With thousands of different types and forms of goods being stored in the average warehouse, every square meter of warehousing space must be optimally utilized to ensure specific goods can be retrieved, processed, and transferred for delivery as fast as possible with little interruption from damage or misplacement. The same requirement can be stated for the different types and forms of vehicle transportation used in the delivery of goods. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises far-reaching payoffs for logistics operators, their business customers and end consumers. These benefits extend across the entire logistics value chain, including warehousing operations, freight transportation, fleet management, storage tracking, last-mile delivery and even postal collection. Combined, they impact areas such as operational efficiency, safety and security, customer experience, and present new opportunities to create and drive new business models.
Discover how IoT is transforming Logistics into Smart Logistics.
A single warehouse for sorting and storage has a large number of packaged goods that are going in and out daily; traversing the conveyor belts, constantly being loaded and unloaded off shelving and then loaded into transport for delivery. This dynamic, continually changing environment poses challenges in the tracking, safe and efficient storage of goods. Minimizing the possibility for misplacement or damage during its journey through the facility is an absolute requirement for all warehouses.
Warehouse operators can implement RFID tags, with inbound and outbound RFID gateways at entrances, exits, aisles and shelf rows, along with cameras to determine packaging damage. Each package can be conveniently tracked to its precise location and catalogued as part of ‘Smart Inventory’ in the cloud, a capability that can be extended into smart inventory management for packages in delivery transport. Warehouse operators and management can drill-down to an aisle-by-aisle, shelf-by-shelf visualization of a package in real-time and with convenient and easy accessibility from a mobile device. The result is to ensure packages are correctly and safely sorted, stored and transported with accuracy and minimal room for error.
There a literally thousands upon thousands of goods in a single warehouse, stacked on shelves as high as the facilities ceiling. Other than the general cardboard, Styrofoam and bubble wrap packaging the goods, there is no other protection mechanisms in place to safeguard damage caused if one of the other surrounding goods were to leak fluids, heat up, or create any other hazardous scenario.
With increasing affordability, ubiquity and availability of smart, connected sensors that can measure a single shelfs temperature, humidity, load capacity, weight balance and even detect various gases, it presents a significant opportunity for warehouse operators and managers to monitor the safety and security of goods with new insight and assurance.
Sensors are used to monitor the shelfs localised environmental and structural conditions, where each shelf in the facility is catalogued and visualized in a facility map. In any scenario where a sensors localized environmental or structural readings exceeds acceptable conditions, an alert is promptly sent and warehouse operators can quickly address the problem before extensive goods are damaged.
The same applications in Smart Inventory and sensor functions used in Smart Shelf Monitoring can also be applied to shipping containers. Sensors that monitor the containers localized load, balance, temperature, humidity and various gases can ensure the contents of the container are secured and safety stored inside.
Sensors monitor the containers localised environmental and structural conditions, which is then catalogued and continually monitored for each container. In any hazardous scenario where a sensors localized environmental or structural readings exceeds acceptable conditions, an alert is promptly sent and operators can quickly address and pinpoint the problem before extensive goods are damaged.
Each container monitored in the cloud can be integrated with other systems that enable customers to actively track the condition of their container contents. The value created in this capability extends to the customer, right through to the insurance component of moving and storing containers. If operators can track conditions inside and outside of a container, there is less uncertainty and manageable risk in the safe delivery of that container.
Conveyor belts, sorting and lift mechanisms represent the blood vessels of a supply chain in sorting goods for storage or delivery. The operational excellence of such equipment is a function of the warehouses’ operational efficiency and productivity. If any of the mechanisms were to fail in a extremely sequential sorting procedure, the entire facilities operations come to a halt.
Sensors could be placed on a sorting machine to detect levels of physical stress by measuring throughput or the temperature of the machine. All of this sensory data is then collected and collated in the cloud, where predictive maintenance analytics are applied to the data, which can schedule maintenance appointments and calculate the expected lifetime of the machine at its current level of usage. It also provides specific insight into fault diagnostics, indicating which component is likely to have failed based on any sensor data anomalies detected at the precise location it was installed.
The value is extended to repair technicians and the equipment manufacturer, who are able to identify accurately and timely, which replacement component is required. The combination of predictive maintenance and remote component monitoring used in this scenario ensures sorting mechanisms sustain the highest levels of uptime.
Sensors can be applied to post boxes to accurately measure the contents of a post box. Combined with GPS capabilities, the positioning and contents data of each post box is sent to the cloud, where it is then presented in a graphical map of the post boxes across a municipality, helping delivery companies determine in real-time which post boxes with contents require collection, and which ones they can avoid if they are empty. The value generated is in being able to optimize collection routes and minimize unnecessary and wasted time. More value is created for the delivery companies’ customers by being able to bring collected mail and goods to the sorting facility in much faster and efficient time.
Logistical warehouses for sorting and storage are often large facilities, requiring large spaces to store the vast volume of goods coming in and out of the facility itself. These facilities require significant amount of lighting and extensive HVAC systems to maintain visibility for safety and ideal indoor conditions for personnel, respectively.
On a zone-by-zone or aisle-by-aisle consideration, the personnel and type of goods occupying a particular area is always changing. Regardless of situations where there are no personnel present, or in situations where a particular area of shelf goods requires different HVAC settings, lighting and HVAC are activated and powered at fixed settings. The result is a significantly inefficient energy consumption. With IoT, that can change by transforming your warehouse facility into a Smart Facility.