How the Internet of Things increases efficiency in every part of the supply chain
The Internet of things (IoT) has become an increasingly important component of logistics owing to growing time pressures and the necessity of increased efficiency. IoT solutions increase the efficiency of supply chains and give companies an edge over competitors. But the full potential of IoT has yet to be reached.
When it comes to IoT – the networking between physical objects and IT infrastructure – the logistics industry is a breeding ground for innovation. As early as 2016, 72 percent of companies in the transport and logistics industry deemed IoT to be a topic of great significance. That comes as no surprise, considering how many years the logistics industry has benefited from the ability to track assets using advanced technology.
The 2019 PAC Trend Study on the State of IoT in German SMEs shows just how relevant IoT has become for logistics firms. According to this study, 90 percent of companies in the logistics, transport and utilities sectors make use of IoT. But how are these IoT solutions applied? What use cases are there? What is the added value for these companies?
Maintaining oversight with asset tracking
The challenges in the logistics industry are diverse and have changed over time. More than ever, logistics companies must adhere to time and efficiency pressures. At the same time there is a lack of transparency in various areas. This is especially true for the ability to track the location and conditions of goods, as well as the ability to register lost and stolen items or reporting delays in deliveries.
The inability to effectively monitor fleet vehicles and goods can cause additional costs due to downtimes and increased administrative burden. To mitigate this, many rely on asset tracking as a solution.
In addition to tracking location, asset tracking also monitors the temperature, how full a container is, and the humidity in the vicinity, all in real time. Shocks, damages or changes in the environment – such as the weather – are detected and reported. These are some ways in which modern asset tracking in times of IoT and the cloud help mitigate risks seamlessly.
This is also crucial in monitoring the cooling chain, where precision is key. Damages to goods resulting from a disruption in the cooling chain can be very dangerous. The implementation of IoT technologies makes these dangers verifiable and controllable. IoT technologies help provide data on the individual stages in the supply chain and allows for monitoring from the instance a delivery is sent off, to the different intermediary stations, all the way to the destination. If tracking data is stored somewhere, such as the cloud, all of the different stages of delivery can be documented and analysed in the aftermath. Moreover, during the delivery predefined threshold values ensure that a notification or direct intervention takes place, for example, in the event of a temperature deviation.
Real time monitoring of containers
By means of sensors and cameras, containers can also be monitored automatically. This enables accurate planning without making unnecessary trips and also shows whether goods are safe.
Safe delivery of containers and goods can be ensured through a collection of dashboard reports, alarm systems and analytics of the respective data. This data also includes driving behaviour – such as speeding or risky braking behaviour. This helps provide data for precise analyses of the condition of fleet vehicles. Thus, any maintenance can be carried out well in advance, if necessary. This follows the principle of predictive maintenance, which aims to proactively prevent failures and errors. Forecasts can be formulated and unexpected abnormal events, outliers and errors can be predicted.
Seeing more with computer vision
The use of computer vision helps ease logistics processes by allowing for new ways to identify and track things. One way this is applied is through the effective control of access management. Video recognition can, for example, document incoming and outgoing vehicles. The data of vehicles entering and leaving the premises can be stored directly in the cloud. This data can include number plates or the times of arrival or departure.
Collected data can also be used to assess the movement of vehicles. This can, for example, help manage the traffic of trucks that need to unload goods in predefined zones. Surveillance systems using computer vision helps future-proof the fleet and saves time and money.
Efficient intralogistics with the help of IoT
The foundation of intelligent intralogistics, just like other applications of smart technology, is making use of cloud-based systems, smart machines, technologies such as computer vision, RFID and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). In addition, drones and robots have also been used in the logistics industry. With all components – from the forklift trucks grinding machines – intelligent and communicative, it becomes easier to optimise intralogistics processes.
Even the simplest IoT solutions ensure rapid replenishment. For example, the IoT Button can be used to trigger an ordering process at the touch of a button.
Minimising downtime, reducing loss or perishing of goods, optimising routes – the internet of things can increase efficiency in every part of the supply chain. The effort of implementing IoT solutions is a small price to pay, compared to IoT’s vast potential to improve efficiency. Further, despite what many think, sensors, trackers, IoT buttons and technologies such as RFID can quickly and easily be integrated into existing logistics processes.
About the author
Robert Jänisch is CEO and Co-Founder of IOX, a development partner for products in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. He is a certified IT business manager and has been working in the IT industry for more than 20 years. Robert Jänisch has already been responsible for various digital transformation projects for companies on the topics of system management, IT processes and service management.