Martina Hammer


On the road with IoT

No matter what industry you look at, the challenges are almost always the same: a shortage of qualified workers, rising energy costs, and a lack of transparency due to distributed production. Logistics companies, too, are facing these challenges, and the digital transformation is the key to tackling them and enhancing efficiency even further.

On the road with IoT

If you want to map your logistics processes digitally, you need to be able to talk to pallets and containers.

As the oil in the cogwheels of globalization, logistics is part of the solution. Falling transport costs are making distributed production even more attractive, and just-in-time deliveries are increasingly dematerializing the world’s warehouses. But if you want to digitize your logistics processes, you need to be able to communicate with pallets and containers. It’s all about telecommunications or, more precisely, about things talking to other things or to computers. In other words: the Internet of Things or IoT for short. The IoT enables goods and products to let us know where they are and “how they’re going.” It opens up entirely new opportunities for digitalizing the logistics industry.   

Shortage of qualified workers

The demographic trend in the industrialized world shows where the rest of the world is headed as well. The good news is that the global population will level off at around 11 billion by 2100. But the bad news is that the population is aging faster – the population pyramid has been turned on its head worldwide. In the United States, the unemployment rate is now lower than at any time in the last 50 years. In Germany, over 70 percent of logistics companies have to contend with a shortage of skilled workers – and some 50,000 positions remain unfilled.  

Digital solutions can take on certain tasks for workers or help them perform their jobs faster.

Savings up to 30 percent

A digital key, for example, can reduce the number of workers needed to man gates and watch over warehouses. The Mobile Identity & Access solution means it is no longer necessary to fetch and return an actual key. And a digital key cannot be lost. According to experts, savings of up to six percent in operating costs are possible.

With Digital Label & Goods Tracking, logistics enterprises can reduce their business process costs by up to 30 percent. An electronic display and GPS module replace reams of paper and help avoid errors: freight documents no longer need to be changed, printed out, signed, and stuck onto containers. Digital freight documents mean that only the documents needed at a particular moment are displayed on the device. Workers can even sign them off directly on screen. What is more, those involved in the logistics process can access the documents in the cloud, enabling them to ascertain quickly whether and where there are any hold-ups in the delivery process.

Rising energy costs

Climate change is a man-made phenomenon. Almost one-third of greenhouse gases are produced by the burning of fossil fuels to power our means of transport. Governments are going to make carbon emissions more expensive. Until new drive concepts come into their own, digitalization can help contain costs.

For example, optimizing the routes traveled by trucks can achieve fuel savings of up to 40 percent – not only lowering costs, but also helping the environment. Customers are setting ever tighter time frames for the delivery of goods and products. A delay of just ten minutes can result in a truck not be unloaded until the next day. If you want to plan the optimal route for your semi, you need to be able to monitor traffic volumes – in real time if possible – and adapt the route accordingly.  

Lack of transparency due to distributed production

Big differences in wages, low transportation costs, and growing connectivity worldwide are eroding vertical integration. In the German manufacturing industry, vertical integration levels have declined to just under 40 percent and around 30 percent in the German automotive industry. That means external suppliers contribute up to 7,000 of the some 10,000 components it takes to make a car. Warehousing is now largely a thing of the past. Logistics has become a critical part of the production process. One small bottleneck can bring production to a halt and cost a company millions. ITC solutions give logistics experts the transparency they need for just-in-time delivery.

The process begins with manufacturing and production. A 5G-based closed wireless network delivers high bandwidths, fast response times, and optimal availability. It is also highly secure.

Telematics units with GPS modules – like the Shipment & Asset Monitoring powered by Roambee solution – communicate the exact position of containers. As there are no cell towers on the high seas, other information sources are used, such as weather service data and information on the ships plying the Suez and Panama Canals. Information like this is available on data marketplaces like the Data Intelligence Hub. Taken together, all this data allows valid forecasts of when a container will arrive at a transshipment point. That cuts waiting times and enhances planning certainty in the field of Transportation logistics. It also saves time – as much as 30 percent.

Accurate to one meter

In the intralogistics sector, ultra-wideband technology makes positioning even more accurate. It is exact to the meter and functions equally well indoors and out. Workers can locate goods more quickly and achieve time savings of as much as eight percent. In addition, the system automatically records how long the goods spend in the warehouse. But digital solutions like the Low Cost Tracker can also help to record damage quickly. Was the paint stored at too low a temperature, for example? Did the pallet carrying the displays tip over? Connected sensors sound the alarm. As a result, neither the paint nor the displays move to the next processing step, meaning the defective products don’t have to be recalled or taken out of circulation farther down the line. The result is up to 70 percent fewer rejects and losses.   

Digitalization also opens up entirely new opportunities for deliveries. In the future, for instance, craftspeople will no longer have to pick up their building materials at the start of the working day. Wholesalers will deliver guttering, for example, straight to the craftsman’s van during the night. In-car delivery solutions make this possible using a one-time digital car key. This can save craftspeople an average of 60 minutes every day, enabling them to serve more customers and increase their revenues by around 10 percent.