The advent and adoption of digitisation, fuelled by developments in the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics and smart factory technology, gives organisations insight into their cost of production, variances, output capacity, warehousing capability and requirements.
International telecommunications company T-Systems South Africa manufacturing and automotive sales and service management head Dereshin Pillay says this particularly applies to logistics.
“A digital production environment creates the predictability organisations need to plan and optimise their logistics accordingly. “This includes loading to deliver on time, the effective leveraging of providers, predictive route analyses and preventive vehicle maintenance.”
He says this assists in streamlining operations and logistics processes for a seamless, efficient and much faster production and delivery rate.
Pillay believes that technology gives organisations a window into multiple data points in the value chain and that, from a human capital perspective, traditional roles will evolve and organisations can reskill their employees to integrate with applied technology.
“For example, a warehouse manager could evolve into a data scientist, leveraging data analytics to streamline and optimise its warehouse functions.”
IoT and Logistics
Pillay says a number of different IoT technologies and devices can facilitate smoother cooperation, coordination and communication in a logistics environment.
“These devices enable the organisation to track, trace and monitor specific products, loads and vehicles. “Temperature control, G-force, humidity, speed and route interruptions can be monitored by a central system and deviations are automatically communicated to responsible teams for proactive response,” he explains.
Pillay points out that updates and in-house communications do not rely on human interaction, as IoT devices automate the process and this translates into better reliability, real-time communication and responses, as well as improved planning. “For example, automatic invoicing can be enabled using location-based IoT devices . . . on arrival of the load at its destination. This creates a more efficient financial process.”
He adds that common issues, such as workplace injuries, can be identified and mitigated using an IoT monitoring system. For example, an IoT monitoring a heavy load while in transit, can send an alert to the receiving party to take care when opening the load, so as to avoid possible injury. The condition monitoring of trucks can, through data analytics, allow for potential issues to be identified, allowing for preventive maintenance and fewer breakdowns.
Pillay tells Engineering News that the company has implemented a logistics solution for a client in Germany where G-force sensitive forklifts are equipped with global positioning system-enabled IoT devices that track not only their condition but also the environment in real time, subsequently ensuring that loads are adjusted to conditions such as wind.
Smart Hub Logistics
T-Systems has been instrumental in pioneering the Smart Hub Logistics (SHL) concept with the creation of Durban’s Smart Port solution, which allows for better insight into sequencing and queuing at the port.
Pillay describes SHL as the convergence and connection of logistics systems to one another in real time, offering full visibility on the monitoring of vehicles, cargo, production lines and other processes using smart devices.
The processes of an intelligent SHL platform entail the integration of information from various logistics functions within the yard of the operations and combine this data with information, such as weather patterns or traffic congestion for the area, he explains. It also integrates disparate systems, telematics devices and traffic information onto one platform and creates clear communication channels among all stakeholders.
“This provides operations managers with real-time information to help them allocate resources and create schedules in the most optimal way. A shipping port, for example, could combine real-time information from truck drivers, haulers and parking-space operators, as well as port road management and vessel-tracking systems. This data could be used to schedule and stagger the flow of trucks entering the port and the loading and offloading of containers; it also facilitates trucks exiting the port.”
Pillay advises industries to ensure that scalable, cloud-based digital platforms, as well as the use of connected sensors, become part of their logistics value chain management and operational systems.
“This will allow for quick globalisation of their operations and breaking into new international markets and finding new routes,” he concludes.