11 Ways IoT is Massively Transforming Global Supply Chains
Manufacturing | 6 min READ
    
IoT in Supply Chain Management
Traditionally, the term 'supply chain' is used to describe the network of entities that are involved in the conception and distribution of a product. With so many upheavals in the realms of transportation, storage, manufacturing, logistics, and operations, supply chains are no longer the simple system that it was originally conceived as. To quote Andre Kudelski:
"Any skilled engineer can take control remotely of any connected 'thing'. Society has not yet realized the incredible scenarios this capability creates."
Ganesan Karuppanaicker
Ganesan Karuppanaicker

VP & Global Delivery Head

Digital Transformation

Birlasoft

Ajay Tiwari
Ajay Tiwari

VP & Global Head

Manufacturing

Birlasoft

 
As IoT technology starts to commodify, supply chains are becoming increasingly digital; predictive maintenance, real-time shipment monitoring, and smart inventory management are some of the trends that have gone mainstream.
IoT In Supply Chain Use Cases
  1. Asset Tracking
  2. Fleet Management
  3. Manufacturing Maintenance
  4. Warehouse management
  5. Collaboration
  6. Energy efficient
  7. Inventory management
  8. Shipment monitoring
  9. Reduction in paperwork
  10. Pollution Monitoring
  11. Remote Monitoring
1. Asset Tracking
One of the most straightforward applications of the humble IoT sensor is the ability to transmit geolocation data with as much frequency as desired. This application lends itself directly to manufacturing concerns that have been actively looking for ways to manage the increasing complexity of their supply chains. IoT-enabled asset tracking possesses the immense potential to unlock newer and more innovative ways of improving manufacturing operations: from improving overall equipment effectiveness to optimizing logistics and warehouse operations, the possibilities are endless. In light of this, it is not surprising that Asset tracking is the fastest-growing segment within the Industrial IoT market, with over 267 Million trackers expected to be active by 2027.
Stay Ahead
Visit our Manufacturing page
2. Fleet Management
Yet another technology that has emerged from the principles governing IoT technology is fleet telematics. Through the installation of electronic logging devices (ELDs), it is now possible for firms to be able to get a complete picture of what their vehicles and drivers are doing and use that information to optimize their businesses. If implemented correctly, fleet telematics can have a positive and measurable impact on safety, reliability, fuel consumption, and adherence. With fleet telematics being a legal requirement in certain geographies, manufacturers have already started offering their customers the ability to track and monitor their fleets, with some also extending this service to predict and prevent equipment and fleet breakdown.
3. Manufacturing Maintenance
For the manufacturing industry in particular, one of the biggest promises that IoT held was in the field of maintenance. In the past few years, this has presented itself in two ways: predictive maintenance and augmented/virtual reality for manufacturing maintenance (and training). While both of these solutions are possible, customer attractiveness and vendor readiness have prevented both of these applications from realizing themselves fully. Apart from a few implementation barriers, both companies and vendors are close to leveraging these technologies as a means to expedite traditional maintenance processes.
Use Cases of IoT In Supply Chain
Use Cases of IoT In Supply Chain

Click to zoom in

4. Warehouse Management
Through the mechanism that enables asset tracking and fleet management, IoT also lends itself readily to smarter warehouse management, thereby making it the preferred technology for a full-stack transportation/distribution solution. The advent of eCommerce and the general acceleration in economic activity means that warehouses are increasingly being looked at as hubs that would also increase speed and efficiency. IoT forms a core part of warehouse automation technologies, particularly with devices like smart glasses for vision picking and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for several warehousing functions.
5. Collaboration
The allure offered by IoT devices is its ability to provide free-flowing real-time data, which can then be used to almost any end, as defined by its users. While IoT technologies might not have lived up to the hype that preceded their introduction, one cannot ignore the fact that those devices which did connect to the internet have delivered massive value to their users. This idea could easily be extended to provide collaborative capabilities, which in turn could make for a tightly-knit information delivery system that ensures its users have real-time, accurate visibility into their operations.
6. Energy Efficiency
It is lamentable that most of the data generated by IoT devices are rarely ever used, and even those that are used are never fully exploited. Furthermore, in manufacturing/factory floor settings, the data gathered from IoT is only used for real-time control and anomaly detection. The data that is untapped, if channeled properly, can be used to analyze workflows to the point where it is possible to optimize operating efficiency. In fact, it is well documented that for companies to drive application of IoT in logistics and supply chain, they will have to focus heavily on their business processes. Connected factories and plants can use IoT to improve quality, enhance efficiency and reduce waste.
7. Inventory Management
Inventory management remains a chronic source of stress for companies, especially as they expand their geographic footprint and actively look for ways to keep holding costs low. A bulk of these problems stemmed from the lack of a reliable tracing mechanism, causing a whole host of 'visibility gaps' that caused many inefficiencies. Luckily, IoT technologies solve the problem of traceability, which, when combined with a tamper-proof logging technology like blockchain, can plug these visibility gaps.
8. Shipment Monitoring
Accurate shipment monitoring has never been more relevant than today, in the backdrop of a pandemic that calls for speedy, safe, and cold vaccine deliveries. If it were not for the advanced IoT solutions that power shipment monitoring and tracking today, combating such a pandemic at this scale would have been unthinkable. The IATA estimates that nearly 25% of vaccines are rendered ineffective due to incorrect shipping. IoT allows companies to track as many metrics as they need to ensure timely, speedy, and effective delivery, the data of which can be further used to iron out kinks and inefficiencies.
11 Ways IoT in Massively Transforming Global Supply Chains
9. Reduction In Paperwork
With data collection being the fundamental advantage provided by IoT applications, it is not surprising that it serves as a vehicle to digitize operations across all the crucial areas. Manual forms of monitoring require people to log data using archaic methods, some of which even include paper-based forms. IoT enables firms to bypass these requirements altogether, thereby reducing the paperwork involved in such tasks.
10. Pollution Monitoring
The miniature size as well as the low price of an IoT sensor, means that it can be as mobile as the device that it is attached to. This can lead to a whole host of applications, with pollution monitoring being one of them. An indispensable tool for cities and public health departments, IoT sensors can be used to monitor both air and water quality across multiple areas in the city. This can help isolate problem areas and deploy intervention teams in time to neutralize the problem.
11. Remote Monitoring
If IoT technologies can make asset monitoring and predictive maintenance possible, it can most certainly extend that idea to the wholly attractive prospect of remote monitoring solutions. This is already being implemented by a few companies in the manufacturing space, and the results are staggering. Complex diagnosis that previously required in-person visits can now be made remotely, thereby saving costs for both the vendors and customers.
The Future of IoT in Supply Chains and Logistics
As companies begin to realize their own shortcomings in implementing IoT technologies, vendors will be poised to become increasingly bolder with their IoT-enabled offerings that will further increase supply chain velocity and efficiency. Firms would do well to outline an ideal vision for their supply chains, take stock of their current gaps, and design a realistic roadmap towards achieving the said vision.
Digital tools have been proven to impact profitability through a potent mix of cost reduction, sales acceleration, and increased efficiencies. It is up to companies to retrain their workforce and instill a digital-first approach throughout their management structure to truly realize the full benefits of IoT in supply chain management.
 
 
Was this article helpful?