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A few days ago we talked about how the Internet of Things could be of help in healthcare, saving lives in the process. Now, with Christmas behind us and a whole new year in front of us, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to talk about IoT in logistics. It’s the place where our beloved gifts and packages come from after all.

We understand that logistics is broader than what goes down in warehouses of big companies alone. But due to the immensity of this subject, we will only cover warehouse operations. The way in which IoT influences the journey of packages to the end-user, will be covered another time.

1. Smart inventory management

Even now, The Internet of Things is being used in warehouses all over the world. IoT devices like low-cost, microscopic identification devices enable smart inventory management from the moment a product enters the warehouse. These devices transmit data like dimensions, volume and possible damage of the product to the warehouse management system or WMS for processing.

IoT devices also transmit signals to the WMS about the whereabouts, misplacement and condition of each and every product in the warehouse. With this information it’s a piece of cake to keep everything organised and prevent items from going out of stock. When items leave the warehouse for delivery, an extra scan from these IoT devices ensure that the right items are bound for the right destination. The WMS is then automatically warned of an update in stock levels.

2. Optimal asset utilisation

Apart from inventory management, IoT can also be of use when it comes to optimising your asset utilisation. Through IoT, all your machinery and vehicles can be connected to a central system, allowing you to monitor them in real time. This central system gives insights in whether a certain machine is over or under-utilised, if it’s beneficial to use it somewhere else and even when it’s in dire need of maintenance.

And it goes even further. Innovations like Swisslog’s SmartLIFT technology are able to create an indoor GPS system. This IoT driven system provides the forklift drivers very useful information about the location of every product in the warehouse and how to get there as fast and safely as possible. This results in an increase of productivity and a decrease in accidents on the workfloor.

3. Safety improvements

Those who remember reading our article about 5 ways IoT will change the way we work will know that IoT can drastically improve safety on the workfloor. This is definitely the case in logistics. Each year there are countless accidents with machinery like forklifts, most of the time resulting in serious injuries or even death.

But this can all be prevented with the help of IoT. Connecting sensors, radars and cameras through IoT, forklifts will be able to communicate with one another. They will be able to foresee and prevent collisions with other forklifts or pedestrians. For example, when they detect movement when nearing an intersection, they will automatically reduce their speed.

These sensors and other IoT driven tech we’re speaking of, are also able to detect imperfect storage (which can result in products falling from a shelf) and cases of overloading. It’s clear that prevention and foresight are key in keeping the work environment safe. Something that IoT is able to provide. It ensures we can go home unharmed after a hard day’s work.