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The impact of IoT on supply chains

May 17, 2017


Aditya Jain

Supply chain and IoT – it’s a match made in heaven. Businesses are always looking for ways to increase operational efficiency to lower costs and to launch new services to grow revenue. Infusing IoT into the supply chain can put companies on the fast track to make it happen. Connectivity opens up unprecedented visibility, control, and actionable insights to run a business more productively and cost-efficiently, as well as innovating ways to more effectively meet customer needs.

Let’s look at some core supply chain considerations and how real-world companies are using IoT to deliver meaningful top line and bottom-line results.

Generating new revenue streams by launching ‘Things as a Service’

IoT does to things what SaaS has done to software. That is, enable digital-savvy enterprises to launch new business models with ‘things as a service’ based on connected products. To make this digital transformation – from selling products to selling services – requires a paradigm shift for many traditional manufacturers. With IoT, their products become a platform for delivering connected services that help enhance the customer experience and grow revenue.

As an example, Sendum Wireless started as a hardware manufacturer with their asset tracking system. IoT enabled Sendum to transform into a service-based company, capable of offering a complete end-to-end shipment tracking solution for their customers.

The biggest win is that, like with SaaS, delivering connected services fundamentally changes the customer relationship from transactional to a recurring revenue model. Agribusiness innovator, Topcon, bundles their products with telematics services, capturing data for everything from fleet management to quality metrics and process improvement. By adding significant value for customers, Topcon stands out as leader in a competitive market.

Increasing efficiency with predictive maintenance

With connected equipment and an IoT cloud platform for real-time monitoring and performance analytics, businesses can proactively pinpoint which machines need maintenance and how to make them more profitable. For example, vending machine industry innovator, Cantaloupe Systems, uses IoT to enable their vending operator customers to manage inventory remotely, eliminating the need to service every machine. As a result, they’ve been able to shrink fleet sizes 30-50%, and gain insights on purchasing trends to stock the most popular merchandise and increase sales.

IoT is also transforming predictive maintenance in agriculture. Connected devices are becoming increasingly important on farms, especially when equipment must work around the clock, and achieving maximum productivity is crucial. With IoT solutions like those from Topcon Precision Agriculture, growers can access real-time data to compare productivity and efficiency across their connected fleet to identify specific farm equipment that may need maintenance.

Reducing operational costs with automation

Digital companies are turning to IoT automation to amplify productivity and reduce operating expenses. Industrial suppliers like ABB Robotics rely on an automated connectivity management platform for 24/7 monitoring of more than 250,000 IoT-enabled robots. ABB uses remote diagnostics to quickly identify and resolve issues to maximize uptime and avoid the costs of sending technicians on-site. IoT also enables ABB to track data usage of connected robots in real time, and take automatic corrective action such as changing rate plans or deactivating a rogue device to prevent costly overages.

Using automation to replace costly and time-consuming manual processes is a hallmark of IoT, especially for managing connectivity across thousands or hundreds of thousands of IoT devices. Automation helps ensure connected services run reliably, which is mission critical for companies like CSL, a leading European provider of connectivity solutions for the security and healthcare markets. CSL processes nearly a billion critical calls each month on nearly 300,000 connected devices, and credits the Internet of Things and automation with making that possible.

Optimizing asset management with real-time visibility

IoT has revolutionized the transportation and logistics industry, enabling companies such as Sendum Wireless to offer their customers tracking systems that monitor shipments in real time to always know what’s happening with packages, containers or equipment. By collecting data about GPS location, temperature, shock, vibration and orientation of cargo, Sendum can immediately alert their customers if anything seems abnormal or if a shipment has been opened or tampered. The customer can then take immediate action to save the cargo before it’s damaged or destroyed.

And real-time visibility isn’t just about saving cargo. IoT vehicle camera solutions are helping to dramatically reduce road incidents with fleet vehicles and slash the cost of insurance claims. Using the IoT-enabled, high definition vehicle camera system by Intelligent Telematics, fleet managers get instant alerts and access to video as driving events happen, so they can take action quickly. The camera responds to trigger events such as collisions, near misses, even rapid acceleration and hard braking. It then uses 3G cellular connectivity to send alerts and upload footage, giving the company and insurance carriers rapid first notification of loss, which plays a vital role in cutting costs, validating fault, and expediting the claims process.

IoT is rapidly transforming the supply chain across every industry. Connected solutions are enabling companies to reinvent how they operate, with new levels of control that increase efficiency and productivity, and drive down costs for a more profitable bottom line.

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2 years ago
Your observations are insightful. Just to add, as per my limited experience in IOT in India - a fair degree of traction is seen in the Mining Sector (making them Smart Mines), Pharmaceuticals (their cargo is sometimes very time critical and needs a lot of monitoring) and the Power Infrastructure Businesses - companies which lay the big utility high tension cables - most of the tensioners and pullers are in challenging terrain.

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