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Unhook Your Supply Chain Featured

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a buzzword in the tech space over recent years. For the supply chain, it is transforming many aspects, starting from asset tracking to management of inventory and fleet operations. Experts predict that 15 billion more devices will come online in the next decade. These devices can tell supply chain managers where the assets are, help the companies eliminate logistics bottlenecks and enhance the quality of products. Sadly, some limitations have made the deployment of IoT challenging. The limitations are mainly to do with wired and conventional/disposable battery-powered solutions. However, with the technologies like wireless power, the supply chain will be transformed for the better, closing the gap and allowing supply chain managers more insight into the product conditions and how safety and quality might be affected.

Currently, the electricity delivered through batteries or wires powers the majority of IoT devices in the supply chain. These batteries need to be charged using traditional charging pads or cords while wires need to be changed. This limits how and where they can be deployed, making it difficult for supply chain applications that consist of moving parts. Furthermore, disposable batteries are expensive to deploy and have adverse environmental impacts. They can leak toxins and corrosive materials if they are not recycled properly. Labour costs are also an issue because of the need to replace batteries at points along the supply chains. With rechargeable batteries, the issue of cost also arises because employers have to replace them regularly. This makes it impractical when there are products in transit.

Despite the limitations mentioned above, the IoT has significantly altered how supply chain managers track their goods in transit. With the advancement in sensor technology, supply chain managers can monitor products in the cold chain while tracking their assets in warehouses. This could be better with the real wireless power that will have a transformative effect, thus making the intermodal asset tracking a reality.

Until recently, tracking vehicles at large distribution centers was a significant challenge. For distribution centers serving many retailers or logistics companies and receiving many trucks per day, tracking has always been a huge problem. It is always difficult to track trailers parked on vast distribution center lots. However, wireless power technology can help deploy trackers in a facility. The trackers are fitted with an accelerometer. As soon as motion is detected, the trackers start their work. This makes sense for situations where trucks are constantly on the move. The trackers can be set to ping after every 30 seconds to avoid the draining of batteries, which is the case during constant pinging. Wireless trackers ease the identification of trailers and eliminate the risks to employees by walking them through a lot when searching misplaced trailers. With wireless sensors, the risks of wired cords and extension cords and the inefficiencies involved in the maintenance of multiple charging stations and the cost are eliminated.

In tracking trailers using wireless technology, companies will be able to accurately locate them all the time, even in busy yards. This could save thousands of hours in labour costs per year at a distribution center by eliminating unnecessary workers who are needed to search for trailers. It also saves many hours of loading and unloading critical products, eliminating inefficiencies in distribution centers. By making sure the incoming trailers receive the correct location, hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved annually. This will eliminate the need to re-park and disconnect from trailers hitched in error because of incorrect location data. Sensors that are powered wirelessly can track product location in transit. They can help monitor the temperature of products, acceleration, and alter on falls and potential product damage.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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