May 19, 2015

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Internet of Things – Intelligent Logistics

The term IoT or Internet of Things refers to a network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity that enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.  

The benefits to the industry are numerous.  DHL and Cisco published a white paper indicating that IoT will deliver $1.9 trillion to the enhancement of SCM and logistics. It is also estimated that in 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet when compared to 15 billion as of today. According to a recent Internet Project survey and study done by Pew Research Center, a large majority (83 percent) of technology experts and engaged Internet users agreed with the notion that the Internet/Cloud of Things, embedded and wearable computing (and the corresponding dynamic systems) will have widespread and beneficial effects by 2025.

IoT solutions have a crucial role to play in transforming the logistics industry. Some of the benefits of introducing IoT in the 3PL industry include:

  • Collaborating information
  • Ambient intelligence
  • Resource optimization
  • Process Automation

There are different types of IoT devices available in market. Some of the more commonly used devises for transportation and contract logistics include:

  1. RFID
  2. Telematics devices
  3. Wearables like  glass and wristband
  4. Sensors

The potential uses of IoT-enabled solutions across various facets of the transportation industry are listed below.

In this industry, shipment “in transit visibility” is an important area of critical interest to all customers.  But with the current technologies, LSPs are facing a challenge in providing visibility into the exact location of in transit shipments to their customers.  

In warehousing, 3PLs face challenges in the day-to-day operations of their warehouses such as:

  • Stock turn around ratio
  • Resource productivity
  • Manual intervention in SCM
  • Stock integrity in a warehouse
  • Technology transfer/upgrade

IoT-based solutions can help resolve these issues. For example: RFID and Sensors can minimize issues in relation to the visibility of in transit shipments in warehouses, which means that a company can provide end-to- end visibility of the shipments across its supply chain.

In Smart Warehouses, wooden pallets with RFID sensors can be used for visibility and tracking while at the same time being used to help calculate warehouse slotting and optimization.

Vertical solutions around perishables and pharmaceuticals are one of the fastest growing segments of business. For tracking perishable and time-bound shipments, airlines have introduced smart air freight pallets and ULDs so that real-time updates can be shared by carriers with the LSPs. 

In ocean freight, wireless temperature sensors and data loggers are introduced in containers to monitor the temperature. If there is any change/variance in the temperature then an alert is sent to the captain of the ship. This enables a quick check and resolution of the issue impacting the cargo.

HCL has developed unique solutions for Logistics companies, especially in the areas of fleet management, critical order processing, warehouse utilization, and warehouse slotting.  Do contact HCL if you need such solutions.

Once IoT is implemented by 3PLs, tracking and tracing will become a lot faster, and in warehouses with connected pallets, stock taking accuracy will get much higher. Vehicle optimization and maintenance scheduling can also be carried out quickly and efficiently in the transportation sector.