Betting on IoT

Karen Ravindranath, Program Head, WebNMS

1. What are the advantages of IoT-enhanced intelligent supply chains?

An industry where time, accuracy and promptness are vital, it is imperative to have a robust technology that supports the business end-to-end and improves efficiencies and the bottom line. IoT, AI and ML are transforming the way supply chain and logistics industries are operated today. Digitising the supply chain network makes it intelligent, connected and efficient. 

The most obvious advantage of IoT - enabled supply chain is the increased transparency, real-time visibility and actionable data insights. IoT - powered monitoring and control plays a vital role in industries where maintaining the quality of goods moved across the chain is crucial.  Innovative supply chain technology uses round the clock monitoring of assets, keeps track of the freight through geo-tracking and fencing and uses analytics to  improve traceability and overall operations efficiency.

Another major advantage of integrating IoT to SCM network is the ease at which entire operations can be centralised. As an owner or facilitator, it becomes simpler to manage multiple aspects of the supply chain and logistics from a single console. From order placement to fulfilment and billing, the whole gamut of workflows of an enterprise can be seamlessly connected.

IoT in SCM doesn't stop with tracking goods and managing operations from end- to-end. These applications harness volumes of data from the operations and an IoT investment really scales only when the actionable insights generated are put to use. Based on the trend reports and route performances, processes can be brought up to speed and deliveries can be made faster than usual much to the customer's delight.

There is a lot of scope of IoT and related technologies, AI and ML in supply chain and logistics business. It's now the question of whether the businesses are ready to embrace the technology and stay ahead of competition and stay relevant. 


 2. What are the several uses of IoT applications in logistics?

Telematics is nothing new to the fleet and logistics industry. However, IoT has transformed the way telematics is implemented. Simple tracking of vehicles is not sufficient today. What the industry needs is the ability to monitor and manage the entire fleet of vehicles and see how the data can be used to improvise and optimize operations.

Adding fleet data to the digital mesh not only tracks vehicle real-time but also monitors fuel levels, health of the asset and keeps up with compliance metrics. The comparison reports based on the performance of vehicles from different brands will help the fleet company owners to make future investment decisions.  Security is of paramount importance for cargo on the move. The fleet monitoring and management solution helps keep tab of the condition of assets by getting data from intrusion, movement, vibration, temperature sensors, etc and takes the service assurance and customer satisfaction to next level. There are several use cases of IoT in fleet and logistics. WebNMS offers a plethora of solutions covering all aspects of fleet and logistics. The solution can help automate workload allocation based on data, employ predictive maintenance of assets, track driver behavior real - time and send out timely alerts in case of deviances. 


3. What are the things to consider while selecting an IoT application for logistics & supply chain management?

Be it a new IoT fleet management deployment or retrofitting with existing tracking system, the IoT software application should be able to integrate with any device and protocol. Most of the tracking devices and sensors are from different manufacturers and so they need a software platform to uniformly collect data and communicate irrespective of devices and protocols. The chosen application should best fit the business requirement and the implementation team should see to that the software covers end to end, viz a viz seamless data collection from the tracking devices to presenting the data through an insightful user interface. 

The application should be able to scale beyond the primary objective and address strategic business challenges. This means the application which caters to tracking and management of fleet and logistics should also be able to integrate with other business applications like ERP, CRM, SLA management etc to add value to the bigger picture - Unified Enterprise Operations and Management.


4. How do you implement IoT effectively in supply chain? What are some of the best practices and methods adopted?

Supply chain is a collection of fragmented operations. It's within the scope of IoT application to connect data from these fragmented systems like manufacturer data, freight data, warehouse storage details, vendor data and customer details for smart, intuitive and proactive supply chain management. This calls for the right vendor selection, who will be able to achieve all of this seamlessly. 

 Few factors are important while implementing IoT in logistics and Suppy chain:

  • The solution should be able to address your enterprise business needs and connect the disparate enterprise fragments. 
  • The IoT platform/solution should be capable of collecting data from any tracking device/sensor and establish communication with the server without any glitch.  This calls for a software that is device agnostic. 
  • Having integrated 'Edge Computing' capability within the IoT platform is an added advantage. When vehicles are travelling in areas where there is poor or no network coverage, edge computing offers localized data processing and decision-making. 
  • The implementer should choose a platform that is capable of scaling beyond the primary deployment and be able to add any number of new assets.
  • The deployment should support a strategy that solves the ultimate business challenge. This would make more sense, considering the money that goes into investing in such enterprise level applications. 
  • IoT is an ecosystem of hardware, software and solution implementation, so a vendor who has a strong partner ecosystem to enable end-to-end implementation of solution will be the right fit for your business.