IoT - An Investment in Your Future

In all likelihood, you’re at least familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things. But for most of us, the IoT remains just that – a concept. Or is it really?

The fact of the matter is you probably already collect more data than you can effectively turn into actionable tasks. It seems to be the way of the world.

So, if you collect lots of data, then you have at least a partial IoT backbone. Obviously, the data is coming from somewhere. Maybe your conveyor induction points. Or from the packaging department as it ships orders. If you have a Perfect Pick or Sure Sort in place, there’s certainly data coming from them. You may not call any of that an IoT, but it is.

At its core, any facility’s IoT is a collection of sensors and other data collection devices tied together usually through the cloud into a network that feeds data to a central location for analysis and action later. That later could be as soon as a second from now. It could be as long as the next quarter and beyond.

There are plenty of options for building an IoT including branded networks that you can buy from several suppliers. That takes care of the first half of the equation – the data collection phase. But what about the second, more important, aspect – what do you do with the data itself?

Now you actually have to deal with all that data. You are truly at a crossroads. No joke. You could decide to ignore it, partially or completely, as you have been. But, really? Certainly, you can do better than that.

You see, data is not a collectible like some Marvel movie action figure. IoT data is not for admiring. It’s for improving your operations in whatever way you deem valuable. But that requires analysis, determination of desired actionable tasks and real changes in how you operate. And that requires expertise, staffing and processes just to get started. 

In other words, an effective IoT is an important investment. And not just in cap ex. It’s an investment in people. It’s an investment in how you operate going forward. Do it right and your return on investment will be highly favorable. Not to mention making you more competitive than ever.

Every nextgen supply chain technology, and IoT is certainly one of those, requires a culture of change. An IoT and its data take the place of Joe’s gut feel. That’s a huge shift for most any operation, not to mention the people there. It’s true even if metrics are important in how you operate. This shift is tough. But it’s also worth it.

It is not a stretch to look at an IoT in your facility as the new electricity. As you may know, there were many business owners who decided more than a hundred years ago to go slow with electricity. Most of them lost out in fairly short order. While it’s too early to make such a definitive statement about IoT, it is your bet to make.

Gary Forger is the former editor of Modern Materials Handling magazine and the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap to 2030. 

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