The era of paper-based systems and physically monitoring the supply chain is ending. In place of long paper trails and maintenance schedules, machines with the capacity to communicate their needs and issues via the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming an essential component of effective processes.
You have probably heard about the IoT in the famous GE commercials, such as the “Talking Train and Car,” as depicted on Engineering.com, but you might not have thought about how your organization may already be involved with the IoT. In fact, your presence on this website alone indicates use of the industrial internet of things today, but the opportunities are limitless. Before embarking on a journey toward expanding your organization’s horizons, you need to understand exactly what today’s use of the IoT entails.
Where Do We Stand Today?
The definition of the IoT sums it up; it is “a network of dedicated physical objects that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or external environment.”
Conservative estimates of the future IoT’s value range from $1.4 trillion to $14 trillion by 2022. This astronomical predication seems to indicate extended spending to generate a large return. However, estimated IoT spending includes the following:
- 2015 – $5 billion.
- 2016 – $7 billion.
Spending has increased by $2 billion annually, and projections indicate spending rates will increase in 2018 to $3 billion annually, reports Business Insider. This level of spending demands a closer inspection of its three, critical components.
Supply Chain Management.
Supply chain management is a broad term used to describe the current use of the industrial internet of things in the supply chain. This may include software systems, advanced machinery and use of cloud-computing software. Simply using common calendar tools, such as Google, means you are using the IoT, but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) leads to the use of connected, smart devices to reduce inefficiencies, delays, and inaccuracies throughout the product lifecycle, including procurement as well.
Warehouse management of the IoT is built the same principles of overall IoT-based supply chain management. Per Tech Target,companies are using the IoT to monitor temperature and control factors across whole warehouse networks, spanning hundreds of subsequent distribution centers and directly in-link with the final stage of delivery, transportation.
Meanwhile, the same technology for monitoring can be deployed to indicate potential problems in the warehouse, such as injured workers or damaged or contaminated food contents. Furthermore, the IoT is directly linked to better risk management programs in manufacturing too, explains Industry Week.
Fleet or transportation management is another aspect of manufacturing reaping the rewards of the IoT. Transportation management systems are evolving to include information before products were even shipped, such as manufacturing or warehousing data. These systems, such as the Cerasis Rater, are becoming more common in the industry. Consequently, competitive advantage in the supply chain is practically non-existent without a learning-capable, adaptable and efficient transportation management system (TMS). Ultimately, the TMS must combine the benefits of all aspects of management into one system.
Where Is the Industrial Internet of Things Taking Us?
The answer is simple.
IT TAKING US BEYOND EXPECTED GROWTH AND CAPABILITY.
The IoT is becoming a focal point of every home, every business, and every movement in the modern world. Computer systems are monitoring and adjusting living environments based on data collected from user’s control panels or smartphones. Self-driving car and trucks have become a reality. In-transit visibility, or the ability to see exactly where a product is at during shipping, is being enhanced at phenomenal rates, reports Business 2 Community.
Tracking Devices May Need a “Boosted System.”
The problem of manual scans is nearly obsolete as radio-frequency identification (RFID) is enabling automatic detection, location and update generation to tracking and alert systems. Additional technologies embedded in delivery vans or trucks is reducing fuel waste and improving driver efficiency. Of course, these possibilities are not without potential problems.
For example, Link-Labs identified a few issues with the use of Bluetooth tracking of products. Unfortunately, Bluetooth tracking relies on proximity to sensors to generate a response. While some propose asking drivers to use apps on smartphones for monitoring of shipment contents from the truck, this may not always be possible. Moreover, a driver distracted by a phone could cause a serious accident, putting the company’s financial status and reputation on the line. Therefore, the IoT’s devices will need a bit of investment to be effective.
In this scenario, a Bluetooth-enabled communications hub within the truck could be used to send data back to the manufacturer or distribution center, eliminating concerns over driver’s use of systems. However, the system will also need the capacity to react to input from the driver, such as sudden changes in speed or delays. In other words, the hub needs to relay information between the truck and other parts of the supply chain seamlessly with the least human involvement possible. While this seems to negate the “human” aspect of transport, the lower risk of errors makes up for any possible concerns with its use.
Variability Will Make Use and Implementation of IoT Technologies Difficult.
The IoT is often equated with seamless integration and automated functions. However, the amount of energy required to create this “system” does tend to be left out of the discussion. Different sensor manufacturers may follow alternate calibration settings, or programming languages could result in inaccurate dissemination of information.
The only way to avoid this problem is by focusing all investments into the IoT toward highly-accurate, tested sensors, which must also resist tampering, human errors in calibration and electromagnetic fluctuations. This means the investment into IoT will not be the cheapest solution immediately, but it’s long-term benefits outweigh the foreseeable issues.
The Big Picture.
There are exciting things happening in the Industrial Internet of Things. Talking appliances, self-guided maintenance programs, augmented reality and automated decision-making processes are all parts of a larger, connected group of machines.The IoT is not a fable or hope; it is the reality. Manufacturers and entities in the supply chain must realize their only solution toward staying in business is to embrace the IoT immediately. Fortunately, there are options for companies that have avoided such discussions in the past, such as partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to take advantage of a more robust and focused transportation management system and network.