The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-growing network of gadgets and devices that can connect to the internet wirelessly. These devices are already changing daily life in ways both obvious and more subtle. Plenty of people already have their homes full of IoT devices smart lights, wireless security cameras, smart home devices, smart thermostats, and so forth but the real innovations are happening in the industry.
Shipping, logistics, and supply chain management are already feeling the benefits of implementing IoT to track shipments, pinpoint the causes of shipping damage, and prevent damage to cargo. In everything from tracking delivery speed to monitoring conditions during shipping and storing, streamlining warehousing, and more, IoT tech is changing the way supply chains are managed, for the better.
1) Tracking Delivery Speed and Movements
Plenty of shipments, especially perishables like food and medicine, need to arrive at their destinations within a certain time frame. Even if a shipment isn’t in danger of going bad, knowing how fast a shipment is moving can be important for other supply chain considerations.
For example, a manufacturer might rely on a shipment of components in order to start production on a given batch of goods. Knowing how fast the shipment is moving and when to expect it can let them decide when to begin pre-production preparations in anticipation of its arrival. Distribution centers and suppliers can also plan receipt of shipments, improving efficiency in processing and cutting handling times, and route tracking can help shipping logistics professionals re-route delayed shipments.
2) Streamlining Warehousing
In the bad old days, shipments had to be painstakingly catalogued by hand when they arrived in a warehouse, and checked out again when they left. Merely keeping track of arriving and departing shipments required a lot of man hours. There was plenty of room for human error in this process, and it could be difficult to keep track of where shipments ended up in a particular warehouse.
Now, RFID trackers included in shipments can allow warehouses to scan in cargo easily as it arrives, and again as it leaves. This eliminates the possibility of human error, greatly speeds up the process, and makes it easier to keep track of where shipments are in a warehouse — instead of relying on employees to keep track of storage locations, warehouse managers can simply use RFID tracking equipment to find it.
3) Monitoring Shipping and Storage Conditions
If a shipment of frozen goods thaws out at some point during the journey, or a pallet of delicate electronics gets dropped, supply chain professionals need to know who to blame. A vibration monitor can identify areas of the supply chain where rough roads or poor packaging subject shipments to vibrational stress, for example, so that these processes might be improved and shipping damage reduced.
It’s often vital to keep shipments under certain conditions at every step in the supply chain, such as when moving frozen or fresh food shipments. IoT devices can be used to monitor the temperature of a shipment, so that as it moves through the supply chain, proper shipping can be verified. They can track parameters like temperature, humidity, exposure to light or atmosphere, and more. Most specialized IoT tracking devices will even send a real-time alert if conditions become less than ideal. Such devices can substantially reduce food spoilage and protect the quality of perishable goods as they move through the supply chain.
4) Optimizing Fleets
Just as IoT can make it easier to keep track of goods in shipment and storage, it can also help distributors manage their fleets. Governments, rental car companies, and other organizations also use large fleets of vehicles that can be optimized with IoT tech. IoT fleet management devices can track fuel efficiency, mileage, and even the location of the vehicle. They can monitor driver behavior, current weather conditions, and idle time, so you can make sure drivers are handling their schedules well, driving safely, and minimizing unnecessary fuel burn.
5) Improving Supplier Relationships
A big part of supplier relationship management on a supply chain is working together to make sure that goods move through the supply chain on schedule and under the right conditions. The more information you have about what your shipments are doing, the more successfully you can collaborate with suppliers. All stakeholders will benefit from knowing where shipments are at all times, increased quality management, early problem identification, and more access to accurate supply and demand information.
Shipping and logistics stand to benefit greatly from IoT technology, and it’s already reaping benefits in the form of reduced costs, increased efficiency, and more optimized operations. As technology evolves, the supply chain will only become more streamlined and effective.