IoT with young woman using a laptop computer

Companies are making a shift in their operations. Instead of relying on human-generated reports or manual process checks, businesses are increasingly relying on non-human team members: Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Devices connected to the internet are helping companies do their jobs more efficiently.

Beyond connecting different parts of businesses to each other, IoT devices are making businesses safer and processes faster. They help supply chain managers, team members, and security personnel with their jobs and overall goals. According to Ed Kuzemchak, CTO of Software Design Solutions, as IoT devices continue to expand and improve, businesses will see more changes in their workplaces.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things is an umbrella term for devices connected to the internet, whether they’re in a home, an office, a warehouse, or a package loaded onto a truck. These items include anything from radio-frequency ID (RFID) trackers to thermostats. IoT-connected devices help individuals with tracking items or monitoring processes.

In many office settings, IoT devices monitor wireless energy consumption, optimize light usage, and measure carbon monoxide levels. In the manufacturing and industrial sectors, IoT devices aid in tracking shipments, locating a particular item, and overseeing building processes. Businesses can benefit from IoT devices by integrating them into their processes and day-to-day activities.

Uses in Supply Chain Management

Businesses that utilize IoT have the ability to track multiple components of their supply chain. Various internet-connected sensors and robots provide reports and live updates on where products are in the supply chain. These trackers then report to software such as a supply chain management system to give businesses an overview of what’s going on.

This reporting process aids in product lifecycle management. For example, lumber distributors can use data from RFID tags on product pallets to track where a lot originated. Supply chain managers can also add in data from a wholesaler’s weekly transactions to make a decision on how much product to provide in the coming weeks. Combining these data sources increases visibility for the organization and increases efficiency.

Supply chain professionals can also use this technology to identify problems in the supply chain. For example, distributors can easily track down where a faulty product originated, thanks to an RFID tag that relays complete product lifecycle data. When businesses store IoT data in the cloud, it is accessible to multiple stakeholders across lines of business.

Opening Communication for Teams

By informing all parties of the location of a product or item, IoT devices help manufacturers and businesses accurately update the end receiver on the delivery of those materials. For instance, a lumber mill supervisor can tag a shipment of logs with an IoT device and track it. Individuals in that same lumber yard can check that shipment as well and know where it is in a matter of seconds. Personnel who can locate items quickly can perform faster transactions and build products in a more timely manner.

IoT tracking sensors also provide accountability between the vendor and the creator. If a truck manufacturer can locate where a part for the engine started in the supply chain, they can contact that vendor if an issue occurs with that part. The vendor can then track down which warehouse the part came from in order to fix the issue.

IoT tracking gives companies more visibility into their own supply chains, too. This transparency increases operational efficiency. By increasing transparency, a company’s daily communications are simplified. When a tracker attached to an item reports its location, suppliers are able to update either a vendor or customer with increasingly accurate delivery estimates.

Security and Safety of Offices

Connected devices in offices and production facilities act similarly to geofencing in certain instances. These connected devices can prevent individuals from entering places they do not have access to. Plus, businesses using access tracking are alerted faster when secure locations are breached.

Another way IoT devices are creating safer environments is with emergency infrastructure. New sprinkler systems being installed at businesses are enabled with IoT capabilities. These systems go a step beyond turning on the water during a fire. They also act as a black box to report when a fire started and aid in finding probable cause.

There are many areas where IoT technology has yet to be utilized. From autonomous trucking to warehouse monitoring, IoT-connected devices will help businesses in a multitude of ways.

In the future, more companies will collect data from their IoT devices and integrate that helpful information into their existing enterprise resource planning systems for increased visibility. Although IoT devices and ERP systems have the same goal of providing businesses with useful data, some companies are not fully integrating those systems. Business managers can gain even more useful insights from having data consolidated in one place. For example, by storing IoT and ERP information together, businesses can reduce the number of systems they need to check prior to making decisions.

IoT devices are an important addition to businesses and their processes. Individuals using IoT devices can report and follow all items in a supply chain in real time. As more businesses adopt IoT devices into their operations, the efficiency and effectiveness of automated processes will increase.

About the Author:

Abbey Young is a technology and marketing enthusiast who’s always looking for what’s happening next for businesses and their operations. When she’s not working, she enjoys binging on Netflix or Hulu.