IOT in Logistics /SCM

For a reasonably intelligent and aware person, it would be difficult to escape the barrage of emerging technology terms that they encounter every day. One such new term to enter our lexicon is IoT-that stands for Internet of Things. The IoT is defined by the Global Standards Institute as “a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies”. Simply put- IoT is the networked connection of physical objects or “Things”. IoT represents the next phase in the evolution of the Internet. While the Internet is a global network of computers, the IoT is a network of devices that are network enabled and connected via the internet. More than the connection itself, the key advantage of a connected device is that it can be remotely sensed, and controlled depending on sensory inputs. To give a simple illustration, you could connect to your home air conditioner on your commute back home and have it switched on to a your desired temperature by the time you are home.

Industry Applications

It is expected that anywhere between 20bn to 30bn devices could be connected to the internet by 2020. Gartner has already predicted that 2017 will see a total of 8 billion devices connected – a whopping 31% increase over 2016. Spending on IoT is also expected to rise up to $2 Trillion in 2017. IOT finds application in multiple industries where it will be used to find solutions to multitude of problems. For example:

– In media, IOT devices will be used to measure, collect and analyze an ever-increasing variety of behavioral statistics, which can be used to deliver targeted marketing and products.
– In environmental sciences, IoT will be used to provide real time data and sensory input on a variety of real world variables.
– In Infrastructure management it will be used to monitor and control infrastructure like bridges, railways, windmills, solar farms etc.
– It will also find uses in areas like Healthcare, Manufacturing etc.

Logistics Applications

Logistics forms the backbone of Supply Chains. Application of IOT is expected to drive long term and profound benefits for all companies involved in the Logistics business- right from the producer of the goods to the end customer and all connected parties in between. IoT will impact all departments across the Logistics Value chain including freight forwarding, transportation, warehousing, and last mile delivery.

Warehousing Applications

Warehousing is a key aspect of the Logistics Supply Chain- which includes transit storage, sort and distribution and other key value added benefits. For the warehouse itself, it is important to maximize its space allocation and make efficient processes for storage, stacking and retrieval that guarantee maximum savings. Right from the entry of goods in the warehouse the attached IoT device will provide information on package dimensions, so that optimum stacking place can be decided. During its storage time, information such as temperature, humidity etc can be gathered in case of select items. IOT enabled MHE will give insights into the usage time, average load, fuel consumption and preventive maintenance.

Transportation Management

In an interconnected world, goods are usually manufactured continents away from their consumption markets- thereby needing transportation through different modes before they reach the customer. IOT will ensure advanced monitoring of goods, providing accurate information not only on the current whereabouts but also on their conditions during transit. This could include information on temperature variations, humidity and possible damages during the transit. Information gathered will be used to intelligently determine the right level of inspection reducing the handling turnaround time. Similarly one will be able to determine the usage of transportation assets enabling the correct level of maintenance and replacements before actual breakdown happens.

Last Mile Delivery

While today’s tracking systems are largely based on the mobile devices of the courier person for last mile accuracy, these systems are often fraught with risks and are person dependent. IOT aims to drive away all these risks by making available on-the-go through embedded devices. IOT devices will provide information on how close or far the package actually is. Automated post boxes will automatically open when the right package arrives and will notify the owner of the delivery. Another area where IOT can give benefits is utilization of empty capacity as the delivery vehicle goes back empty. New applications are already on their way which will automate the pick up on their return journeys.

The Talent Impact

The introduction and use of IOT will have widespread impact on the way people work in the Logistics ecosystem. The increasing automation in informationg athering and consolidation will mean that jobs whose sole purpose was physical gathering of data and preparing reports will get removed. Similarly, many clerical jobs are also expected to vanish on account of IOT enabled assets giving the required information. There will also be a reduction in the number of people doing physical movement of goods since automated information and intelligent WMS, coupled with automated devices will load/stack goods automatically. On the upside, there will be an increasing number of jobs for data analysts and scientists who will work on the captured information to make sense out of all the humungous data. Programmers and Database architects will also be in demand to ensure that systems evolve along with the changing needs of the industry. We are likely to see more technologically capable talent dominating an otherwise low tech industry.