How IoT is optimizing logistics
These days, you can find IoT solutions across so many industries. From agriculture and energy industries all the way to healthcare, finance, and hospitality, you see IoT technology being put to use to solve complex problems and revolutionize the way companies in these sectors do business. In 2020, the global IoT market was valued at $310 billion and is only expected to get bigger. In fact, analysts anticipate the IoT market to grow to $1,842 billion by 2028. With data like this, it’s not surprising many different industries are eager to get in on the action. However, there are some places, like logistics, where IoT can come particularly in handy. Let’s dive in.
Jump to what you need:
- Why use IoT in logistics
- Elements of a connected logistics company
- 5 ways IoT is optimizing the logistics industry
Why use IoT in logistics
The logistics industry is complex and involves many moving parts — literally. Getting goods from point A to point B involves more than just putting the items on a truck. You have to consider storage, handling, inventory, packaging, and various other elements to make sure the flow of goods runs as smoothly as possible. As supply chains become more global and interconnected, the scope for logistics companies and providers is only getting bigger and more complicated. However, the good news is that IoT solutions can help simplify the situation.
IoT provides more security
IoT devices can track items and control who comes in and out of facilities to minimize theft and security incidents. For example, a company might deploy IoT-enabled CCTVs in a warehouse to make sure only authorized personnel come in and out of the facility. The company may also track vehicles using IoT devices to monitor the journey and ensure all goods arrive safely.
IoT in logistics creates safer driving
There are many ways IoT sensors can make trucks safer for the people in and around them. From sensors that monitor vehicle health and alert operators to issues that need maintenance to those that detect unsafe driving habits like speeding and sharp turns, IoT technology helps people and products get to their destination safely.
Recommended reading: How IoT connectivity helps solve fleet management challenges
IoT enhances product tracking technology
Companies can use IoT technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification) tags or cellular connected asset tracking devices to track products all the way from warehouse to delivery. These tracking technologies allow people to search, identify, track, and communicate with items. In some instances, customers may also be able to track their products, increasing transparency and aiding trust between suppliers and customers.
Recommended Reading: 10 best IoT asset tracking systems
IoT gives you better insights
One of the greatest benefits of IoT technology is the large amount of data IoT sensors collect and analyze. Over time, this data can be used to make smarter decisions about how operations are run. For example, through the use of IoT technology, a company can gather data about how quickly products leave warehouses, environmental conditions during deliveries, warehouse conditions like temperature, and even employee performance. Imagine a company with data showing that employees are most productive when the warehouse is 70 degrees Fahrenheit for argument's sake. Knowing this, it’d only make sense to keep the facility at this temperature as often as possible.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to the Internet of Things
Elements of a connected logistics company
When a logistic company implements IoT solutions into its organization to gain real-time data and information about its operations, it’s given a name: a connected logistics organization. Since 2015, the connected logistics market has steadily grown year-over-year and is expected to be worth $82.14 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 24.7%.
Still, it’s not just IoT devices that make a connected logistics system. Let’s explore the components that make up a connected logistics company.
One of the most important parts of a connected logistics company is a communication system that allows fleet operators and warehouse managers to talk to one another. While advancing technology can provide plenty of data and insights, human-to-human interaction is still important to provide context and nuance. For example, imagine a tracking device shows one of your trucks has been standing still for the past two hours; you'll need to talk to the driver to understand what’s going on, whether that’s something mundane like a traffic jam from roadwork or a more serious situation like a crash. These days, cell phones tend to be the main facilitators for these interactions; however, radios or other communication systems may also be used.
Vehicle or fleet tracking
You may have picked up from our last example that fleet or vehicle tracking is another important part of a connected logistics company. By using this technology, companies can see the real-time location of goods, estimate delivery times more accurately, and ensure their drivers and employees are safe.
Supply chain tracking technology
While getting goods from the warehouse to the end-user safely and efficiently is the main goal of a logistics company, it also needs to be aware of what’s going on in the broader supply chain, particularly if it purchases raw materials from other suppliers. For this reason, supply chain tracking technology is important so companies can plan appropriately around these schedules and deliveries.
Lastly, with such a technology-heavy system, connected logistics companies have to be aware of cybersecurity threats and mitigate them efficiently. IT security is important to ensure data and other IT assets do not become compromised by hackers or cybercriminals.
Recommended reading: 6 ways industrial IoT can benefit modern operations
5 ways IoT is optimizing the logistic industry
For simplicity’s sake, picture a logistics company responsible for ensuring that one hundred boxes of product ship out and get to their destination per week. Let’s look at how IoT could make the job as easy as possible, optimizing everything from safer and quicker location management to vehicle breakdown prevention.
1) Safer and quicker location and route management
In our example, let’s say the goods used to produce the product comes from five suppliers, and the warehouse sends out ten shipments of ten boxes per week. As you can imagine, this alone creates 15 different routes to monitor and track to ensure that all the product is getting to its end-user safely and efficiently. Real-time location systems (RTLS) can improve this process, allowing managers to track both incoming and exiting products in real-time. If there is a shipment delay — maybe supplies are late, or there is a traffic jam — the manager can make the appropriate decision to minimize disruptions as much as possible.
2) Precision inventory tracking and warehouse management
As products come into the warehouse and get sorted for shipment and delivery, it’s unrealistic to assume there will never be errors or mistakes. But that doesn’t mean errors aren’t costly. If something gets misplaced or lost the entire production line can be disrupted. To combat this, facilities can use IoT devices to track and monitor goods in the warehouse. While more popular in the retail industry, the manufacturer may even utilize smart shelves to use to better manage how much product is on the shelves at a specific time.
3) Predictive maintenance and vehicle breakdown prevention
Let’s say our logistics company has been putting things like real-time asset tracking solutions or RFID tags to use to better track their shipments and supplies, and everything has been running smoothly. Then, as an employee tries to pull out of the warehouse with a shipment, they realize the truck won’t start. Now, the shipment has to be unpacked and moved to another vehicle, and the broken truck is out of commission until they can diagnose and fix what’s broken.
To avoid problems like this, our fictional company could employ predictive maintenance. For this type of IoT solution, sensors are put into the trucks to monitor certain conditions (like sound, temperature, or vibrations), then a predictive algorithm analyzes this data to determine if and when a vehicle may break down. If our company had used predictive maintenance, they would’ve been alerted to vehicle failure beforehand and could have solved the problem quickly and with fewer disruptions.
Recommended reading: An essential guide on predictive maintenance
4) Advancements in autonomous vehicles
Autonomous vehicles don’t need a human to drive them, meaning the company can be more efficient with fewer employees. Some companies have already started looking into the way autonomous vehicles could impact the logistics industry and noted improved safety, increased efficiency, and cost reduction as likely benefits.
5) IoT drone-based deliveries
Like autonomous vehicles, drones can also be put to use to make deliveries possible without the need for a human, leading to increased efficiency and reduced costs. Drones could be particularly useful in last-mile deliveries, especially in areas that have heavy traffic congestion.
Walmart recently launched its first commercial drone-based delivery system in Farmington, Arkansas. As a result, customers can place orders for goods from the store and receive their shipment in as little as 30 minutes.
Stay connected with Hologram
Hologram’s global IoT sim cards make it easier than ever to connect your IoT devices and deploy smart solutions within any logistics company. Hologram’s SIM cards connect to over 470 networks in 200 countries and include automatic carrier switching so you never lose connectivity, no matter where your product or fleet is. Take advantage of Hologram’s Dashboard, making it easier than ever for your whole team to collaboratively track, manage, and monitor your fleet in real-time. Get connected today.