You will have heard the term Internet of Things (IoT) and wondered what impact it will have on your business. Imagine a warehouse that knows when it is running low on packing supplies and automatically re-orders them through its own decision system.
What if you could reduce fuel costs because you already have traffic information that will allow you to optimize routes before setting out? Imagine sensor nodes that could track energy use on your heavy equipment and find ways to reduce waste.
We’re not talking about just being connected, we’re talking about being connected intelligently. Here’s an introductory glimpse as to how IoT technologies will advance warehousing operations.
Wireless readers and cameras will capture information from each pallet as it comes in. This information can include volume and weight, and even damage detection, and these details are sent to the Warehouse Management System. This eliminates the need to manually scan the volume of goods – a time and labour consuming task.
Inventory levels are automatically updated and if something is misplaced, corrective action is taken immediately. When pallets are ready for outbound operations, scanners will tell the WMS whether the right item, and in the right order, is being sent, once again updating inventory.
Beyond the warehouse, this technology will extend into your office. Having an out-of-stock crisis will become a thing of the past.
Optimal Asset utilization
Sensors collate information on the use of assets in a warehouse. For example, they monitor how a particular conveyor belt or Automatic Guided Vehicle (AGV), such as a pallet mover, is being utilized by tracking its paths and timings.
The information can identify inefficiencies around the warehouse, variances during weekdays and weekends and a warehouse manager can then use the information to manage assets more effectively.
Predictive maintenance analytics
Sensors will measure levels of physical stress, using parameters of throughput or temperature of the machine, put on a particular machine or equipment. This data is then used to schedule maintenance appointments and to calculate the expected lifetime of the machine at its current level of usage.
Preventing damage and improving safety of workers
Cameras will relay damage or pileups as they occur on the floorspace and IoT technologies will be able to prevent the falling of pallets and products. Whether it is due to imperfect storage or a particular pallet issue, an alert will be sent to the WMS for immediate action, greatly reducing damage to goods, and thus reducing costs.
These same cameras can also be used to prevent theft. For warehouse safety, sensors combined with radar or cameras attached to forklifts will allow them to communicate with other forklifts. As they run, they will be able to scan the floor for possible hazards.
Forklifts will be programmed to speed up and slow down automatically by detecting intersections, other AGVs, and even workers. Pressure sensors on the AGVs will also detect if a load is too heavy or placed unevenly.
Improving processes through location analytics
It will be easier to monitor the health and fatigue of workers, track their process paths, and analyze where warehouse managers can improve walkways or change a process to make the worker’s duties more effective.
Location analytics, a visual way of analysing movement with real time geographical data, can greatly aid in making better informed decisions. In fact, location analytics can almost be considered intrinsic to the study of logistics and transport. And the more the data, the better the overall picture.
As Felix Piccinini, General Manager of ILC points out, the potential for IoT in the logistics industry is mind boggling and its impact on supply chain management is going to benefit manufacturers, distributors as well as consumers too.
“IoT is becoming an integral part of today’s digital business landscape and is playing a bigger role in ILC’s business intelligence processes.” Piccinini is excited about the endless opportunities as more and more devices start to join the IoT.
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