The Transformation of Logistics and Supply Chains is Well Underway: The Rise of Industrial IoT

April 30, 2020

Getting physical goods to move from place to place has become a technology art form, with software platforms interacting to orchestrate more efficient movement, to reduce loss and theft, and to be able to accurately forecast and deliver on time, all the time.

One of the most popular methods for fulfilling deliveries today is through third-party logistics, which involves any company that provides outsourced services to move resources from one area to another, and third-party logistics companies, sometimes known as  3PLs, can support industries including transportation, warehousing, cold case for food and pharmaceutical safety, and much more.

Delivery company DHL and tech giant Cisco estimated in 2015 that IoT asset tracking solutions could have an impact of more than $1.9 trillion in the supply chain and logistics sector, and those forecasts are turning out to be more than accurate.

A recent survey by GT Nexus and Capgemini found that 70% of retail and manufacturing companies have already started a digital transformation project in their supply chain and logistics operations, and while freight and shipping companies have used barcode scanners to track and manage the flow of inventory, the Industrial IoT, leveraging less expensive but more powerful sensors, more secure networks, and advanced IIoT platforms are making scanners obsolete as they only collect high level data, rather than collecting a range of data – location, environmental conditions, temperature, and more – which can be collected, stored, analyzed and acted upon with more automation and artificial intelligence.

Whether multi-purpose sensors or simpler active or passive RFID tags (with an antenna and microchip), the real value in tracking and logistics is in the data that is collected and made available and integrated into existing enterprise systems. It is one thing to count things, but another thing to collect contextual data and feed that into the entire business intelligence domain.

Internet-connected tracker systems can run on long-range networks or Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs), cellular networks including increasingly powerful 5G networks being stood up around the world, or using more expensive satellite connectivity which enables the tracking of any asset, anywhere on the planet, even in areas that do not have cellular coverage.

The use cases for asset tracking are many, and growing, with most directly related to the industry itself. For example, ClearBlade works with most of the Tier One rail companies in North America, and our platform can securely and reliably track assets as large as a railcar or as small as a bearing on the wheelset of that railcar. Industrial IoT thinking, experience and architecture pays off when assets are very high value, are mission critical to the enterprise, and are part of larger supply chain ecosystems. Here are three examples of what we are developing and rolling out:

  • Physical asset movement and delivery: This includes fleets of largely semi-trailer trucks that transport goods to fulfill consumers’ or business’ orders. These fleets can handle long-haul or last-mile delivery.
  • Consumer transportation: This includes governments and businesses that use vehicles to transport people from one destination to another.
  • Field-service vehicles: This includes vehicles operated mostly by businesses to transport employees as they perform their job functions.

Using the real-time data collected by IoT sensors, enterprises have exponentially more insight into their business and more control over valuable resources. With this real-time insight, they can reduce risk and improve how quickly and accurately they can serve their customers.

They can make faster, smarter and bolder business decisions that make them more competitive, and can even generate new revenue streams when they monetize the data they are collecting (for example offering tracking data to end-customers, to other parts of the supply chain (for example distribution centers), and more. Real-time tracking run on a secure, scalable platform provides data with great accuracy, fast connectivity, connections to clouds for certain analytical functions, and insights delivered through notifications and alerts that help keep the human helpers productive.

As goods make their way through the supply chain, IoT sensors can return information about journey times, traffic delays, demand surges when medical equipment is needed to address a public health crisis, and more.

Real-time notifications and alerts allow companies to mobilize quickly across often complex, global transportation network and distribution systems, eliminating expensive losses due to delayed assets and supplies.

As our global economy becomes more interconnected, investing in IoT-powered smart logistics solutions are no longer science experiments but mission critical necessities, that give nearly every industry important tools for agility during business as usual times, and business disrupted times, like those we are in today.

The great news for enterprises? The right asset tracking solutions and systems are affordable and scalable, depending on the approach, and the ROIs are intuitive and impressive. It’s time to digitally transform the logistics industry once again and keep all our most important supply chains humming.

Originally posted by Eric Simone on LinkedIn Pulse

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