The Internet of Things (IoT) has been one of the major technological buzzwords of the 21st century – or more recently, the last decade.
Crediting its first pronunciation to Kevin Ashton in 1999, the then executive director of Auto-ID, the internet of things is a term used to refer to devices or things that are connected and communicate over the internet.
Basically, these things or devices have sensors that capture data or information and then transmit them to other remote devices which may be used by researchers or CIOs, for instance, to process and analyze this data.
IoT is Taking the World by Storm
IoT, despite seemingly being the buzzword for the techies, is also gaining a lot of interest within the business community – especially among large enterprises – and here’s why.
According to statistics, the IoT market in 2019 is expected to hit $1.7 trillion *. And as far as economic value is concerned, IoT is expected to generate $4 trillion to $11 trillion by the year 2025. A large part of these is connected to the benefits it can bring to the supply chain.
Using IoT to Improve the Supply Chain
The main drivers of IoT in the supply chain world are revenue opportunities and operational efficiencies. These are also the main goals trying to be achieved with the incorporation of IoT in the following facets of supply chain management:
With the ever-evolving world of online sales, managing large inventories and warehouses has become an arduous task for most large businesses.
Well, with the large warehouse floor size, floor workers are having an ever difficult time locating products for shipping – wasting a lot of time in the process, but not with IoT.
With IoT, you can rig up your warehouse with shelf sensors that will direct robotic carts to pick up and deliver goods to the shipment area, right on time.
And the revenue costs? Minimal.
The reason being, you would have saved on the manual labor needed to do this tedious task.
More importantly, you can rig this setup to offer autonomous re-ordering, where the sensors would re-order the supplies once the inventory hits a certain level. This means that you would never hit an out-of-stock situation.
Transport and Logistics
This is the biggest headache when it comes to supply chain management because the efficiency of this process determines how economically viable your whole enterprise business is. And in this day and age, especially with e-commerce, consumers want to order products and have them delivered 24 – 48 hours later. This means that services such as order tracking and advanced logistics have become more important in today’s supply chain, than ever before.
So, where does IoT fit?
IoT solutions allow you to not only track and trace goods in transit, in real-time but also monitor the condition of these goods, even when stored in the warehouse. For instance, a pharmaceutical company may use IoT solutions to keep track of the warehouse’s humidity and temperature, among other factors, while monitoring the transit of ordered goods right from the warehouse up to the delivery point.
Which companies are using these solutions?
Well, that list of enterprises that have adopted IoT and are developing new ways to use it is endless. But here are the five notable ones:
This e-commerce giant has in recent years heavily adopted the use of IoT in its supply chain management. This was made quite evident by their acquisition of Kiva systems way back in 2012, in a bid to use its Wi-Fi connected robots** to scan through their products and manage the logistics in their large warehouse floors. Actually, Amazon marries the use of IoT with AI, using the latter to prioritize which items would be shipped for Amazon Prime – one of their biggest ventures yet.
Before where a lot of time was spent by floor workers locating products spread all over the warehouse. Now, all that these workers have to do is focus on packaging and restocking the shelves. This means that the entire supply chain management process is more efficient, and what was deemed an “utterly ridiculous” delivery time claim by Amazon Prime can actually be achieved with such kind of a system.
DHL is one of the most renowned transport and logistics companies in the world. IoT is the biggest blessing to their business yet. DHL uses IoT solutions to increase transparency, save costs, and monitor operations. The company is able to track their delivery vehicles in real-time, and even predict the shifting demand for goods in their warehouses – helping them to keep up with the rapidly evolving market. Accountability is also highly improved since, in case of damaged goods, the IoT data can show the location and time of the damage – helping with post-event evaluation later on.
Apart from pushing for the integration of IoT in motor vehicles, Volvo has also gone a step ahead and started using IoT in managing its supply chain logistics. According to its CIO***, Volvo is using IoT and cloud-based services to inform how they are shipping vehicles to suppliers across the world and how they are ordering components that are needed in the factory. This gives the company greater flexibility over setups that are within the premises.
The main push behind Decathlon’s integration of IoT into its supply chain management is tracking and tracing. This large sports retailer owns 850 stores spread across 22 countries. This is to ensure products are delivered with 100% accuracy all the time, Decathlon uses IoT to track the goods in transit, using RFID chips.
The good of this? Well, by ensuring such high delivery accuracy, items arrive shelf-ready; meaning the staff doesn’t have to manually check each delivery, saving time and money.
Just like DHL, Maersk resorted to IoT to improve its supply chain transport and logistics. This specific move saw it partner with Ericsson in 2012, where Ericsson installed real-time monitoring devices in all its fleet. The technology is so advanced, that each of Maersk’s 300,000 refrigerated containers transmits its location, temperature, power supply, and other vital stats via satellite, in real-time. The gains seen so far are improved staff safety – since they don’t have to manually handle and inspect each container, and huge cost savings for the company accrued from reduced damages and improved logistics.
The Bottom Line
IoT and supply chains are becoming more inseparable as technology advances and consumer demand shifts. Integrating this technology in your business is guaranteed to not only increase revenue but also improve overall logistics, transport and warehousing efficiency.
Heather Redding is a content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.