How Industrial IoT Can Benefit Your Supply Chain

Contributed by Tom O’Boyle, Barcoding US

If you ask five different people what IoT means to them, chances are you will get a different response each time. To some, IoT is the technology in a self-driving car. To others, the engine of a manufacturing machine—maybe even the office Alexa. But what does it mean to professionals in the supply chain industry?

IoT has become a prominent tool in supply chain, and more specifically, industrial IoT. According to Statista, discrete manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and the utilities industries are projected to each spend $40 billion on IoT platforms, systems, and services by 2020.

So, how exactly does IoT fit into supply chain operations?
Here are a few examples of industrial IoT solutions that you can leverage to benefit your supply chain:

RFID

The supply chain industry is familiar with radio-frequency identification (RFID), but through IoT, the technology is optimized for greater track-and-trace visibility. Organizations can place RFID tags, or smart labels, on each individual item in their operations and identify key areas in the process to place RFID readers. The tags on each item transmit data to RFID readers for operators to gather information available for each specific tag.

As a passive tracking technology, RFID provides insight and reads tags through the specified choke points in a supply chain, without batteries inside the tags. The RFID tags have a short transmission range from 10 to 20 feet to generate radio frequency and transmit data. By connecting RFID to IoT, you can track and monitor your RFID-tagged items automatically and in real-time within the cloud. With the integration of IoT, you can better leverage RFID within your organization for greater insight and “big picture” visibility to fundamental material movements in your supply chain.


BLE
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology is an active tracking system in supply chain operations and reflects an indoor GPS system. BLE uses battery-powered tags to transmit data to central readers. Similar to highway toll tags, BLE tags are strategically installed on various items and can transmit data to readers as distant as 50 to 75 feet. BLE is designed to save energy by sending information only as needed and remains idle during periods with no data transmission.
Leveraging BLE can expand your supply chain’s asset visibility. BLE technology provides organizations with greater product location accuracy and flexibility. The value of BLE is the hotspot selection, which allows you to study particular areas of your processes to gather insight on the current functionality. The IoT technology rapidly gathers and analyzes data to help optimize your supply chain.

GPS Tracking
The responsibility of a supply chain organization doesn’t end until the product or service reaches the end user. GPS tracking in transit is a key application for a strong supply chain process. You can leverage GPS tracking through cellular data to see where your assets are while in transit.
The ability to integrate your supply chain’s GPS tracking into IoT is beneficial because it provides real-time location accuracy and ensures proper delivery to end users. IoT further enhances your GPS tracking with additional features, including insight on the quality of your items en route. The advanced technology also supports efficiency in supply chain by creating autonomous vehicles, as well as safety for drivers with various sensors.

IoT is improving the supply chain industry and enhancing previously leveraged technologies. From basic asset movement within your warehouse to in-transit items across the country, integrating industrial IoT into your operations can increase your visibility, efficiency, accuracy, and connectivity.

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