09 April 2018
Overcoming the Limitations of RFID with New IoT-Powered Smart Logistics
Global manufacturing company uses smart logistics tracking to reduce infrastructure barriers and create a lean, spare parts supply chain.
Let’s face it: as far as logistics and transportation is concerned, RFID technology may have finally run its course.
In our increasingly complex, global world, it’s more difficult than ever to track and manage mobile goods. And yet, the logistics and transportation industry has essentially relied on the same tracking technology for the past seventy years.
RFID technology has served the industry well, but it has its limitations. To begin with, RFID tags provide only a limited amount of information. Gathering that information requires a great deal of manpower and leaves considerable room for human error. Combine these shortcomings with the fact that few third-party suppliers and logistics companies located in developing nations are equipped with RFID technology, and it easy to see why today’s global economy needs a better solution for tracking mobile assets.
One major manufacturing company—frustrated with the limits on RFID infrastructure in developing nations, and struggling with a way to track their assets as they crisscrossed the globe—turned to the Internet of Things (IoT) for a solution. Thanks to IoT-powered smart logistics tracking, the company now has a complete picture of its spare parts supply chain, no matter where in the world those parts travel.
Global Transportation Company Looks Beyond RFID Technology to Solve Its Supply Chain Challenges
Here is an actual scenario from the field: A global company manufactures vehicles at locations across the globe. On any given day, it’s components, equipment and spare parts can be found traveling by road, rail, air and boat to and from every nation on the planet.
With so many moving pieces, it’s difficult for the company’s logistics personnel to gain a complete picture of their supply chain. Consider the company’s spare parts stock. If a boat carrying a critical shipment of parts is delayed by a storm, this delay will indirectly affect not just the production point to which the parts are traveling, but also every point further along the supply chain. The same is true if a truck carrying cargo gets misrouted or a train breaks down mid-route. A logistics manager can spend his entire day on phone and email, trying to track down late or missing assets, and he will still never be able to keep up.
Additionally, logistics personnel at the company struggle with the virtual “black hole” in their LIS caused by suppliers and partners that aren’t equipped with RFID technology. If it wants a supplier in a developing nation to implement RFID tracking, the global manufacturing company must often foot the bill to develop the necessary infrastructure.
There has to be a better way for the company to track its spare parts and create an effective, lean supply chain.
Smart Logistics Solutions Increase Visibility of Spare Parts Supply Chain
As it turns out, smart logistics tracking—which represent the latest in IoT technology—is just the solution this global manufacturing company needed to shore up their logistics network. They recently deployed the solution across their spare parts network.
Smart logistics employs battery-powered tracking devices that are securely mounted onto any container, truck or wagon carrying goods. Once mounted, the devices collect real-time information about the exact location of those goods at any point along the supply chain and securely transmit that information through Sigfox’s global IoT network. The information can be aggregated on a customized app platform or connected directly to a company’s existing Logistics Information System.
Unlike most first-generation smart devices, objects that connect to the Sigfox network don’t rely on WiFi or 4G, so connectivity is never an issue, regardless of where an asset travels. Each device is plug and play, so no pairing or infrastructure is required and devices can be transferred as needed from one asset to another. A device takes less than five minutes to install, and once in place, runs for between 3-5 years on the same battery. Assets are logged and tracked automatically, effectively reducing manpower and streamlining operations.
But the biggest payoff comes from the visibility these devices afford. The company can now pinpoint any asset, at any time, on a global scale. This is achieved both through a “control tower” dashboard and through customized alerts. If a train carrying components gets delayed, the platform issues an alert and provides a new estimated arrival time. Likewise, an alert is issued if a truck truck travels away from a predetermined route, or if a crate gets loaded incorrectly at port and begins traveling in the wrong direction.