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The Keys to Successful Implementation of IoT in Supply Chain

By Contributing Author | 03/16/2018 | 6:26 AM

 

By, Kristi Montgomery, VP of Innovation, Kenco Logistics.

Part III of III

IoT; a trendy buzzword, yet a very real presence that is set to disrupt all industries, including the supply chain. The benefits it has to offer complex industries in which data is indispensable and tracking is increasingly paramount are undeniable (see part one of this blog series The Future of IoT in the Supply Chain: It’s Complicated). However, as with all new technologies, the future of its implementation is precarious. In the previous blog post, Roadblocks for IoT Implementation, you learned that for every benefit IoT has to offer, there is a barrier or two (or three) standing in its way. You now know both sides of the IoT barrage and you have the pros and cons to weigh on each side of the scale. But what will you do with that information?

 

The last post of this series will break down that information into actionable insights providing an IoT adoption strategy and the keys to successful implementation of this novel and revolutionary network.

The Keys to IoT Implementation:

A Thoughtful Approach

The rollout of IoT technologies will have widespread impact and could require structural reorganization. It is a decision that carries significant weight, affecting many parts of your organization from budget, to management, and IT to the warehouse floor. With such a heavy lift, it is critical that your choice to implement is aligned with your company’s strategy. Refer to the major objectives of your organization and ensure that they are at the core of all decisions. If part of your organization’s objective is to be at the forefront of smart technological adoption, then IoT is an intelligent opportunity for you.

However, IoT is not something to adopt simply to stay ahead of the curve, or to jump on the latest trend. You don’t want to build a solution in search of a problem, and you certainly don’t want to reinvent the wheel only to see it fall flat. Consider the challenges you are hoping to address and ensure that the technology will achieve what you’ve set out to solve. This task may require external resources to help you complete and maintain.

With such new and complex technology, you and your employees may not be equipped to adopt it without outside expertise and guidance. It’s important to analyze the core strengths of your organization and understand where you will need help to obtain clear and positive results.

A Strategic Execution

Approaching the idea of IoT is the tip of the iceberg, but the magnitude of the task is revealed with execution and implementation. Meticulous examination of all elements that IoT involves and affects in your organization is pertinent to its eventual success. A strategy for this process is not one-size fits all, however, the below outlines key elements and considerations to keep in mind for your specific execution plan. Even if in your thoughtful approach you felt certain that the IoT technology you hope to adopt will be a wise and worthwhile investment, continue your deliberations.

Choosing a Vendor:

Understand that there will be numerous companies and vendors vying for your business – and that some vendors are more credible than others. One way to ensure you’ve chosen a dependable vendor is to look for references. Even more important is to contact those references and discuss the successes (or lack there-of) that they’ve seen since onboarding that particular partner.

Maybe your analysis for adopting IoT into your business model was not entirely conclusive, and you are simply looking to dip your toes in the IoT waters. You may want to consider engaging with a start up for a paid pilot. This is a fantastic way to prove the concept in an inexpensive manner and potentially play a role in shaping the future of the product line.

Getting the Desired Data:

If you’ve gotten this far in the process, then it’s likely that one of your biggest draws to the IoT product is its capability to collect or produce critical big data. These metrics are undeniably valuable, but any product can promise results. What you must consider is the type of data you will need to extract from the device. Push the vendor to explain and ensure exactly the kind of information you can expect to receive from the product and be certain that the way the data is presented will be easily translated into actionable insights.

Realizing Bandwidth and Resources

As discussed in the previous blog, one of the great challenges that IoT products often present is the requirement for additional resources post-implementation. It is essential to know exactly the power and the bandwidth that the product will require from both your facilities and your workforce. From an infrastructure perspective, you must be adequately prepared to handle the new devices. Do you have the capacity to store all the data from “always-on” devices? Will massive influxes of numbers overload your systems? The last thing you want is a failed project due to resource constraints or staff unequipped to handle the needs of the new technology.

Centralizing Communication

Another major issue addressed in the previous article is compatibility. Will the smart devices connect seamlessly with your current platform? Even if you have the manpower and the resources needed to execute IoT technology, you will still require a centralized communication platform to handle the inevitable maintenance and problem-solving situations that arise out of its deployment. It is wise to select a singular outlet, preferably cloud-based, to create more controlled and secure communications when implementing the technology.

Adaptability

The most successful organizations are open to the latest in tech and welcome change to their business systems. Waiting to see what your competitors do is dangerous — you don’t want to be seen as Blockbuster when Netflix starts gaining ground. So, if you’re open to adopting such revolutionary technology as IoT then you are halfway there. But, you also must acknowledge that these devices will require frequent updates to remain relevant. You must be able to adapt with the technology and change with the times. Flexibility with the system and openness to software improvements will be the principles to live by, and having a back-up plan will be a golden rule. The biggest precarity involved with IoT is its complete reliance on internet connectivity. If IoT tech is even an idea for your organization, you absolutely must have a plan for what to do when the internet goes out.

My Recommendation:

If you and your organization have considered all of the above (and likely some more), and you have conducted thorough research and weighed all your options; if you have the necessary manpower and resources; and you are prepared to invest, restructure, and change, then choose your product wisely from a trusted vendor. Once you have chosen your product and worked through the keys to success, then proceed cautiously and continue to iterate as you go.

The adoption process will be the beginning of a journey and you’ll adapt throughout. It’s important to remain open to modern ways of analyzing data and using data as you may be surprised at what can be gleaned and how it can be used to enhance your business model. Learn to recognize patterns, correlate what seems to be disparate data, and, as you continue learning from the data you gain as well as from others in the supply chain make sure you’re sharing the information with peers. Collaboration truly breeds innovation across industries and it starts with each of us.

 

KristiMontgomery

Kristi Montgomery, Vice President of Innovation, Kenco Logistics

Promoting transformational change in supply chain through delivery of innovation for customer-centric solutions

Like you, Kristi knows that innovation cannot just be a buzzword.  She is a dynamic explorer of strategic innovation that drives revolutionary change.  With 27 years of logistics and supply chain experience, she leads a dedicated team of specialists in Kenco Innovation Labs who identify, research, and prototype creative ideas with the potential to impact the supply chain. Collaborating with customers, entrepreneurs, and vendors from multiple industries enables Kenco to think “inside” the supply chain box and create unique, customer-driven solutions.  As the senior innovation officer, recognizing that no single approach works for every customer, Kristi leads research and development utilizing design thinking and open innovation to deliver business value for the 200+ customers that Kenco serves in North America.  Kristi is passionate about the relentless pursuit of innovation as an enabler of business growth and driver of strategic advantage. Executing on the innovation promise compels her to be a transformational agent of change.

Kristi received her BS in Organizational Management from Covenant College She is a certified Specialist in Design Thinking and Innovation as awarded by the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.  She also received her Certified Information Executive designation from the Institute of CIO Excellence at the University of South Carolina.

Kristi serves on the Board of Directors for ChaTech, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of technology and STEM education, is the Co-Chairman of the International Warehouse and Logistics Association Education Committee, and serves the industry speaking, participating as a panelist, and publishing articles promoting supply chain innovation.

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Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.



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