Sensing
IoT can improve the supply chain intelligence. The ability to capture shipment while it is on the route can help companies reduce risks and take immediate measures, especially for temperature sensitive shipments if something goes wrong.
Also, the ability to monitor the temperature throughout the shipment is helping supply chain companies maintain the quality of perishable goods and pharmaceutical products. The data is being used by a system that notifies the respective personnel in case there is a slip in the temperature.
IoT based technologies can capture data related to environmental factors such as pressure, humidity, light exposure. These systems provide vital information regarding the route to help companies analyze the safety aspect. This capability can reduce the supply chain waste even for the most sensitive shipments.
Company Spotlight: SenseAware – a FedEx subsidiary offers sensor-based logistics tracking. It detects changes in light, humidity, pressure, and temperature. In addition, it offers time and location-based alerts and is currently available in 20 countries.
Better Fleet Management
With IoT powered system, supply chain companies can track the location of their vehicles as well as the staff assigned to a vehicle at any given time. It gives a more transparent view of how the resources are utilized and provides insights to further improve resource allocation.
IoT can help companies automate vehicle maintenance and repair. Compliance and safety are critical aspects of supply chain management and automating these process can help companies avoid trouble. Similarly, there are supply chain companies that are planning to use the same technology to keep track of their drivers’ health as well.
With a more accurate information about the vehicle, the driver, and the traffic, better strategies can improve the fleet and fuel cost management.
Company Spotlight: Fleetilla offers fleet management solutions for cars as well as light and heavy-duty trucks. These solutions increase fleet efficiency and help businesses cut down on time and fuel costs.
Supply chain sector is responsible for shipping heavy equipment internationally which accounts for around 2800 megatons of carbon footprint every year. It is important that companies showcase a more responsible behavior and play an active part in curbing the situation. This is one more area where IoT can revolutionize the way things are done.
IoT devices and system can allow these companies to analyze, monitor, and even manage the carbon footprint at every level. Companies can pinpoint the process causing higher carbon emission and take specific measures to make the process more efficient.
The data collected through IoT sensors make it possible for the companies to optimize their load and choose the most efficient transport mode for any particular shipment.
Company Spotlight: A number of popular manufacturers including Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) has developed eco-friendly ships which act as a hope for the industry. The design incorporates renewable energy sources to power the ships.
Better Supply-Demand Balance
Meeting the demand is one of the critical efficiency metrics for the supply chain sector. The application of IoT technologies in the industry is not limited to the technical aspects, it can also offer insights that improve the ability to forecast demand. The data captured through IoT can enable a better understanding of customer behavior, product usage, needs, and demand.
IoT devices can provide data that is more than the simple Point of Sales data. They can provide data that can track back to the actions that drive the consumer to that point. From a simple when they purchase to why they purchase, and how they use it, IoT is making it easier for the manufacturers and suppliers to decipher the consumer perspective.
Company Spotlight: Stop & Shop – a supermarket chain uses an Insight system developed by Blue Sky Logistics to better manage its supply chain processes.
Availability of the real-time granular data is paving a way for a smarter and more efficient supply chain. We can sense a revolution ahead and IoT is paying a pivotal role in making it a reality. Major supply chain giants such as Amazon and DHL are already ahead in the game. It won’t be wrong to say that IoT technologies, soon, will become an industry standard and we will witness a drastic difference in the way logistics and supply chain functions are managed.
About the Author: Jenny Harrison is a passionate technology and lifestyle blogger. She loves to get engaged with the readers who are seeking for home, lifestyle and tech-related information on the internet. She is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which she shared her research and experience with the vast online community. Follow her on twitter @MJennyHarrison for more updates.