We’re more connected now than we ever have been before, and I’m not just talking about social media. The Internet of Things(IoT)—where everything from lightbulbs and doors are connected to the Internet and can be controlled remotely—has provided an explosion of options for businesses to optimize, and those options get better, more techy, and more complex each day.
A recent report from Cisco detailed that by 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. However, only 17 percent of those devices will be computers. This is further supported by the knowledge that the logistics and supply chain industries will most likely be the most important IoT fields, making a potential investment of $2 trillion into IoT.
Companies in many different markets now know that to avoid the IoT is to predict your own downfall, but moving your operations to the IoT is anything but seamless. No industry knows this better than supply chain.
Five Things To Consider When Moving to the IoT
- Most people envision a factory floor covered in shiny, flawless machines that are working in perfect harmony. Each device can monitor and track its work, and better yet, each device can act autonomously. But if even one small chink of the big chain is off, the precarious system could create a dangerous work environment.
- Since every tiny bit of this chain must work, standardized equipment across the board is necessary. However there is to date no common standard in the industry, meaning your devices that are supposed to talk to each other may not be able to do so in the same language.
- The rapid ascension of the IoT has created a skills gap that might leave your current workers scratching their heads at the new technology. Not all manufacturers are data experts, and valuable data collected could be going unused because it is not being analyzed correctly or at all.
- The bigger the supply chain, the more risky it is. This is because there are several scenarios—a big storm cutting off power, a truck driving through a valley—where 100 percent connectivity all the time is not possible. And losing connection is not an option.
- For things to truly work at a level suitable for IoT, the fragmented supply chain industry is going to have to become a lot more connected. Countless suppliers work at all different speeds and standards, meaning processes could be a bit of a mess.
Just because it’s going to be a difficult, and probably longer than anticipated process, doesn’t mean that successfully shifting to the IoT is impossible. Companies like GE, Whirlpool, and General Motors have done so or are in the process of moving their supply chains to the IoT, and many startups and smaller companies are using the technology from the get-go. The trend can be profitable and is popular, if done correctly, keeping the things listed above in mind.