IIoT, Coronavirus, and the Supply Chain

Mitigating risk in trying times

Ryan E. Day

June 2, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting business across the globe, and supply chains are being stressed to their limits by sudden and drastic increases in online commerce. As organizations strive to continue delivering physical product, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) is being considered as a sensible part of dealing with the massive strain on supply chains.

Supply chain efficiency may not be the hottest topic around, but more than one organization has made dramatic improvements to their profit and growth portfolio by rethinking outdated supply mentalities and methods. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been making quiet inroads to supply chain efficiency for quite some time, and with online commerce at an all-time high, every benefit of IIoT is only compounded.

Tracking vs. supply chain visibility

As important as tracking is, there are other aspects of the shipments to be considered. Temperature, excess vibration, angle, and tampering are among the conditions that are vital to certain products in transit.

Food, pharmaceuticals, and biomaterial depend on temperature control during shipping; computer network servers must maintain a minimum angle to remain deployable; brand authenticity could be compromised if containers are opened in-transit; many metrology devices could lose calibration veracity if a collision occurs. There are sensors to monitor all these conditions, and more. As part of an IIoT strategy, sensors installed in shipping containers of all kinds—from crates to box cars—can provide a level of supply chain visibility that makes handling more product easier.

Real-time alerts

By employing IIoT-enabled sensors, manufacturers and distributors can get updates on product locations and conditions in real time.

A global supply chain can mean turnaround time of weeks when the true location and condition of product is in limbo. If an unacceptable issue occurs, one does not know for weeks. Then time is spent processing a CAPA.

Knowing in real time the condition and location of your shipments could be a valuable differentiator for your company at the least. In some cases, it could mean the difference between repeat business and a lost customer—or even a lawsuit. Prompt corrective actions are also necessary to ensure that safety procedures and compliance regulations are observed seamlessly.

3G, 4G, and… 0G?

Although 5G is the communications-industry buzzword de jour, for many business applications 5G is not at all an appropriate tool for the job. Not all IIoT networks require high throughput and ultra-low latency. Although those capabilities are indispensable for some purposes, other cases are better served by a solution that provides ultra-long battery life, easy implementation, and low cost. This is exactly the situation where a 0G network shines.

IIoT sensors enabled by a 0G network form a unique combination which provides:
• Reliability
• Long battery life
• Security
• Affordability

Beyond Covid-19 and the supply chain

Although the current pandemic is severely testing our ability to maintain acceptable levels of supply, the benefits of IIoT-enabled sensors will be just as relevant when the world recovers. Furthermore, the characteristics of such a 0G network are highly suited to several other verticals, including agriculture, where sensors monitor field situations year over year; and manufacturing, where sensors monitor machine health year over year.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20-lb tabby cat at his side.