Supply Chain

How the IoT can improve supply chain management

By July 22, 2020
IoT Supply Chain Hero

By John Nanry, Co-founder and General Manager, Fast Radius

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a global trend that combines the power of the internet, data processing, and advanced analytics and applies them to objects that one might not expect to be connected to the internet. The IoT enables refrigerators to read back shopping lists, air conditioners to adjust themselves according to varying environmental factors, and more. As consumer IoT becomes more popular —127 new IoT devices connect to the internet every second, according to McKinsey — manufacturers and supply chain managers are investigating how connected devices can drive better business results.

The IoT, and its cousin the IIoT — the Industrial Internet of Things, which applies consumer IoT technologies like cloud platforms and sensors to industrial applications, with a focus on improving asset performance or revamping business processes — is witnessing explosive growth. A recent Verified Market Research report shows that IoT technology in the manufacturing sector is projected to reach about $147.5 billion by 2027, growing at an extraordinary compound annual growth rate of over 28% from 2020 to 2027. The future of the IIoT looks bright, and more companies are investing in its cutting edge technologies. Here are four transformative benefits of connected devices in manufacturing.

1. Increased visibility and collaboration

As the supply chain grows more complex and incorporates more global partners, visibility becomes crucial. A number of interlocking factors keep the supply chain humming, and one blindspot can result in costly delays. IIoT allows supply chain managers to easily and seamlessly integrate vehicles, equipment, and devices using data, which paints a fuller picture of the supply chain. This helps managers make more informed decisions based on the most recent and most accurate information available.

With complex supply chains, it’s also easy for certain sections to devolve into silos. Disparate suppliers in far-flung locations aren’t necessarily aware of what their partners are doing, and that disconnect can negatively impact operations. High visibility enabled by interconnected devices keeps everyone apprised of the latest developments, which helps managers identify issues earlier, increase productivity, and build a better business strategy.

2. Faster delivery with real-time location tracking

One of the most challenging aspects of supply chain management is negotiating transportation and logistics. Today’s consumers expect lighting-fast delivery times — if companies can’t keep up, customers will take their business elsewhere. What’s more, even a minor delay in transit can irrevocably damage food, medicine, and other goods that must be delivered within a certain timeframe to preserve viability.

IIoT sensors can be attached to trucks or even pallets to transmit real-time locating tracking data, which enables greater operational agility. Manufacturers can be alerted if a shipment is taking longer than anticipated and monitor their shipment’s progress, which empowers them to adapt at speed.

Further, real-time IIoT data gives manufacturers everything they need to develop contingency plans in case of delays and drill down on root causes. This benefit helps ensure that more products reach their destinations on time.

3. More proactive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is one of the major benefits enabled by connected devices. An inopportune mechanical breakdown can disrupt a supply chain just as badly as a transportation delay. IIoT sensors can monitor a device’s performance and send alerts when certain functions are reaching critical thresholds or specific parts are nearing the end of their lifecycles.

Also, if an IIoT-enabled device goes down, these sensors can pinpoint where the issue occurred and automatically send a service alert to an engineer or technician. Predictive maintenance can save supply chain managers thousands of dollars on unexpected maintenance or replacements, enabling the supply chain to keep moving seamlessly.

4. More accurate inventories

Forecasting and managing inventory are major challenges for many supply chain managers. Predictions aren’t always accurate — if supply chain managers aren’t careful, they may end up with warehouses of unusable inventory. IIoT sensors can provide highly precise and accurate data on inventory levels, thereby enabling more proactive supply chain management.

For instance, Amazon tracks and triages its orders by using WiFi robots that scan QR codes. This helps employees easily and quickly stay on top of inventory management — even for supplies that are stocked away for the future.

Tap into the power of the IIoT with Fast Radius

Applications for connected devices in the manufacturing and supply chain industries are still maturing, but they are very promising. With the IoT, supply chain managers can speed up delivery times, get the most out of their assets, increase visibility and collaboration throughout a global manufacturing network, and more. The IoT represents just one of the many new technologies — including blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and digital twins — that promise to elevate the energy-, cost-, and time-efficiency of supply chain management. We’re excited to see what the future holds.

At Fast Radius, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of technological advancement in the manufacturing industry. Our unique combination of proprietary software technology, advanced manufacturing capabilities, and industry expertise lowers the barriers to innovation and helps you speed ahead. From the IIoT, to big data, to advancements not yet uncovered, we’re committed to helping our partners access the tools that they need to optimize their operations and secure a competitive advantage. Contact us today.

For more industry insights on the latest topics in manufacturing, like generative design and disaster-proofing your supply chain, browse our latest articles in the Fast Radius resource center.

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