Industrial IoT Transforms Logistics and Improves Supply Chain Efficiencies During Pandemics and Day to Day by Aaron Allsbrook

April 21, 2020

Challenges the world is facing based on the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the importance of improving logistics and supply chains in the global healthcare industry – with the availability of ventilators and dialysis machines causing uncertainty and stress. While this equipment does exist in some cases, it has not been easy to manage and move around the supply so that it reaches the “hot spots” in time to save lives. Additionally, new production is required to keep up with demand, and the ability to plan for production and distribution has led to chaos and confusion, and the inability to supply even the most basic supplies – Personal Protective Equipment and test kits – while hundreds of lives are being lost every day.

The use of Industrial IoT solutions addresses this, today as a reactive measure, and tomorrow as a proactive measure, with manufacturers including tracking sensors that can communicate with software platforms for a better view of where inventories are located and can be transferred more efficiently and less expensively.

These are just a few examples of how IIoT solves real world challenges, and within the world of healthcare, we are already seeing sensors being used to manage the “fleet” of expensive equipment – including hospital beds, oxygen machines, heart and other vital monitors – within a hospital or medical center campus. The optimization of equipment is made possible when healthcare workers can look up and procure equipment or request that new equipment be ordered when supplies are too low.

Some of the same principles apply to expensive and delicate pharmaceuticals, including chemotherapy drugs that need to be shipped at, stored, and delivered at certain temperatures, and plasma for blood transfusions cataloged, provisioned, and billed for in more efficient ways.

Logistics and supply chains across all industries are being improved every day through the use of sensors and IIoT platforms, scaling to support challenges like COVID-19, but also evolving to significantly reduce the costs of operations, to reduce waste and to generate valuable business intelligence when big data analytics is part of comprehensive versus point solutions.

It is, in fact, big data analytics that serve as the “connective tissue” that makes it possible for sensor-generated data to be pumped into existing ERP systems, making the entire supply chain more intelligent. For example, in the future expect to see manufacturers of hospital beds include sensors that the hospitals can register to local networks and to cloud-based applications. A bed can be purchased, serialized, and when it arrives at the hospital, can be registered, and connected to the asset management system. When that bed is sent to the ICU, it shows up on a map of the hospital campus, and when the bed is needed in an adjacent building, it can be requested and the request can be approved or denied, and if approved tracked until the bed is delivered to its new location.

Not only does this remove a great deal of “friction” out of the process, but when the data is analyzed longer term, patterns can emerge that help inform decisions to purchase more beds, or other expensive equipment.

Modern IIoT solutions go way beyond the original notion of connecting things – but to acquiring things, registering them upon arrival, managing those things, maintaining those things, and understand how they impact operations and costs.

ClearBlade understands this and we have built accordingly, committed to open technologies, and designing our software to be able to “pump data” into existing business applications, so the things we help connect can communicate to databases and analytics platforms using APIs.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage entire communities, cities, counties, states and countries, and even as we work to figure out how we can all support each other as the some locations surge while others being to flatten the curve, we are learning and innovating in ways that will improve our response in the future. In this way, we are evolving – and the innovations that come out of the hard work of businesses and government, healthcare, and educational institutions – can also be applied to making things better even as we return to the new, new normal.

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