IoT in Supply Chain: Start With Defining Your Problem

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), the hardest thing for many companies is knowing where and how to begin, especially with so much buzz and hype swirling around in the market. What should the first step be?

“As with any project, start with defining your problem,” advised Kristi Montgomery, VP of Kenco Innovation Labs, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics. “What pain point do you have? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Where are you sub-optimized that you think the Internet of Things can potentially help you? Define the gaps in your process today [relative to] where you need to go and look to see if IoT is the right solution…Make sure your problem is something IoT will solve.”

Montgomery also shared what she considers to be the biggest mistake companies can make going into an IoT initiative:

“I’ve seen a lot of colleagues take a look at new technology like this and see the flashy, the ‘Wow!’ factor, the cool and present it to their leadership team and show how these really neat dashboards are going to provide all of this information at your fingertips, which is awesome, but then when they deliver the product, the information is not really valuable when it comes to [delivering business benefits]…I’ve seen some colleagues actually lose their jobs over presenting the ‘Wow!’ factor and never getting to what is this [technology] going to deliver to the bottom line at the end of the day.”

So, where are companies finding the biggest opportunities for benefits, especially in logistics? Watch the short clip below where Montgomery discusses a hypothetical example involving the use of robots in the warehouse:

Simply put, IoT presents opportunities to reduce waste, automate tasks, and fulfill warehouse processes faster by getting information faster.

Internet of Things is a focus area for Kenco Innovation Labs, and in the clip below Montgomery shares some of the work they’re doing in IoT, including a project testing Bluetooth tagging technology as an alternative to RFID and another project testing the use of augmented reality in the warehouse using Microsoft HoloLens devices.

So, what steps should companies take to ensure a smooth path to IoT success? Montgomery offered several recommendations, including this:

It’s very important to get everybody on board. Change management and communication is so critical in any project you do, but particularly when you think about a technology solution. As you can imagine, when you bring a robot onto the warehouse floor, your warehouse associates can start to get very threatened and feel very concerned about their jobs, and so starting at the beginning with communication around what, how, and why you’re doing [this project] and how it’s going to give them a better opportunity to do more complex thinking and functioning is enormously important to the success of your project. Don’t forget the human resources and their potential to either torpedo or bring value to your IoT project.

I encourage you to watch the rest of my conversation with Kristi for additional insights and advice on this topic, including how technology providers and third-party logistics (3PL) partners can help companies plan and execute their IoT initiatives. Then post a question or comment and share your perspective on how to make the Internet of Things work in supply chain!

Watch the full episode: