How the Internet of Things improves the supply chain
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
You've likely heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) with regard to everyday technologies that can make your life more convenient. For instance, some of the most popularly discussed uses are fitness bands and smart thermostats, both of which can impact your life in a fairly intimate manner.
But in a broader sense, the IoT is truly about full, wireless connectivity between devices for the sake of improved efficiency and safety in all walks of life. While things like smart workout equipment and home environment systems are exciting, most of the more significant applications at this stage relate to business.
One such application that not a whole lot of people talk about is the IoT's use in company supply and shipping divisions. This may not sound like the "sexiest" aspect, but getting a feel for how technology is changing supply chains can help you to appreciate the massive potential of the IoT in general.
Changing production facilities
Even two years ago, this analysis of the IoT in manufacturing touched on a few possibilities that some major companies are beginning to implement today. One was the idea that the IoT could help to optimize equipment in production facilities.
For instance, automated remote monitoring of equipment diagnostics can help to measure wear and tear and use the data to schedule maintenance and get the most out of materials. Additionally, the article discussed the idea of "hands-off traceability," or the chance for companies to keep tabs on products from inception. Wireless, IoT-enabled sensors placed on products can make this a reality, and this is already happening within some major companies.
Improving the shipping process
Even the largest and most advanced companies still rely on land-based shipping operations to truck their products off to distribution facilities and retail locations. It may actually be through company shipping divisions that the IoT has shown the most potential for positive disruption.
This article about the IoT in fleet tracking gets to the bottom of the changes that are being seen, explaining that GPS technology and vehicle Wi-Fi are combining to give fleet managers more ways than ever to optimize the shipping process.
Drivers are given the most efficient routes based on up-to-date information about their schedules; driving habits are monitored for safety; roadside assistance can be dispatched automatically; and fleet managers can seamlessly track their trucks and products.
Smart management of inventory
Just as the IoT can make product production more efficient, it can also help companies to measure the need for that production.
This site about the IoT in retail describes the idea of "smart shelves" in store locations. That may at first sound like something of a gimmick, but it can actually make company operations far more efficient and less wasteful. Basically, stores can automatically keep tabs on inventory and alerts can be sent to production facilities or shipping divisions when more product is needed.
All of these practices and ideas have been made possible by the simple but groundbreaking idea of connecting devices and sensors to automate tasks. Though they may not be as exciting as the fitness band that syncs with your smartphone to provide a digital picture of your health, they signify the scope and impact of the IoT on society.
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