Much excitement exists around the Internet of Things (IoT) and the coming impact on supply chain. One recent estimate predicted that by 2020 the industry will spend 20 billion dollars on connected logistics solutions, according to Business Insider.
Preparing for this revolution and the profound impact it will have on business does not need to be as daunting as it seems. In the year ahead, there are a few simple considerations and innovations to be aware of to help make planning and implementation as impactful and cost effective as possible.
Preparing for IoT in supply chain implementations in 2017
New and exciting options are possible with improving technology and economics. Where previously only a small segment of assets were capable of generating data—think telemetry-enabled vehicles— now almost any asset can be turned into a data stream. With pervasive cloud-connectivity, one can also move past the limitations of “batch” or “offline” applications, and the store-extract-report-analyze mindset. Instead, we can soon expect to see data turned into analysis in near real-time.
As an example, imagine being able to get detailed temperature history for every pallet, from manufacturing, to distribution, all the way to the last mile. If a temperature outage did occur, an instant alert would register, identifying pallet, location, and transporter – enabling the team to act right away.
A history with disappointing limitations of radio-frequency identification (RFID) or expensive ultra wide-band (UWB) options, may cause some companies to have limited expectations as they consider next steps for IoT solutions– viewing asset management as suitable only for narrow use-cases. 2017 is the year to reconsider these old notions, the scale of change brought by the combination of new sensors, smartphone proliferation, ubiquitous bandwidth and cloud-analytics is comparable to flip-phones changing to smartphones. When setting up an IoT solution for the future, supply chain mangers should not be afraid to think of fresh and out-of-the box opportunities and demand visibility across the supply chain.
Predictions for IoT in supply chain for 2017
The widespread increased capability is guaranteed to create a torrent of data. Data, however, is not of much value to the end user unless it can be quickly processed and acted upon. In the year ahead, supply chain mangers will take advantage of the opportunity to customize – simply consume only what is needed. If the only relevant information required is the location of a fleet of forklifts at any time in the warehouse, there is no need to collect temperature and RPM and battery-charge levels.
Keep it simple and focused, or as Gartner puts it: “ … return on investment (RoI) will drive the Internet of Things, dominated by simple use cases.”
The availability of such granular data will create the foundation for machine-learning applications in the supply-chain. Such applications could combine your assets’ sensor data, with weather, traffic, and other external sources to generate optimal recommendations.
Another exciting opportunity in 2017 asset visibility, will be the ability to span company boundaries. A significant challenge for even the most sophisticated applications is when assets move downstream to the 3PL, distributor, stockist etc. With the on premise infrastructure become inexpensive, and cloud-based applications, asset visibility won't be confined to various islands.
Because of this expansion, it’s essential to include partners if you are investing in sensorizing your assets, make sure the data continues to stream even beyond your corporate boundaries.