How do you think retail giants like Amazon manage their bulk of orders — each unique — crisscrossing the world while ensuring quality, accuracy and timeliness? Or how does Maersk, one of the world’s leading shipping companies ensure that the fresh produce it ships across 121 countries stays fresh throughout its complex supply chain? It isn’t magical stardust teleporting items across the world, it is the magic of IoT.
IoT has completely revolutionized the way logistics companies deliver goods, making the entire process smarter, leaner and faster. Logistics is the backbone of supply chain management which itself is a determiner of profitability of the business. Marred with multiple challenges such as unpredictable fuel costs, increasing labour rates and new regulations, logistics can be a hard nut to crack, especially when necessary information is not available for decision making. That’s where the magic of IoT begins. By giving physical assets a digital voice, IoT enables end-to-end visibility, thus facilitating real-time detection of problems and improved decision making.
Using IoT systems such as RFID tags, QR readers, Wi-Fi connected robots and mobile & satellite communications technology, logistics companies are harnessing the power the cloud to relay vital data as and when it happens. Here are a few key areas where IoT is a boon for logistics —
Fuel consumption is both a challenge and opportunity for logistics companies. Smart telematics systems today can gather in-depth data such as the condition of the routes, vehicle performance and driver behaviour/safety and use it to optimize fuel consumption and fleet maintenance. By combining fleet information with IoT generated data, organisations are able to see emerging patterns which are then translated into scalable cost-cutting strategies.
Warehouse and Yard Management
In sharp contrast to the manual tracking of assets and inventory, RFID systems can help locate inventory, assets and equipment to ensure that the right products are in the right place at the right time. The biggest advantage of using IoT over manual tracking is eliminating redundancy (caused by visibility problems), errors and time wastage. The Port of Hamburg in Germany is one of the busiest ports in Europe and a great economic driver of the region that handles millions of container ships passing through it. To minimize underused capacity and prevent theft, the management uses sensors and communicative capacities such as smart lighting to light up necessary areas using motion sensing.
In Amazon warehouses, workers and robots work side by side to prioritize orders. Wi-Fi connected robots use built-in cameras to scan QR codes and using Artificial Intelligence those products are earmarked for their specific category, for example, Amazon Prime Orders. Employees then pack and ship the item for delivery.
The Internet of Things has opened up a whole world of possibilities for machines and humans to work progressively towards solving logistical problems and eliminating inefficiencies.