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The Visible Value Blog


Posted by Zebra EMEA

November 11, 2016 at 7:00 AM


In professional sport, things are so tight between top athletes that organizations such as British Cycling have created a science around the theory of marginal gains. Technology in some ways is like this too. When there’s a plateau in innovation, companies rely on tweaks to workflows to look for small efficiency gains. But where business can differ from sport is that we see periodic bursts of innovation – innovation that can offer big advantages.  


Take transport and logistics. Did you know that around 70% of the trucks on the road in the US are hauling air due to a lack of insight into the dimensions of items they’re carrying? Or that the UN estimates that 33% of all food perishes in transit? A new period of innovation, in the shape of the Internet of Things (IoT), promises to resolve not just these issues but it will allow us to rethink key processes across Transport and Logistics (T&L) too.



So how will IoT work? Smart tags and labels, such as temperature sensors and barcode and RFID tracking tags, can be attached to anything – your trucks, the items they carry, people, equipment, and much more – to send a stream of status data to your back office over Wi-Fi and 4G networks. The data, that we call Enterprise Asset Intelligence, can be analyzed using the huge, and low cost, power of the cloud to shine a light into every recess of your operations. It delivers Visibility That’s Visionary and will allow your teams to access an array of intelligence about an asset as it moves through the supply chain. It will help refine every area of the industry from route planning, to driving styles, real-time communications with customers, load/unload processes, and more. Two applications are especially interesting:


  • Take efficiency to a new dimension: The main reason why trucks travel with unused space is that we often know the weight of items, not their size. IoT changes this. Smart automated systems in distribution centers can automatically assess the dimension of items as they arrive on site and recommend a loading pattern for onward shipment that optimizes truck space. Critically, too, as the goods move downstream, and fleet planners can see the dimensions of what’s coming, they can better plan how many trucks to position at distribution centers and load them more effectively. We call it orchestrating the next best move. In the US, the less than truckload industry is worth around $30 billion a year with around $2.5 billion of that lost because firms cannot dimension the goods they carry. With IoT and smart analytics, that $2.5 billion can be added to the bottom line while also reducing the carbon footprint.
  • Optimizing food transport: By attaching sensors to food in transit we can track its temperature and status across its journey. Readings can be taken automatically over wireless networks while drivers can also use mobile computers to take readings at required times. All intelligence is automatically recorded for compliance purposes. The real-time data allows fleet managers to more proactively manage the condition of food and make more informed decisions as it moves through the supply chain. By so doing we can dramatically reduce waste, while decreasing the cost of getting food to people in a timely fashion and in a healthier state.


I believe that IoT will help transform many areas of T&L. This view is shared across the industry too – our research shows that 58% of T&L firms plan to implement load dimensioning while 60% are embracing IoT to enhance supply chain, 61% to locate assets, and 76% to improve business data management. For more, please have a read of our Vision Report.

Topics: T&L, Visibility that's Visionary, IoT