The Impact of IoT on Inventory Management
Many industries find themselves in a state of flux due to the rate of technological change happening in the current epoch. Every so often one will have ‘a moment’ where disruption takes place. Supply chain and logistics management is certainly an industry well placed for such digital disruption. Digital services in the form of mobile computing and the cloud are set to make big changes in this sphere.
The Internet of Things (IOT) imagines a future where gadgets are wirelessly connected and able to share useful information sans human involvement. In a supply chain ecosystem, real-time analytics can process commodities and feed information to relevant stakeholders.
Not only does this introduce a new dimension of transparency to inventory management and fulfillment, but also a new level of efficiency. Organizations can gain a competitive advantage in addition to daily conveniences and the optimization of operations.
Warehouses are slowly but surely moving beyond simple barcode systems to GPS sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. These smart barcodes track product condition and location so you’ll know the state of items, when they’re on the move and when they’re on shelves. This facilitates tighter security and, consequently, less shrinkage.
It also leads to better demand forecasting and planning, as well as improved quality control. If you deal in specialist goods that require, for example, vibrations, pressure, humidity and storage temperatures to be monitored, smart tags can help you to remotely make adjustments to ensure your products stay in tip-top shape.
Remote visibility and traceability gives you a good idea of transit times and when you can expect materials or products to be delivered. This way, you can adjust your own orders accordingly.
AI technology helps B2B businesses to determine which of their subcontractors or vendors are holding up and compromising operations. How are goods being treated before they get to you or after you send your finished product off? Use technology to build accountability into operations. Suppliers and distributors that are not up to scratch hinder your ability to retain customers and make more money.
Through satellite tracking, you can stay abreast of where your shipping containers are, how your trucks are doing and if any interventions are required. This makes for streamlined inventory management, connected fleets and faster turnarounds.
According to Research conducted by Business Insider, 90% of commercial vehicles in North America will be using new fleet management solutions by 2020. Clearly, these tools are making their mark on business decision-making.
RFID tags and IoT sensors are so adept at taking stock that a lot of the human effort and error associated with the process is no longer an issue. And with so much data collation, trend spotting for greater efficiencies are an added advantage.
With up-to-date data, procedures can be streamlined and timing can be improved. Uncertainties get taken out of the equation. This means fewer missed manufacturing deadlines, fewer product shortages and less wastage from over-ordering. Sensors also mean that maintenance can occur without obstructing productivity. And warehouse space can be optimally utilized.
When merchandise has RFID chips, you can get smart shelves. These instantly update inventory data when a customer takes an item. This information syncs to the system and let’s you know when shelves need to be refilled and when more stock needs to be ordered. Smooth and easy.
Apart from preventing employee theft and shoplifting, smart cameras can monitor customer buying habits and foot traffic, and can create heat maps to see whether promotions and POS displays are having the desired effect.
Overall, there’s greater connectivity between back-end and front-end operations which can result in reduced expenses and more revenue. This is especially true if you use IoT for multi-channel retail and to consider the big picture when it comes to supply and demand.
Corporate Social Responsibility
With IoT, warehouses can become more environmentally-friendly. Sensors can automatically switch off areas that are inactive and no longer need power. There’s also the fact that technology is already being used to establish the best routes for delivery. Shorter, faster routes have less of an impact on the environment – less fuel is necessary which means a smaller carbon footprint.
Moreover, inventory sourcing can become more accessible to conscious consumers and businesses. Sustainability and development goals are increasingly a concern. Customers can find out more about what went into producing the items they’re consuming. Companies can leverage their ethical choices into marketing materials while having certainty about their claims.