How IoT is Influencing the Logistics of Today

By David Fraas, Director of Information Technology, C.H. Robinson

David Fraas, Director of Information Technology, C.H. Robinson

When someone mentions the Internet of Things (IoT), most people would think smart devices, wearables, or even how your heating at home regulates itself – basically all the things that drive the adoption of bespoke consumer lifestyles. However, the influence of the IoT goes far beyond that, and more specifically, it’s impacting the logistics world and global supply chains.

The IoT has proved to not just be a trend, but is impacting businesses, and is disrupting the way we think about supply chains, and it’s happening fast. Basically, the IoT provides us with the advantage of using the items that we already have, for example smartphones, which are turned into super computers we carry around in our pockets. What has been viewed as a luxury just four to five years ago, is turning into a minimum requirement as we do business today, giving customers the value added solutions to provide them and their end consumers the wider reach, without all the cost associated to multiple platforms used just a few years ago.

The logistics world has many moving parts. Products are being moved between the manufacturer, the supplier, the distribution centers to retailers and consumers. All these areas call for a responsive and knowledgeable supply network in regards to product locations and specifications. The IoT is bringing all these moving parts together. One example is real time tracking of shipments, to give customers the real-time visibility they require. Combining real-time sensor data with environmental data can provide intelligence for different level discussions to all the participants in the supply chain network. It allows all involved to make effective [predictive] decisions that will drive their efficiency. This moves the supply chain process from a responsive approach to a proactive one by offering data information while, or even before any activity happens.

So, it all comes down to effective supply chain management being a lot of work, and as our industry evolves, so will the way supply chains are managed. C.H. Robinson’s internally built technology platform Navisphere, is built with the future in mind to streamline supply chains. It is flexible and efficient, and it integrates with almost any structured data file or ERP so you can quickly bring all aspects of your global supply chain together. It provides full visibility to your operations, 24-hour online tracking, and a single connection to your customers and suppliers to support your optimized business processes, and provide you with tools for more informed decision making.

As we are constantly evolving to deliver more efficient processes that supports the future, we attempt to reduce the manual operations that take up a lot of hours in daily operations. As a result to Navisphere’s successes, we have also developed the Navisphere® Driver App that submits near real-time load updates to drivers, and shippers. The app does not only provide more efficiency by automating processes, but also offers more accurate information on loads moved by C.H. Robinson. With this solution in place, shippers now also have predictive information at hand, as they will receive timely updates on, for example, arrival times – knowing the location of the shipment, enables us to better predict arrival times, by also tracking weather, and traffic information. If the estimated time of arrival deviates from the original schedule, we can activate corrective measures, faster. This further enhances your overall visibility, but also provides enhanced security to reduce asset loss.

As a conclusion, the IoT is benefitting the thorough intelligence and how we all keep evolving in the world of supply. It does not only affect manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, but also consumers, as their needs are being met with the smarter and deeper levels of intelligence we have at our fingertips today. IoT within our industry goes in lockstep with today’s digitalized business setting in which the pocket-sized super computers enable businesses to work smarter and faster, plan better, and adopt more intelligent decision making processes.

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