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The Internet of Things and Your Connected Supply Chain

 

Raise your hand if you are wearing a fitness bracelet right now to monitor your daily activity. These devices and others like them are examples of the explosion in the Internet of Things (IOT’s) - smart, wireless connected products and devices. The number of devices that are capable of connecting to the internet is expected to increase dramatically from the 10 billion today to an estimated 50 billion by 2020

Look around and you will find the list of internet connected products has grown from every day things like your refrigerator, alarm system and home thermostat and now includes such things as smart caps for prescription medication that send dosing reminders to the user and even systems that tell us when it is time to water the house plants.

Those are all nifty examples of how connected devices are changing our personal spaces. When it comes to the impact of connected technology on the manufacture and transportation of goods the potential is staggering. Internet_of_Things.jpg

We’ve talked about improvements and innovations in shipping container technology. New ideas, like building containers out of lighter, carbon-fiber composite material which feature the added benefit of being easier to scan without opening the box and smart shipping containers equipped with GPS transmitters and other devices capable of reporting shock or temperature extremes. These connected containers are also more secure because they inform of unauthorized entry, an important safeguard against theft or possible contamination of the goods inside. While not widespread yet, their use is becoming more common every day as carriers and their customers discover the value in added cargo protection that smart containers offer.

Advantage of being connected

The internet of things may have already changed your organization through improvements in operational efficiency. There are other opportunities for the IOT’s to positively impact your transportation supply chain as well. The advantages of bringing the physical process of moving your goods and the digital element more closely together are real. The more connected your organization the more data available for analysis and that information represents a wealth of potential. For example, consider the value of real-time or nearly real-time data that makes it possible for you to respond to changes in supplier availability which further reduce your risk of inventory shortfall or even excess product. The same applies to improving your ability to optimize shipments and gain more visibility throughout the supply chain.

Future connections

The future impact of the IOT’s on transportation can be seen in Swedish truck manufacturer Scania. The company recently celebrated the milestone of delivering 100,000 new trucks featuring “active connectivity”. These connected trucks are capable of communicating such things as engine diagnostics and even driver coaching directly with Scania. Here in the US, companies like Omnitracks and Orbcomm offer similar services as after-market vendors to the trucking industry. Truck and container tracking are two of their services along with providing information regarding the condition of goods while they are in transit.

The exciting potential of this technology can be expanded for future application to include pairing container tracking with chassis tracking. The next stage of the transportation IOT’s could include equipment such as forklifts and chassis capable of exchanging information about the cargo they carry.

The Bottom Line

When judging the merits of introducing new technology to your business operation the inevitable question is how will this benefit my bottom line? The answer can be seen in how the data provided by connected devices and equipment saves on cost. Additionally, there is value is improving the customer experience through the use of connected devices. For example Domino’s pizza uses mobile apps to allow their customers to order from any connected device. They have improved their customers’ experience by utilizing the IOT’s.

Perhaps the biggest benefit for shippers who leverage the IOT’s is a more connected supply chain - one that provides valuable flexibility to proactively manage your transportation activity.

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