Total Overview Thanks to Connected Logistics

04.10.2021 by Pauline Batzer
Bird’s-eye view of a delivery network

With a shortage of skilled operatives, fragile supply chains, and rising costs, logistics enterprises face major challenges. Digital solutions based on the IoT are the answer.

It’s Thursday morning at the deliveries entrance to a large OEM works in North Rhine-Westphalia. At peak periods one truck after another is lined up; today there is just a single semitrailer there. Its assignment is to load production components for a globally active automobile manufacturer and deliver them to the customer about three hours later. The smartphone is buzzing and a push notification tells the truck driver which loading bay is free. An IoT solution and an app ensure that the transportation specialists can pick up their load without lengthy waiting times. A good 300 kilometers further south an automated message notifies the haulage company’s scheduler that the driver has arrived at the works and is starting to load the components. The warehouse operatives use modern picking solutions and have the order lined up quickly. They need only to check the freight papers digitally, so the driver can hit the road again after a short while. The schedulers see on a tracking solution dashboard that the shipment is on the way and can pass on the good news to the customer without delay.

Between Wish and Reality

Although connected logistics processes like this cut costs significantly and make work easier for all concerned, they are not yet standard practice in Germany. In practice, paper-based processes, a lack of transparency and a high communication effort slow down the digitization of logistics in many areas. Unnecessary expense and dissatisfied employees are the result. Above all, the personnel situation is increasingly problematic. According to a study by the German logistics industry association BVL the industry has a shortfall of around 40,000 transportation operatives – equivalent to a full house at the soccer stadium in Bremen. And with many warehouse employees  working flat out, logistics companies are urgently seeking additional warehouse personnel. The people in charge of planning meanwhile face unstable supply chains and rising shipping costs. At the same time there is a growing desire for more sustainability in the industry; according to the SCI Logistics Barometer, 64 percent of logistics companies report an increasing desire for greater sustainability.

Pick-By-Vision for Shorter Routes

Using smart IoT solutions can help overcome these challenges both at the warehouse and on the road. They create the transparency and clarity required to make complex processes simpler. The pace grows, the costs fall, and employees can use their labor more meaningfully. In intralogistics, for example, connected scanners and data glasses help achieve these objectives. Devices are connected to the warehouse system by WiFi or the cellphone network and make time-consuming order picking processes easier for warehouse operatives. Augmented reality glasses, for example, show warehouse employees the shortest route to the goods requested. All they need to do to document picking is to scan a digital label. The stock is automatically reconciled with the warehouse system. Some firms even go a step further and automate the entire order picking process. They include Fiege Logistik in North Rhine-Westphalia, where an autonomous vehicle in the warehouse picks the goods to be shipped on its own.

Freight Continuously Tracked and Traced

Once the merchandise is on board and on its way to the customer it can often only be traced in a totally outmoded way – by telephone, which is tiresome not only for drivers but also for schedulers. So it makes sense to track and trace it on the move. Modern track-and-trace solutions use sensors attached to the freight to record important information such as location, temperature or changes in position and to relay it to an online platform in real time. The schedulers then follow the details of the shipment on an on-screen dashboard in real time. In combination with smart route planning solutions, planners can also give their drivers timely warning of traffic congestion and road closures, divert them efficiently, reduce fuel consumption and ease pressure on the environment. That will also relieve time pressure on drivers; they can rely on the schedulers to find them a suitable alternative route fast. Drivers will then likely be able to call it a day on time, increasing employee satisfaction.

There can be no doubt about the positive effects of integrated connected logistics. According to Deutsche Telekom’s Digitization Index 92 percent of corporate respondents say digital technologies speed up the shipping of products. In the future, not only logistics companies and their employees will benefit; their business customers will also benefit. They will be end-to-end aware of the status of their deliveries and better able to respond unforeseen events. Find out in our latest e-book on the subject how the Internet of Things (IoT) can help to make logistics processes faster, more efficient and more sustainable.


 

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Pauline Batzer
Pauline Batzer

Project Manager IoT

Since 2015, Pauline has been passionate about the variety of the IoT world. She has gained a lot of experience with the Internet of Things from different perspectives by working with customers, partners, and start-up companies. For the Telekom IoT blog she writes about technological trends, products, and innovations in the Internet of Things which are implemented in different industries.