One of the more obvious applications of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors and smart devices in the supply chain is being able to track shipments en route. But IIoT in the transportation end of things, particularly as it applies to shipments via truck, is much more than knowing where your goods are at any given time.
Vehicles and equipment of all kinds are increasingly being configured with sensors to monitor performance and usage. The data they collect and pass along in near real-time enables predictive and proactive maintenance, improved performance, more efficient operation, reduced breakdowns, and increased longevity of expensive equipment.
Additional sensors and tracking deliver benefits in three general areas: vehicle safety and efficiency; goods and delivery monitoring; and benefits for other stakeholders.
Safety and Efficiency
Just as today’s passenger cars come equipped with elements of what will become self-driving systems in the near future, so too are big rigs increasingly benefiting from lane keeping assistance and lane departure alerts, automatic braking that can reduce or even prevent damage from collisions, video monitoring systems that help the driver by eliminating blind spots, stability and skid avoidance systems to add control, and roll stability systems to help prevent roll-overs, to name a few.
Vehicle information can be combined with external data to direct drivers to the most convenient fueling stations at the optimum time considering fuel usage, remaining supply, and price at specific locations in conjunction with required rest periods or vehicle service requirements. Drivers may not be enthusiastic about it but vehicles monitoring systems can track vehicle speed, acceleration and deceleration patterns, abrupt stops and the like to determine how efficiently an asset is being utilized and offer an opportunity to counsel drivers to help improve their technique and decision making.
Of course logisticians are interested in knowing exactly where a shipment is at a given point in time so they can accurately project delivery time. With this information, recipients can more effectively schedule dock usage, material handlers, and even production schedules and customer deliveries that may be waiting for the goods to arrive. Some companies are even able to re-route shipments with items that may be more needed at a location other than the one originally intended. In a time-critical market with rapidly changing demand (think fashion items or certain medical supplies) a truck could be dispatched from a factory in Cleveland, for example, heading for the West Coast and get specific routing and delivery information from headquarters only after it has crossed the Rocky Mountains. Order to delivery lead time can be cut in half or better.
Some cargo requires careful monitoring of temperature or other factors to comply with safety and security regulations – cold chain, proof of custody – for goods such as food, beverages, or pharmaceuticals. Environmental data from with the truck, container, pallet, case pack and/or individual item can be combined with the location tracking and other IIoT data to provide highly detailed documentation to comply with these requirements and also support product development and packaging engineering efforts for improved product quality.
As more vehicles gather and share their data with urban planners, civil engineers, municipal officials, infrastructure planners and safety departments, there will be greater opportunities to build efficiency into roadway designs, locations for services, better traffic control systems, and more. And all of this documentation will help designers make tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles safer, greener, and more efficient.