By Casey McCann
The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data are the two pillars of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. These two technologies are also revolutionizing the logistics and supply chain landscape all over the globe. They have the potential to save millions of hours in wasted time apart from improving efficiency and productivity.
E-commerce giants such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Flipkart have already started tapping into these technologies. According to a recent Annual Third-Party Logistics Study, more than 80% participants agreed Big Data is the core competency of their supply chain organizations. However, small and medium businesses are yet to understand the full potential of IoT and Big Data.
Continue reading to know how these two technologies are changing the supply chain management systems.
Create the Most Efficient Warehouse Layout with Sensors and Robotics
The idea of an intelligent warehouse closely resembles the concept of a smart home. But instead of using smart-home appliances, you use a network of highly connected sensors and robotics to determine the warehouse layout. However, most 3PL companies haven’t adopted Automated Storage (AS) and Retrieval Systems (RS) based on sensors and robotics for managing their in-house inventories.
AS and RS can optimize use of floor space and reduced labor costs. These advanced robotics solutions are designed to work with humans, navigate around obstacles, and build a hands-free picking environment.
For example, many third-party warehousing and logistics solution providers are using Linde’s automated forklifts to move pallets and trailers in warehouses in the presence of human workers. The forklifts can digitally read and determine the areas from where to pick up and drop off the packages.
Unlike traditional warehouse automation, IoT-based solutions are flexible. So, you can scale up (or down) your fleet of robots and sensors as needed. These technologies are also becoming increasingly affordable. You can easily integrate robots and sensors into your existing Warehouse Management System or WMS.
Automate Inventory Using Wearables and Barcodes
Along with the use of advanced robotics and sensors, IoT-based wearables and barcodes also provide you with the ability to automate your daily functions such as scanning, tagging, and picking-up and dropping-off packages. Still, many companies continue to use clipboards, spreadsheets, and outdated manual electronic readers to track inventory in the warehouse.
Automation reduces the chances of errors, improves efficiency, and helps your employees to unlock their full potential. Digital wearables don’t require manual workstations in a warehouse. Wearables such as smart glasses are going to be one of the best advancements in the 3PL sector.
Toshiba has already developed Assisted Reality AR100 Viewer dynaEdge DE-100 smart glasses for warehouse staff workers. These glasses can help workers pick up orders, sort packages, handle different inventory management stages, and read goods receipts. You can also add barcode-scanning, weight-checking and localization modules to streamline workflows further.
Track All Activities through Automation
Cloud-based technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) are the backbones of IoT. They can be used to provide identity, location, and other tracking information of the packages in the warehouse as well as transition.
RFID technology, in particular, can help track parts and components throughout the warehouse. It allows you to plan your inventory well in advance. This way, you can avoid duplication errors and make full use of the floor space. So, you will be able to plan the storage space according to the demand and supply.
You can also rectify issues such as damaged packages ahead of time, avoiding delivery delays. But most importantly, you can use the data gathered from RFID and GPS to monitor elements such as temperature and moisture. This has proved to be a game-changer for supply chain management in the perishable goods industry.
Monitor Logistics with Commercial Telematics
For a third-party warehousing and logistics company, fleet management is one of the crucial factors. Both, Big Data and IoT are helping companies come up with better logistics tracking solutions through telematics.
Telematics is a software application (often cloud-based) that allows you to track vehicle location, real-time vehicle activity, vehicle maintenance, driving patterns, and other data related to logistics. However, with thousands of online orders being placed every hour, large volumes of data are produced in a day.
This is where Big Data analytics comes in. It provides structured data for predictive analytics. Using a telematics system that comprises predictive analytics, you can study different vehicle routes, the driving times during different seasons, fuel efficiency, and maintenance downtime in real time. The data collected can be used to improve the efficiency of your fleet.
Create Responsive and Self-Improving Inventory Management Systems
When you look at the broader picture, you can see that all IoT and Big Data-related technologies can be integrated to create a responsive inventory management system. Traditional warehouse management systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and legacy systems are no longer efficient as they can’t provide real-time updates.
Thanks to IoT, Big Data analytics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), third-party logistics providers have managed to improve their warehouse management efficiency. Now, they are looking to take warehouse management to the next level by creating an agile and responsive system.
Responsive inventory management means the warehouse will be able to provide storage space according to the fluctuations in the market. By studying the historical data, such a system can create additional storage space during holiday seasons and lower it in the off-season period.
Further, it can be used to optimize shipping routes, warehouse locations, personnel, and your software capabilities to get the most out of your existing infrastructure in real-time. The system will be flexible enough to accommodate last-minute changes in orders, resulting in higher customer satisfaction. In other words, using responsive inventory management system means you can say goodbye to order delays, delivery errors, damaged packages, and angry customers.
Despite the several breakthroughs in recent years, we are yet to realize the full impact of Big Data and IoT in the area of smart warehousing. That’s why understanding how these technologies are revolutionizing warehouse management will help you embrace them well within time. Whether you have a small or big business, use the latest smart warehousing solutions and stay ahead of your competitors. Hopefully, the above five pointers will prove helpful in this regard.
Casey McCann, Marketing Specialist at 3PLCompanies.net, is also a closet tech enthusiast who enjoys exploring different ways of infusing new technology with existing business operations to better them. In his free time, Casey likes to watch movies, experiment with different cuisines, and goes hiking when possible.