For any organisation with a supply chain or logistics operations, the Internet of Things will have an enormous impact on operations and its bottom line within the next five to ten years, both in terms of lower costs and increased revenues.
According to research by Cisco and DHL the Internet of Things could generate up to $1.9 trillion in additional value for the global logistics industry by 2025, by enabling organisations to better monitor and optimise their supply chain processes with low-cost smart sensors and connected devices.
This IoT connectivity will provide organisations with a wealth of data and an unprecedented level of visibility into the full supply chain management process, from freight transportation, to warehousing operations, to last-mile delivery.
In freight transportation, the Internet of Things will make tracking and tracing goods faster, more accurate, more secure and more reliable, while the wealth of analytics generated by the sensors in a connected fleet will help to predict vehicle failure and to schedule maintenance checks automatically.
In warehousing, smart sensors installed on pallets or directly onto packages will help to transform inventory management, making the process smarter, more efficient and more cost effective.
Finally, connected delivery vehicles will help to optimise last-mile delivery, while also creating new revenue streams by identifying opportunities to monetise the return trip.
Given how hugely significant these changes are likely to be for the logistics and supply chain management industry, it’s worth taking a look at each of those transformational changes in a little more detail.
A growing number of ‘connected freight’ solutions are being developed that can use Internet of Things technologies to provide organisations with real-time data about the condition and location of freight while it is in transit – information that can prove invaluable when shipping perishables, high-value machinery or IT equipment, or pharmaceutical products that require constant, regulated refrigeration.
Taking perishables as an example, every year around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is either lost or wasted – enough food to feed almost half the world’s population. While some of that food is lost before or during harvest, and much of it wasted when consumers or retailers throw away perishables that have passed their sell by date, some of that food waste is due to perishables being damaged or spoiled during transit.
Connected freight solutions can help to tackle this challenge by deploying smart sensors that are able to detect changes in a wide range of environmental conditions during transit, such as temperature, humidity, pressure or vibration, and transmit this data to a cloud computing-based command-and-control centre, enabling the organisation to adjust the environmental conditions to address the issue.
Additional sensors can detect whether goods have been stolen or shipping containers have been tampered with, which is particularly important for high-value goods, while location-based trackers can let the organisation know where the goods are at any point of the journey.
By deploying smart sensors and connected scanners in warehousing facilities, and aggregating the resulting data with data from the warehouse management system, organisations can monitor the warehouse’s operations in real-time rather than retrospectively, enabling the firm’s leaders to immediately redesign processes or reconfigure warehouse layouts when safety issues are discovered or opportunities for greater operational efficiency are identified.
Wearable devices can also offer warehouse teams instant access to the information they need, without having to rely on workstations, and can also incorporate wayfinder navigation systems that can dramatically improve the efficiency of the order picking process.
Finally, IoT sensors installed on warehouse assets, such as forklifts, can help to predict vehicle failure and schedule maintenance checks before conditions worsen, which can simultaneously minimise downtime and significantly reduce the cost of repair.
The last mile of the supply chain management process, from the depot to the delivery destination, has historically been the most inefficient. However, by equipping delivery vehicles with IoT sensors that can track and record a wide range of variables, including the vehicle’s location, its speed, and its fuel consumption, and aggregating that data with location-based and time-based information, such as potential traffic jams and road closures, or congestion that occurs when schools close for the day, drivers can be provided with the fastest and most fuel efficient route to their destination, and can be redirected in real time as conditions change.
The end customer can also track the delivery in real time, offering them much greater visibility into where the delivery vehicle is located and exactly when the delivery is likely to be made.
Additional IoT sensors installed on delivery vehicles can help to predict vehicle failure and schedule maintenance checks, in much the same way as with forklifts in warehousing facilities.
Finally, real-time data for an organisation’s delivery fleet can help to monetise the return journey for some of those delivery vehicles, by redeploying them to collect returns from nearby locations during the course of their return trip.
At the forefront of the revolution
The Internet of Things is set to revolutionise supply chain management in the very near future, but in order to be at the forefront of that revolutionise you will need the right IoT talent on your leadership team. That’s where we come in.
Miramar Executive Search Consultants have an extensive understanding of the logistics and industry and the leaders required to maintain and develop businesses embracing current innovations. Our consultants and researchers reach globally to source the best executives for your industrial organisation. Contact Miramar today – we have offices in the UK, the USA and Asia.