#1 in a Series: “ IoT…A Supply Chain Game-Changer”
Much has been said and written about IoT – “the Internet of Things.” For many, that term triggers a whimsical image of a kitchen appliance “talking” to some computer somewhere. But for those of us involved in any business requiring an efficient supply chain, IoT promises to have an incredible and very positive impact.
This post is the first in a series in which I will share the details and some examples of how it will impact almost every facet of sourcing, manufacturing, inventory, distribution, delivery and transportation to and from each of those stages. Today, let’s consider the difference IoT is already making on factory floors across the country.
Making “Just In Time” Just the Norm
For years, manufacturing facilities had to juggle the need to have ample resources and raw materials on hand to keep production moving while minimizing the time, space and money invested in excess materials on hand awaiting use. This led to unique (at the time) “just in time” solutions that attempted to time those resources to arrive just as they are needed.
With the Internet of Things, that protocol is becoming the normal expectation, thanks to the ability of IoT to take process automation to a new level. In recent years, RFID tags and other technologies have allowed for enhanced tracking of materials, products – any elements of the operation. But those tags required “reading” or “scanning” and action on the part of a human to respond.
Thanks to IoT, machines can be synched with a company’s ERP system to initiate the restock or resupply process. When linked to supply locations, even to vendors providing those materials, the system essentially can resupply itself, and keep production at maximum levels.
Providing More Sophisticated Information – and Acting Upon It
The Internet of Things is also empowering machines and systems to take a more active role in other aspects of the manufacturing operation as well. Sensors can ensure that temperature and atmospheric conditions in controlled environment facilities are maintained to ensure that required standards are maintained and peak output ensured.
For example, GM manufacturing plants feature controls that measure humidity, and pause the painting of cars when the humidity level increases to a level that would impact paint adherence. This eliminates the need to repaint cars, which would disrupt the process far more than a short production hold.
Proactivity the Biggest Plus
This is really the biggest advantage of IoT to manufacturers. Smarter machines will be able to deliver a higher level of information. Sensors of many kinds can contribute “real time” management of many parts of the process, eliminating the need for human involvement (and the accompanying possibility of human error) in many cases, and maintaining optimum production efficiencies.
Thanks to this enhanced “intelligence” coming from the system, potential mishaps and production line problems can often be predicted in advance and avoided or corrected more quickly. The ultimate throughput of finished products should be improved as a result.
The Internet of Things holds promise for our business, as well. We pride ourselves, for example, on delivering quality promotional items acquired from the most trustworthy and reputable suppliers. As IoT helps those companies maintain the highest quality in manufacturing those items, and be more efficient in avoiding production issues that can cause delays, they can serve us and our customers better.
I’ll be talking in future posts about what IoT will mean for warehouse and distribution facilities, and the dramatic advantages it can bring to the shipping and transportation functions so critical to those and many other industries. Meanwhile, has the Internet of Things yet affected your business? I’d love to hear about it; give me a call.