Supply chains are increasingly complex in this globalized world. Connecting people, processes, data and products is incredibly difficult, which is why the Internet of Things (IoT) is tipped to cause a big bang in how supply chains operate.
For one the world’s most recognised brands, supply chain logistics are incredibly important. Every one of Amazon’s orders is unique, meaning it manages millions of different products of various shapes, weights and sizes.
Amazon employees used to roam warehouse floors to scan for each product, now they use Wi-Fi connected robots provided by Kiva Systems – which Amazon acquired in 2012 – to identify products by reading QR codes using built-in cameras.
The AI system assesses which products are to be prioritized for Amazon Prime orders, for example, and the robots do the rest. While this takes place, workers can focus on packaging an order or restocking shelves. It’s robots and humans working side by side through IoT.
Maersk is one of the biggest companies in the sipping world. With operations delivering fresh produce in 343 ports across 121 countries it also has a hugely complex and crucial supply chain.
To tackle this, the Danish company partnered with Ericsson in 2012 to install real-time monitoring across its entire fleet with Ericsson’s mobile and satellite communications technology. Since then, the partnership has developed to include safety, efficiency and cargo care.
Ericsson’s tech now allows Maersk’s 300,000 refrigerated containers to transmit vital stats, such as temperature, location and power supply, via satellite. The information is sent to the cloud and analyzed in a central office.
As well as offering real-time information as issues develop, however, the collaboration has also led to increased safety for port staff, as containers now require less manual inspection. The exclusive interview with IoB is here.
Swedish car manufacturer Volvo is not alone for pushing for IoT technologies in cars, but the Internet of Things is also impacting what goes on behind the scenes to get these cars on the road.
Volvo is using cloud-based services and IoT technologies to support the logistics side of its supply chain in ordering components from different countries to shipping vehicles to suppliers across the world. The company told V3 it was using cloud because these services give them greater flexibility over on-premise setups.
Furthermore, the firm last year established a relationship with Microsoft, which involved trialling its mixed reality headset HoLoLens. The firm believes the headset could transform car design and the relationship between deals and potential customers.
Nissan, which deploys robots and machine-learning techniques at its plants in Sunderland, UK, has also automated a large part of its supply chain.
“The supply chain is massively computerized,” Nissan’s VP of advanced product strategy, Ponz Pandikuthira told IoB. “So, the key part of it is Information Technology and the vast improvement in software. It has dramatically made the manufacturing process much more efficient.”
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)
Transportation and fleet management are an important part of the supply chain and logistics business, and IoT is already making waves in this space. If you could have visibility over your entire fleet, so that you know exactly where each truck might be and when, and which is the best route for it to take on any given day (and when it might need servicing…) you’d probably do it.
That’s exactly how IoT technology has helped DART. Based in Dallas, Texas, DART is one of the largest public transport providers in the United States; it transports over 100 million passengers a year. Using Cisco’s Internet of Things systems it is monitoring and optimizing the performance of its entire fleet.
New Jersey Transport Authority (NJTA)
While IoT is clearly an important cost cutting tool long term, in New Jersey, USA, it has also proved to be an effective safety measure. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is working with IBM to 3,000 deploy sensors along the New Jersey Turnpike – one of the busiest roadways in the U.S. The data this generates is used by the emergency services and traffic management operators so that they can get to an accident quicker, and reduce congestion build up.
Port of Hamburg
The Port of Hamburg, Germany, is one of the busiest ports in Europe and, consequently, is one of the main economic drivers for the region. The number of container ships that pass through the port is expected to rise from eight million in 2010 to 25 million by 2025, while the total cargo it handles will reach 296 million tons versus 121 million in 2010. This rise in capacity puts huge pressures on logistics at the port.
To respond, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) – which is working with SAP and its HANA solution – is embedding sensors and communicative capacities in the port’s ‘main tangible assets.’ This includes smart lighting based on motion detection to only light up necessary areas.
The main function of the sensors is to identify recurring underused capacity so it can be used properly. However, there are numerous other connected elements such as cameras, heat detection sensors and alarm systems prevent theft and provide insight for planning security updates.
Carriers and logistics providers are apparently already seeing the benefits in operational efficiency delivered by IoT. For the full case study see here.
Track and trace is the most common form of IoT in the supply chain and a number of firms are seeing real rewards from getting ahead with this technology. Decathlon – a sports retailer that owns 850 stores in 22 countries is a prime example of this.
It’s using IoT technology, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) from Checkpoint Systems, in more than 400 of its stores, and plans to extend its use of RFID tagging to millions of its products across the globe.
Supposedly, the tracking technology ensures Decathlon’s products are delivered to vendors with 100% accuracy every time, and items arrive shelf-ready which saves employees time by not manually checking each delivery.
Internet of Supply Chain is the only event bringing together Supply Chain executives representing the retailers, manufacturers and logistics operators to share best practices and inspire new revenue opportunities. The two-day forum will offer unheard before case studies on how the total lifecycle of a product can be monitored in real-time and be delivered on time and without any compromise in quality. Key themes will include using IoT to improve end-to-end visibility, modernising a legacy supply chain process and marrying manufacturing and supply chain.