IIoT: Tomorrow Thinking for Supply Chain

The Internet of Things (IoT) is designed to make our data more useable. What opportunities and concerns does it present within logistics, where it is referred to as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ?

The trends of Supply Chain technology are shaping the future of logistics management.

The common thread is the push toward hyper-interoperability, where technology, people and process collaborate to create true visibility, accurate orders, and happy customers.

It is impossible to ignore the pressure on retailers and distribution centre (DC) to re-engineer operations to meet the Omni-channel fulfilment mandate. The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), designed to make data more usable, is quickly becoming a reality across global supply chains.

The Industrial lnternet of Things

Definitions of IoT spin around connecting sensors, programmable logic controllers, and RFID data with the internet so that other systems or analytical software can respond to or make sense of the data. An RF gun, voice recognition, and RFID in the warehouse all provide IoT–style sensor data; it is called the “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) to differentiate from consumer applications.

The order management system needs to orchestrate the fulfilment by interacting with inventory allocation, warehouse, management, transportation, and workforce scheduling systems using user-configurable business rule. The overall goal for Omni-channel is to satisfy more consumer demand with acceptable profit margins.

Logistics management in the warehouse

Many opportunities for improvement through smart forklifts, diagnostics of the equipment, speed controls, anti-slip technology, collision detection, fork speed optimisation, promoting new process flows, autonomously trip to a shipping dock for unloading, etc., are some of the applications and possibility a multi-channel system provides for the improvement of the overall process.

Transportation management

Tracking trucks based on RFID, GPS, RF scans, temperature, sensors embedded in the freight -all of these fit the definition of IIoT, the benefits being: improving network-based routing, the use of a smart phone for routing to determine congestion and better alternative routes.


Security is the number one concern around IIoT, working hand in hand with public cloud solutions. It helps to detect Cyber attackers’ techniques quickly and avoid being tricked by them.

Inventory Management

This is a  hidden key to success. A major application of Omni-channel is a customer ordering a product and the retailer fulfilling the order from within their store network versus a distribution center. This introduces the requirement of advanced information systems to provide awareness of inventory throughout the store network. The omnichannel system would identify the stores with the right inventory and determine the most cost-effective location to fulfill from to provide the promised service level. Retailers challenge is the implementation of new order of management systems, to build a single view of inventory availability – foundation of Omni-channel fulfillment – and to recognize the new consumer’s expectation, the goal being to optimize inventory deployment so that the required inventory is where it should be to satisfy consumer demand at a lower cost.


The first step is for the retailer to understand the Omni-channel strategies and how the customer’ buying patterns have changed (ordering an item online, by a mobile, from a store and picking it later, the item being shipped to the customer’s home, the customer calling to a call centre, etc. A fully-functional technology Omni-channel fulfilment operation has to be integrated according to the various selling systems.

Shipment and Delivery

Omni-channel technology, as the one IIoT provides,  plays a vital role in this environment by enabling store employees to efficiently navigate the store floor to find the ordered inventory. Once the item is retrieved, store employees utilize packaging stations to prepare order for shipment and utilize small parcel carriers to pick-up and deliver the orders. Using the same trailers scheduled for normal store delivery, however, separating these pre-ordered items on the trailer is the critical piece in this strategy. Loading these items at the front of the trailer, labeling them with special tags utilizing barcode-scanning technology, and using colored totes are a few ways to flag the inventory.

Returns processing

Returns processing is still an improvement opportunity for many Omni-channel retailers. The goal is to allow a consumer to return purchases to either stores or a central returns facility regardless of where the sale originates.

The top three priorities identified are inventory planning, fulfillment capabilities and returns processing. Retailers have to keep working on the enterprise-wide visibility of available inventory. Inventory must be deployed differently in an Omni-channel world; many retailers are beginning to address that challenge, developing flexible fulfillment capabilities that leverage stores, DCs, and vendors to fulfill consumer demand. However, store fulfillment processes are not as efficient as they are in a DC where conditions are more controlled. Omni- channel is having a profound impact on supply chain organizations-especially logistics across all levels of maturity, being better equipped to embrace Omni-channel from a people, process and technology perspective.

So what new approaches are you applying to your Supply Chain? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was first published on LinkedIn