Experts say ‘IoT’ will alter the freight transportation landscape in myriad ways

Experts agree that there are thousands of potential uses for the “Internet of Things” (IoT) line of innovative thinking that enterprises will be connecting assets and leveraging predictive analytics and advanced intelligence as part of digital transformation in freight transport.

By ·

Bananas ripening perfectly in a truck trailer outfitted with sensors controlling the ripening gases that turn the fruit that rich canary yellow color that appeals most to consumers.

That is one of thousands of potential uses for the “Internet of Things” (IoT) line of innovative thinking that enterprises will be connecting assets and leveraging predictive analytics and advanced intelligence as part of digital transformation in freight transport.

And most importantly, what is the realized value?

“Ten years from now do you want to be that guy with obsolete equipment?” asked Ralph Rio, vice president of Enterprise Software of ARC Advisory, a leading technology research firm for industry and infrastructure.

Rio spoke at the Software AG Innovation Tour 2017 conference in Washington, where these technologies were examined as ways to leverage and digitalize industries, including freight transportation.

There are at least three technologies occurring simultaneously, he said. One is mobility in the cloud technology, Big Data and analytics and the IoT smart machines, Rio said.

Industrial IoT is expected to drive business value in factories, plants, facilities and trucks and trains, Rio predicted.  It will take information from facilities and provide efficiencies that help eliminate unplanned downtime to factories and refineries and improved reliability, he said.

But how will it play in transport? Is it reimagining the products manufacturers sell and driving usage-based business models? Is it monitoring the production line that is driving improved machine reliability and product quality? Or is it streamlining the supply chain that keeps factories running smoothly with reduced inventory? For many IoT plays a role in all of these examples.

Data quality improves because of it is electronically gathered, as opposed to manually. That helps eliminate unplanned downtime, which can cost up $31,000 an hour in a paper plant or $43,000 an hour in an automotive panel stamping plant.

Predictive maintenance can be improved with platforms that develop applications with services and utilities that are more accurate and sustainable. “It’s a much lower cost for predictive maintenance,” Rio said.

Some 82 percent of all assets have a random failure pattern, he said. That probability of failure can be reduced through increased IoT examination of these patterns to better do preventative maintenance in trucks, railroad cars and other transport assets, he said.

Before IOT there were three strategies for maintenance—reactive, preventative and condition based. With IoT, “prescriptive” and “predictive” maintenance can be scheduled based on specific equipment algorithms and modeling.

“The only way to successfully reduce unplanned downtime is with IoT and analytics,” Rio said. “That is the driver today.”

Some old-line transportation companies are in the midst of transforming themselves from heavy duty equipment companies to essentially software companies, Rio said.

Software has become a key competitive advantage for many products today. A $50,000 Cummins diesel engine that typically powers a Class 8 heavy truck today uses an intelligent and connected engine computer module. Now fleets are getting real-time operating data from the highway to better monitor operations in an example of the digital transformation under way in transport today.

“Having a viable IoT strategy is absolutely vital today for many old line equipment suppliers,” Rio said.

That will all help transportation companies reduce the number of maintenance personnel. The IoT also will help scheduled maintenance on a smarter schedule based on the proactively predictable failures in engines and other components. It will also lead to longer engine and asset lives, Rio predicted.

Companies with similar assets, such as trucking fleets and other transport operators, will be in a particularly strong position to use predictive analytics algorithms to better avoid costly repairs and delays due to equipment failures,  he added.

Amit Gupta, senior vice president of manufacturing and high tech at HCL, a $7.3 billion technical consulting and IT solutions company, said digital supply chains are already using analytics to drive efficiencies in manufacturing industries.

That is causing a “blurring of lines” between manufacturers, suppliers and partners and customers. The digital supply chain that is driving 21st Century manufacturing is experience driven, ecosystem driven and service oriented around the end customer, Gupta said.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, owned by Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett, is an example of a transport company undergoing a digital modernization using digital architecture and e-platform, Gupta said.

If the IoT craze proves as essential as its backers claim, the BNSF will not be alone among transports jumping on the bandwagon.

About the Author

John D. Schulz
John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. John is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

IoT · Supply Chain Technology · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Face security threats head-on. Protect data beyond perimeter.
Traditional Data Loss Protection (DLP) solutions present a number of serious shortcomings and challenges for companies deploying them, creating a clear gap in the market.
Download Today!
From the January 2018 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
Industry experts agree that costs across all sectors worldwide will continue to rise in 2018, and the most successful shippers will be those that are able to mitigate their impact on profitability. And, the right technology will play an increasingly vital role in driving efficiencies across the global logistics network.
The Future of Retail Distribution
Navigating the Reverse Supply Chain for Connected Devices
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Securing IoT data across the connected supply chain
Learn why a holistic approach to IAM is the most effective way to govern access to your systems and information requested by your partners, vendors, customers, and connected devices.
Register Today!
State of Global Logistics: Delivering above and beyond
Industry experts agree that costs across all sectors worldwide will continue to rise in 2018, and...
2018 Rate Outlook: Economic Expansion, Pushing Rates Skyward
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued...

Building the NextGen Supply Chain: Keeping pace with the digital economy
Peerless Media’s 2017 Virtual Summit shows how creating a data-rich ecosystem can eliminate...
2017 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year: Mallinckrodt; Mastering and managing complexity
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships...