3pl providers IoTIn recent times, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is coming up around the “world wide web” more frequently. For us as an Australian 3PL provider, it is a highly interesting topic, since the Australian logistics market will very likely be drastically impacted by it sooner or later. I came across this very interesting article from Adam Robinson where he takes a look at how the (Industrial) Internet of Things could possibly change tomorrow’s services of 3PL providers.
Read on to learn 4 promising theories of the IoT that could be integrated in the logistics industry and how it could dramatically increase the logistics service level offered by 3PL providers giving many new possibilities for future development.

IoT, IIoT, connected things – what are we actually talking about?

To begin with this topic I first want to clarify, what the “Internet of Things” means. I consider it as the connection of any object – may it be machines, people or anything else – through a network, consistently transferring data. It actually is not a new concept and is basically as old as the idea of the internet itself – connecting objects and transferring information. For the logistics and transportation industry this has already played an important role, but without question there is much more space for new technologies and improvements.

To further highlight the relation of the IoT to manufacturing, logistics and transportation, Robinson uses the term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

I know we keep writing about how 3PL providers are constantly changing the landscape of “classic” logistics and how other processes and technologies keep changing. Is that ever going to end? I believe there is no way back. Change, especially within the last decade, has become an inherent daily companion of our work life – more and faster than in any previous decade or century. Though it can be connected to vagueness and ambiguity, at the same time change, and in particular, technological change, gives us the chance to streamline and speed up processes, increase service levels and find new, profitable solutions to typical, long existing logistics problems. The Internet of Things seems to be the next, logic step within this progression.

4 theories for major future improvements within the 3PL industry through IoT

Robinson explains that in the future IIoT will be a core part of 3PL services. He points out 4 areas, where IIoT have a major impact and will massively improve processes of 3PL providers in the future.

Smart Containers giving realtime data

Smart containers with sensors will improve transportation by giving transparent and accurate data at any time and any position they are. Furthermore they could give information on environmental conditions and if they could imply a possible danger to the goods transported. Spontaneous rerouting via remote access could also be a possibility, ensuring on time delivery of containers in spite of traffic jams or change of plans. Another scenario could be the use of “indestructible” shipping containers, which would exclude any environmental influences and changes of pressure. Either way, 3PL providers in Sydney and Brisbane could improve customer satisfaction by drastically decreasing cargo damages and risk, paving the way for more trust in containerised transportation e.g. in sea freight.

Smart vehicles constantly transferring data on functionality, environmental conditions and optimisations

The second advantage Robinson mentions are smart vehicles of any kind, including trucks, planes, ships and even drones. With the use of IoT vehicle problems that impact their functionality could be consistently and centrally monitored, improving functionality and avoiding breakdowns or system failures that can cause major delays, cargo damages or even loss of cargo. Being able to better track shipping routes, environmental conditions and vehicle functionality and to put those aspects in conjunction will give more information on inefficiencies and space for optimisations.

Increased safety in infrastructure and automised road redirections

The impact of IoT on infrastructure may give the chance to detect erratic behaviour of other drivers or those who have been driving for too long without any break. These bits of information could be sent to other drivers or even local police stations that can then adequately react on the information.

Alternative routes and redirections for shut-down lanes could be setup centrally within no time, ensuring on-time delivery.

Increased security to prevent theft

The increase of security may be another result of well-established IoT. When tracking movements of goods, also unintended movements due to theft will be easily detectable and appropriate actions can be taken. Again, this would improve cargo security and increase trust in any mode of transport.

The given ideas and theories might seem a bit ‘sci-fi’ at this point but the technological changes that have occurred in the last decade are proof of how much can happen in a short period of time. The core goal of 3PL providers is to solve customers’ problems with profound, customised logistics solutions and services, and to create more value. The use of IoT will put many new opportunities in the hands of 3PLs and ultimately free up space to further explore new opportunities.

For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including BrisbaneSydneyMelbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).