We’ve heard about the IoT disrupting our personal and home lives. But where will these technologies really stand up in the supply chain?
We’ve come to know the Internet of Things as a technological phenomenon that is revolutionising many ways of life. The idea is that devices and computer systems can communicate and work with each other, and make things easier. And we’re starting to see applications in all manner of places.
The IoT is making exercising more intuitive, making homes more secure, and making offices and hospitals more efficient. But these benefits are only scratching the surface. There are also many IoT benefits that are less visible to the general public. One that is becoming fairly interesting is the effect on business supply chains.
This may not be the sexiest application of the IoT, but it’s one with significant potential to change the nature of big retail companies and even lower costs for consumers. Here’s how it’s happening.
IoT In Production Plants
IoT sensors are allowing manufacturers to collect key data from various physical spaces within production plants and manufacturing facilities.
Sensors can be used to monitor machine temperatures and send automatic alerts to problems by way of changing lighting. They are also able to monitor the use of safety equipment (and the condition of that equipment) automatically.
Additionally, factory conditions such as temperature and humidity can be tracked and controlled. Individual pieces of inventory can be tagged the moment they’re created, so as to be kept track of in the future. Other functions more typical of ordinary office environments can also come into play, like security and communication measures.
It’s easy to see how basic IoT sensors can help to automate some of the trickier aspects of production that kick off the supply chain process.
IoT On The Road
Perhaps the most fascinating impact of the IoT on supply chains is occurring on the road, in shipping vehicles. Tracking sensors on individual pieces and crates of inventory help companies to “watch” those materials until they arrive at retail locations or other points of sale.
However, there are also IoT measures being put in place to keep fleet vehicles operating safely and on schedule.
By outfitting fleet vehicles with high-end GPS and WiFi, companies can provide managers with real-time sharing of vehicle diagnostics and more important data. These devices can keep track of vehicle performance, driver activity, and routing information, effectively automating the management and scheduling process that was once a headache for everyone involved.
Vehicles can be repaired precisely when needed, and be directed on the most efficient routes. Plus drivers can be kept on reasonable schedules, and held accountable for their own tendencies on the road.
IoT In Stores
Finally, once the product has been shipped to retail locations, there are also IoT-related technologies in place to monitor that selection for the sake of restocking inventory when necessary.
The IoT has the potential to drastically alter numerous aspects of the retail experience. However, when it comes to the supply chain, “smart shelves” are making the biggest difference.
These are shelves that can recognise when inventory is getting low and send automatic alerts to store managers, or even directly to production facilities, communicating orders and keeping the store in supply.
That about covers an overview of how the IoT is changing the supply chain in retail businesses. On the business end of things there’s no telling how much these changes can cut costs and improve the speed and accuracy of production.
And for consumers, those same benefits should ultimately translate to fair prices and consistently stocked store shelves. All in all, it could be one of the more impactful mainstream IoT developments.
Blaine Kelton is a programmer and freelance writer currently living in Beverly Hills. From technological advancements to new albums by favourite artists, he’s eager to just write and get his work out there.