The Industrial Internet of Things: Harness Big Data’s Power

By Tim Kubly, Contributor

For decades, logistics operations have relied on two-way radios, yard checks on foot and spreadsheets to manage the flow of trailers in and out of their facility. These traditional communication methods provide somewhat limited and outdated information but, until recently, they were the best available.

Now, better options exist. Smart controls that can interlock loading dock equipment, from vehicle restraints to levelers and dock doors, are a good example. Not only can they can be programmed to operate exclusively in a safe sequence of operation, they also now provide performance and usage information. When connected to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, these controls can go beyond just collecting significant amounts of data; they can help managers find actionable insights around behavioral safety and productivity gains in both the short- and long-term.

The right investment in IIoT will help facilitate a positive ROI across various operational teams. For example, recently developed paperless software solutions bring an enhanced sense of clarity and order to logistics operations; they also provide an edge, from a yard-management perspective. Both of these are likely to have a positive impact on shipper-of-choice status and internal company culture.

CONNECTING THROUGH IIoT

The events captured by IIoT-enabled smart equipment can help managers uncover potential challenges and proactively identify solutions—driving behavioral and process changes across operations over the long term. These smart dock-management and warehouse-optimization systems can also monitor events in real time and communicate them with managers and personnel alike.

Imagine doors activating, but no one going through; a forklift collision narrowly avoided at a busy intersection; a loading dock siting empty, while a full trailer waits to be unloaded. All of these events can have significant negative impacts on organizational safety, efficiency and productivity. They can now be managed and mitigated much more thoroughly with IIoT systems.

Loading docks with IIoT capabilities can give facilities a more detailed and advanced look at what’s happening during logistics operations. Some IIoT platforms go so far as to provide instant alerts through text or email. The most insightful logistics management software provides managers with an intuitive loading dock dashboard and strong visualization tools that allow them to review current trends and historical data. By reviewing the diagnostic analytics, end-users are able to make data-driven decisions to impact business. This ensures that worksite analysis and resulting behavioral-based safety practices strategies are transparent, relevant and effective.

BENEFITS: SHIPPER-OF-CHOICE & EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION

The business-carrier relationship can also improve with an advanced dock-management software system. One of the biggest benefits is reduced waiting time for carriers. Using this system, carriers have the option to skip long lines and check themselves in.

Additionally, the integrated software can send drivers text updates on their load status, so they (and their home office) will have a more accurate idea of when they can move on to their next assignment. Perhaps most importantly, by allowing logistics and yard personnel to seamlessly communicate in real-time, this system typically reduces the average turn time for trailers—and with it, detention and demurrage costs.

Connecting through advanced dock-management software also simplifies scheduling by funneling all appointments and updated schedules through one central location. This process virtually eliminates the need for multiple spreadsheets or excessive paperwork—improving worker productivity and simultaneously cutting down on errors that can happen with numerous spreadsheets and logbooks being passed across multiple operational teams.

IMPROVING SAFETY

IIoT is particularly useful for tracking potentially unsafe events, which provides safety leaders the data necessary to make improvements that help reduce risky behaviors.

For example, a connected smart dock can identify, record and send alerts if a trailer restraint becomes unlocked when an employee is still in the trailer at the dock; if an employee attempts to operate the leveler without engaging the restraint; if a dock door is left open with no barrier across it; or if there is forklift or pedestrian activity in an unsecured trailer. Conversely, the motion sensor-based light communications system also prevents the vehicle restraint from being unlocked when activity is detected inside the trailer. It also emits a blue light on the leveler outside of the trailer during that time. When connected with the right IIoT platform, this unsafe event will be logged, and a safety manager can consider corrective action if it is part of a behavior trend.

STREAMLINE LOGISTICS OPERATIONS

Facilities that have invested in IIoT are realizing the benefits. Productivity can be improved without the hassle of two-way radios, multiple spreadsheets and logbooks. Safety can be enhanced with real-time communication and interlocking smart equipment. From a longer-term perspective, it allows decision-makers to analyze trends, correlate them with historical data, identify opportunities and, ultimately, implement continuous improvement and behavior modification programs.

These data-informed initiatives can enhance energy efficiency, work-flow, process and maintenance programs, as well as safety—all of which impact an organization’s bottom line. Now is the time to recognize the positive impact dock management software and IIoT can have across the breadth of logistics operations—and to invest in this cutting-edge technology. WMHS

[The information herein is provided as a general reference regarding the use of the applicable product(s) in specific applications. This information is provided without warranty. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are using all mentioned products properly in your specific application and in accordance with all laws and regulations.]

About the Author:

Tim Kubly is the business development manager for Rite-Hite Digital Solutions.