A Not So Distant Look at how the Industrial Internet of Things Could Change the Services Provided by 3PLs

As manufacturing, transportation, and every aspect of humanity evolves in modernity, reliance upon the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow and impact every facet of civilization. Another term, as it more relates to manufacturing, distribution,...


ThomasNet wrote an article, “Are Manufacturers Ready for the Industrial Internet?” and states:

Manufacturers’ business models and competencies will have to evolve to take advantage of the Industrial Internet. The rewards promise to offer tremendous value to those companies that can adapt and produce machinery and equipment for it.

However, this represents a frightening, yet exciting and profitable, prospect: how will transportation management services, warehouse management systems, and other aspects of third-party logistics (3PL) benefit themselves by using the industrial internet of things in the future? Rather than leave you to your imagination for how this will work, let us take you on a journey into the world of tomorrow, where the IIoT rests within the heart and soul of every 3PL service.


Creation of Smart Containers

Smart containers will have Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors that improve the transparency and accuracy with which a product is transported. In the past, identification of shipping container materials relied on human input to answer any questions about a given product, which includes what, how many, why, where an item needs to go. Furthermore, shipping containers may or may not be susceptible to damage from the elements; therefore, merchandise would arrive in poor condition, and a return on investment would be lost.



Using the Industrial Internet of Things, RFID sensors will provide a detailed account of all items within any given container and identify times when the environmental conditions of a given container pose a threat to the products. For example, sensitive equipment may be damaged by dramatic changes in atmospheric pressure. The sensor will provide an alert to drivers or other employees working within the shipping company. However, the IIoT will progress to a point where human action for addressing potential problems. The Industrial Internet of Things will have the ability to recall or redirect a vehicle, and computerized loading equipment can select the appropriate shipments for removal and redirection. In another scenario, the IIoT can ensure any such sensitive items are placed within an “indestructible” shipping container, which would eliminate the need for concern over environmental concerns. However, the end result of any logistics system is to improve efficiency and drive customer satisfaction through rapid, reliable service.


Smart Vehicles

Most think of trucks as the primary means of transportation; however, the IoT’s impact on shipping includes planes, trains, ocean-carriers, and the eventual use of drones. Smart vehicles gather data and determine which, if any, factors affect a given product’s shipping path. For example, all US vehicles manufactured after 2004 require the installation of a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Since low tire pressure results in poor gas mileage, the parent company incurs an additional cost of shipping. The use of multiple monitoring systems in vehicles, or other means of transportation, reduces the chances of vehicle problems impacting services.

Tomorrow, the Industrial Internet of Things will use this information to identify potential problems before they exacerbate into a shipping failure or delay. Furthermore, the IIoT will identify periods of inefficiency during transport and make recommendations for future transports. The IIoT will also reach into another key aspect of shipping, infrastructure.


The Industrial Internet of Things and Infrastructure

America boasts one of the greatest infrastructures in the world, and America’s roads are no exception. However, the most up-to-date 3PL services still have to worry about the actions of other people, such as drivers on roads, throughout the course of business. The IIoT can be seen today in the use of advanced safety technologies in newer vehicles, such as the ability to detect problems. Tomorrow’s IIoT will detect erratic behavior of other drivers and produce an alert to other drivers. The Industrial Internet of Things will grow to alert local police departments of potential problems of other drivers, and eventually, IIoT technologies within the roads will disable these dangerous vehicles. In another futuristic scene, the IIoT will shut-down lanes or redirect traffic towards a safer, alternative path. Imagine a time when the road identifies approaching dangerous conditions miles before coming onto the scene of an accident. (Maybe this will decrease regulations which drive up shipping rates.)


Increasing Security and Responsiveness

In close relation to alerting authorities about erratic drivers, the IIoT will have the ability to reduce shrink associated with unexpected opening of shipping containers. Furthermore, the Industrial Internet of Things will identify which items have been moved inappropriately, such as when a corrupt worker tries to steal merchandise. As a result, the IIoT may lock a driver out of the vehicle, alert authorities, or even initiate other security protocols, including an electronically controlled door lock.

Although some argue the Industrial Internet of Things and IoT, in general, will invade privacy and reduce employee satisfaction, it serves as a means of increasing 3PL provider efficiency by reducing human error and extraneous factors. Whether it’s avoiding poor weather conditions, determining alternative routes, or increasing company responsiveness to problems, the Industrial Internet of Things will make the world a happier, safer place. Today, we track things. Tomorrow, we rest while the IIoT maximizes vertical integration of systems and prevents problems before they occur.

How do you think the Industrial Internet of Things will change the supply chain and logistics as well as the services provided by 3PLs? Let us know in the comments below!


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