July 2018 | Commentary | IT Matters: Logistics & Supply Chain Technology

IoT: Where We Are, What Comes Next

Tags: Logistics I.T., Logistics, Technology , Supply Chain

Kristi Montgomery is Vice President of Innovation, Research, and Development, Kenco, 800-758-3289

The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to disrupt all industries, including the supply chain. While excitement around this disruptive technology is enticing, IoT still has a long way to go. Supply chain executives must be thoughtful and selective when it comes to investing in it.

Let's break down some benefits and drawbacks of IoT in the supply chain.

Benefits. Professionals are excited about minimized expenses. Supply chain IoT vendors are employing data collection in areas of the supply chain that are not expertly monitored today, and promising a lot of insight. This means major savings post-implementation.

Additionally, IoT technologies have the ability to meticulously monitor logistics activities, and can alert users before a situation becomes dangerous, which heightens security. Finally, IoT's promise of real-time visibility has companies excited about enhanced planning and recall capabilities.

Roadblocks. Complications arise when considering IoT implementation. One challenge is having a unified way to integrate the technology. There are no concrete standards setting the boundaries for communication among devices, meaning network protocols and data aggregation are unregulated.

Also, there is real fear around the "hackability" of an IoT market with huge amounts of data available for the taking. An added issue is that IoT manufacturers are creating proprietary devices that limit capabilities to connect to devices other than those of their own brand.

A few more questions to consider: How long will IoT devices actually last? What will happen during an internet outage since these devices rely on constant connectivity? Where will all the data be stored from an "always-on" device?

Mapping Out a Strategy

Companies that understand the benefits and drawbacks can begin to map out an IoT implementation strategy. IoT will infiltrate every part of the business and, as such, it should directly address the challenges your company is encountering. While no strategy for IoT implementation will fit every organization, here are some key considerations:

  • Selecting a vendor. A number of IoT vendors will compete for your company's business and each will promise "the best" service or offerings. But, some vendors have more credibility. Request references to discuss their successes and ensure the vendor will be reliable.
  • Realizing the desired data. Ensure that the IoT device will supply the exact metrics your business is looking to acquire and measure. Push the vendor to explain what data will be delivered, and that it will be easily digestible for your company's use.
  • Understanding scope. IoT products often require additional resources. Make sure your facilities and workforce have the bandwidth to support the new technology. Also, the business infrastructure must be able to support always-on devices.

Diving into the Future

Successful organizations are open to the latest tech, so even considering IoT is the first step to diving into the future. But, these devices will require frequent updates to remain relevant and businesses must be prepared for continuous change.

As an industry, it will be pertinent for us to standardize IoT in the supply chain so it can have maximum, progressive impact in the future. This will ensure that the technology continues to adapt to the industry's changing landscape and the customers it serves.