What is the Internet’s influence on the evolution of smart logistics?

Logistics and trucking is certainly one industry which is going to significantly benefit from the solutions brought forth by the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Millions of goods are stored, tracked and transported every day. Many people using the right tools, machines and vehicles make accomplishing this task possible. In logistics and transport, IoT solutions enable linking various assets in the supply chain in a sensible manner and then generating analyses of the data that have been obtained from such links. This in turn makes for better performing warehouse logistics, shipment planning or fleet management in all advanced logistics companies.

What is the Internet of Things?

IoT creates a network of devices, vehicles and other objects capable of storing, processing and actively sharing data. In trucking and logistics, this technology is already being used today in smart trucking systems and in delivery tracking. Wireless tracking devices that use a hybrid IoT technology (combining GPS, GSM, BLE or Wi-Fi) attached to parcels, pallets or containers track the real-time location of shipments and monitor their storage and trucking conditions. Smart trucking enables on-going tracking of vehicle status, helps predict breakdowns and automatically plan servicing ahead of time.

IoT and warehouse logistics

A high-performance supply chain relies on effectively performing warehouses. Each upgrade to warehouse operations may significantly impact on business operating costs. Today, IoT is supporting warehouse logistics processes in many ways, among them:

  • Product security – alarm systems and CCTV are used to prevent theft and protect inventories and equipment from damage. Data collected by systems help identify areas of concern to reinforce security.
  • Worker safety – sensors placed on warehouse handling aids enable tracking their technical condition and preventing accidents at work.
  • Optimization – IoT helps give a full picture of overall warehouse operations, beginning with the ambient temperature inside the warehouse, through inventory levels and performance of equipment. This data can then be used by companies to analyze all the existing processes as one cohesive whole and to implement the necessary improvements. RTLS (Real Time Location) systems that use UltraWide Band radio technology enable positioning, identifying and tracking objects with an up to 30 cm accuracy.

IoT and delivery planning

Reliable deliveries are a „must have” in today’s world of logistics companies. IoT provides a number of improvements that can help with fleet management:

  • Shipment tracking – until recently a number of people had to be involved in this process, scanning bar codes on products at least at one of the delivery stages. Currently, RFID tags that connect to a cloud are used increasingly more. As a result, staff work is only limited to loading the delivery.
  • Delivery – the risk of delayed deliveries due to bad weather or unsafe road conditions may be minimized by using GPS and RFID technologies. Drivers receive on-going notifications of possible traffic problems ahead which enables them to take preventative action to avoid delays in deliveries. Moreover, a network of sensors placed on trucks monitors the technical parameters such as tire pressure (TPMS) or payload stability. Soon truck platooning systems and semi-autonomous truck systems may provide truckers and forwarders with even more data to facilitate decision-making and increase supply chain management performance.
  • Analytics – big data supports companies in analyzing and developing their human potential. Employers find it easier to gauge which drivers are most efficient and to identify competence gaps. This in turn makes training the present and future workforce to boost their performance easier.

The pros and cons of the Internet of Things in trucking and logistics

On-going information sharing may significantly improve supply chain management and minimize human intervention in the event of sudden, unforeseen situations. IoT technology allows for a more precise tracking of delivery locations, for monitoring the conditions where shipments are at any given time and for more effective fleet management. This being said, companies who are implementing IoT technologies also face numerous challenges, connected among other things, to reverse logistics of mobile tracking devices right after shipments have been delivered. Companies who opt to use such devices must ensure they have a system for returning these devices. The best approach would involve working with an IoT technology supplier who operates its own reverse logistics system which means companies won’t have to buy-to-own tracking devices.

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