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Tracking deliveries at every stage of order execution has always been a crucial factor for the transport and logistics industry (T&L). Although the companies of this branch were the pioneers in implementation of mobile solution and monitoring technologies, they still have a lot to do in order to achieve full transparency of the supply chain. For example, a shipment scanned during loading procedure “vanishes” after leaving the warehouse until it is scanned again on the next check point of its journey. As Daniel Dombach, the director of industrial solutions in Zebra company, points out, the Internet of Things (IoT) enables the companies to track all shipments. The expert also notes that 98 percent of transport and courier services industry experts perceive the Internet of Things as the most strategic technological initiative that they are going to tackle during this decade. Mr Dombach enumerates also five steps that enable to use IoT to change the way of running one’s business and to profit from the process named by many observers as “the third industrial revolution”.
Among a wide spectrum of technologies that the Internet of Things provides to modern society, three of them stand out from others:
Wireless connectivity: Mobile networks, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth smoothly interconnect in order to provide connectivity between enterprise systems and smart type devices used for fieldwork: RFID readers, scanners and mobile computers. Even now, in some cases – where steady mobile network coverage is provided – it is possible to track shipments at every stage of order. Many logistics operators who deal with air forwarding, are planning to install Wi-Fi networks so that the shipments, delivered by air, could also be tracked all the time.
Sensors: Affordable, intelligent sensors available on the market, enable to transfer the data regarding the status and location of goods by means of scanning or automatic data storage. The sensors also include devices that can communicate with each other and what is the most important, microchips, barcodes and RFID labels attached to or embedded into shipments.
Cloud: The cloud computing technology provides possibility of cost-effective processing, storage and analysis of streams of variables and versatile Big Data sets, generated on site by sensors, mobile computers and RFID readers.
The interest in IoT is enormous. The IDC forecasts that the value of technologies behind IoT will grow from USD 1.3 billion in 2013 to USD 3.04 billion in 2020.1 Moreover, 80% of the companies, operating in the transport and logistics industry, which took part in the survey conducted by the Editorial team of the Green Economy, are ready to introduce changes aiming at implementation of IoT.2 Is such huge interest in Internet of Things reasoned?
Interesting future IoT provides new possibilities for efficiency e.g. the goods vehicles in road transport can be automatically controlled in order to form groups that will enable them to travel in predefined intervals and with a standard speed for optimizing fuel consumption*. In a bit more distant future it will be possible to use unmanned vehicles for transport services.
Better results thanks to IoT
According to specialists, the best profits from implementation of solutions of the Internet of Things concerning shipment and transport are the following:
We reckon that the Internet of Things has potential for transporting various processes within companies from transport and logistics industry. For example: if we are able to track shipments as soon as they leave the warehouse until they are delivered to the customer’s door, and the customers have access to detailed information on the expected time of delivery, then the ratio of shipments delivered on the first attempt will surely increase. The possibility of real-time monitoring of shipments status (e.g. frozen food), will enable improving management of goods – thanks to sensors installed in the vehicles it will be possible to monitor temperature fluctuations and control the work of cooling aggregates. Moreover, in the case of failure, both the driver and the head office will be informed about it, thus necessary actions will be taken e.g. cancelation of the transport or sending a substitute vehicle. Additionally, the data collected from the entire supply chain will ensure that the standards concerning conformity and legal regulations are followed – from working time of drivers, through the way of goods management to speed of vehicles and many others. What is more, the companies will have more clarity about the goods, carried by their vehicles. Respectively, it may result in a better planning and more efficient use of loading space. The degree of detail of the data collected by sensors responsible e.g. for measurement of travel time and covered distance, will significantly facilitate planning of the best times and routes of deliveries by fleet managers, will save time and definitely, the money.
However, the gradual improvement of results concerning time and efficiency of the entire supply chain is the greatest merit. It may be expected that the implemented solutions will improve work efficiency of the warehouse staff (they will easier find and complete shipments), and ensure better customer service. Moreover, the number of queries to dispatchers regarding current status of deliveries will decrease, and as a result, the number of conversations between dispatchers and drivers also shall be reduced. The described phenomenon indicates changes which are taking place in the area of efficiency within transport and logistics companies.
Similarly, as in the case of new technology, its implementation involves certain risks. In a recent survey conducted by Forrester among companies from transport and logistics industries3, a question was raised about the most serious obstacles that could hinder implementation of this solution. The respondents were concerned about the privacy and safety, total costs, complexity and relative immaturity of this technology. On the basis of the feedback, Daniel Dombach, the director of industrial solutions in Zebra Technologies, claims that the companies which intend to implement IoT in their business activity should consider five issues.
Some observers speak about “revolution” in possibilities of transport and logistics companies, suggesting the necessity to apply radical changes in work processes, though it does not necessary have to look like this – in many cases it is possible to use already existing technologies within IoT: from wireless networks, through mobile computers, to office software. With gradual dissemination of wireless broadband networks, the process of implementation of the Internet of Things may be quicker and cheaper than initially expected. We are convinced that seeing the full picture is up to us.
Though it is the exception rather than the rule, in transport and logistics industry there are still companies that use paper methods of shipments management. The activities performed “on paper” must be definitely modernised by digitising them. It can be achieved by installing the sensors, introducing mobile computers, scanners and RFID readers for automatic data storage and automation of processes – from acceptance of delivery, through its arranging, completion, packing, transit to delivery note. Implementation of these technologies shall constitute the foundation for a strategy based on IoT.
New technologies can improve work of warehouses by making it efficient. For instance, the technology of light signaling based on Bluetooth may help workers to quickly and accurately locate products destined for completion. On the other hand, the data stream that comes from sensors, RFID labels and barcodes allows to monitor the level of SKUs (stock keeping units) as well as conduct the automation of orders in case if stock levels drop below a certain level.
Amount of data, processed through Wi-Fi in warehouses, is expected to substantially increase. Therefore, we highly recommend to carry out a network analysis and increase its bandwidth, if required. Furthermore, various types of data would be stored. It is worth noting that e.g. operational data regarding the status of key equipment in the warehouse can be commercially sensitive. Giving this, an efficient network security system should be provided. The data gathered on site also require protection and this is possible due to the creation of virtual private networks, designed to send data from sensors and mobile computers through a safe connection.
Equipping vehicles in sensors would provide its users priceless data on driver’s activity and operation of the vehicle. In addition to that, thanks to sensors it will be possible to receive real-time updates on operation of vehicles, improving the level of safety (e.g. of perishable goods). Taking into account the fact that coverage of mobile networks covers the majority of routes in Europe, both the vehicles and the goods may stay in constant contact with office systems.
IoT guarantees receiving the detailed, company-wide data in real-time. Saving, processing as well as using the data may require the implementation of a new, modernised analytical systems. The systems based on cloud-com putting technology reduce cost and enable processing enormous amount of data. Such approach is indispensable for creating stream of information on the basis of which it is easier to make decisions aiming at improving performance.
Source: Green Economy