Internet of Things (IoT) is finding a lot of practical applications in supply chain management. In combination with AI, IoT can be used in a number of high-tech applications that has been transforming the trucking industry. AI-enabled IoT in Logistics Management has taken the leap from theory to operational reality in a number of significant ways. For instance, small Internet-connected devices designed to attach to either shipments or vehicles are becoming more and more commonplace. Known in the logistics industry as “smart tags,” Freight Waves details how these devices can make the supply chain much more efficient while it’s on, it can tell you if anything happens to the shipment – whether it’s been diverted, opened, or delivered successfully.
In some cases, the companies who supply the devices are backed by 24/7 network operations that are notified when anything unusual happens to the package and clients would be instantly informed of the cargo whereabouts. Apart from tracking packages, they can also pick out lone packages and make it easily identifiable to couriers. Ultimately, these smart tags can enable the supply chain to run smoother and not get bogged down by avoidable logistical delays.
The effectiveness of these devices was exhibited in 2017 when a smart tag company’s California office was ransacked by burglars. According to company representatives, the thieves grabbed everything from monitors to computers. Fortunately for the company and unfortunately for the burglars, they mistook the bright yellow smart tags for phone chargers or something else worth a lot. They took two crates of the fully-charged, state-of-the-art cargo tracking devices, setting the stage for perhaps the least-informed tech burglary in the history of California. It was an unplanned and successful display of how this new, wireless, and IoT-enabled anti-theft system can be used to protect all manner of cargo.
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The heavy trucking industry’s use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) is another practical example of how the IoT is changing the face of trucking in the US. Previously, ELDs were used only to log a driver’s hours of service. Today with the combined efforts of the government and private industries, the technology has been developed into a multipurpose logistical device powered by GPS and Internet connectivity.
Recording and policing driver hours of service is just the start. Verizon Connect reports that the capabilities of today’s ELDs now include route optimization and planning software. This gives fleet operators the ability to find and establish the most efficient delivery routes for their fleets of heavy delivery vehicles. The software also makes it easier to create cost-effective scheduling as it gives operators an overview of where their fleet’s available resources are located and headed. In fact, a study by the Aberdeen Group estimates that the fleet management system can reduce vehicle downtime by 15 percent as well as improve fleet utilization by 13 percent.
Apart from that, ELDs are directly connected to the engine and its diagnostics computer. From there it can monitor a vehicle’s overall performance. This includes idle time, speeding events, and even how drivers use their brakes. Fleet managers can then use this information to coach their own drivers about the efficient operation of heavy trucks, thereby decreasing overall fuel costs. Combined with how digitally recording drivers’ hours of service can lower incidents of over-driving on the highways, this may also result in an 11 percent reduction of the total crash rate of fleets equipped with ELDs. In short, these IoT- enabled GPS devices will not just allow fleet operators to cut costs, they can also result in safer roads and possibly even ease the traffic on the nation’s most truck-heavy highways.
In addition to optimized route planning and fleet efficiency, there are other significant ways in which IoT- enabled delivery fleets can take advantage of this new technology. Digitalist Magazine points out several long-term operational benefits available to the modernized fleet. For instance, the constant data collection on the whereabouts and condition of fleet resources will eventually result in an operational database. This can then be analyzed to find both beneficial and detrimental patterns in how the fleet operates for overall improvement. On a much larger scale, an IoT-enabled fleet that’s armed with this type of data will be much better at re-imagining creative and more cost-effective logistical practices.
As the already gargantuan global supply chain and logistics industry continue to balloon further, engineers and managers are increasingly looking to the IoT and advanced artificial intelligence systems to help them manage the daily global grind. This simply means that in the coming years, we are likely to see more practical implementations of IoT technology, not just in trucking, but also in the entire supply chain.