Archives for May 2015

Internet of Things: A real-world example

By Susan Lacefield | May 28, 2015 | 8:19 AM

It seems that you can’t step outside without tripping over yet another study proclaiming that the Internet of Things is upon us and everything will change.

And while it's fun to think about smart washing machines and pantry shelves that reorder garbage bags for before we run out, the pundits assure us that the biggest transformations will be seen in the business realm. According to Deloitte Consulting’s The Internet of Things really is things, not people, 60 percent of all wireless IoT devices will be bought for and used by enterprises and industries.

But data on how companies are actually using the Internet of Things is harder to suss out.

So it was refreshing when John Kern, senior vice president of supply chain operations for Cisco, offered up a couple of examples of how his company was experimenting with the Internet of Things at the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Summit 2015.

One area where Kern believes it can create breakthroughs is in energy management.

“We don't manage the cost of energy. There’s no way to drive down those costs,” says Kern. “But we do have access to a massive amount of data.”

At one of its plants, Cisco is experimenting with capturing data on energy consumption. Every machine at the plant has technology attached to it that records energy consumption. The company then runs analytics to determine how they can run those machines so they consume less energy. Kern estimates that this analysis could help Cisco reduce its energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent at every one of its factories around the world.

But this is not where the biggest breakthrough lies, says Kern. He imagines a day when Cisco will take that information and use it to inform when the company manufactures. Will it be during peak hours or at night? This will help the company optimize its manufacturing schedule around cost.

It’s easy to think about how this model could also be used in a distribution operation or a transportation operation to figure out when to make deliveries so that it takes less time and less fuel. 

New for you

By David Maloney | May 18, 2015 | 7:00 PM | Categories: Material Handling, Warehousing

I am writing this blog from the Spring meeting of MHI being held in Charlotte, N.C., where today two new industry groups were created to better serve you.

For those not familiar with MHI, it is the largest trade organization serving the material handling industry. That is its traditional role, but MHI has expanded its borders over the past couple of years to extend to all facets of the supply chain. The two new groups owe their incarnation to the realization that the industry has changed and so have the needs of end users who rely on solutions from system providers.

While MHI is the entity that encompasses many disciplines, within the organization are sub-sets known either as Product Groups or Solutions Groups. The Product Groups are composed of member companies that make similar specific technologies, such as automated storage systems, racking, hoists, lifts, and conveyors. Though competitors, they collaborate together within MHI to conduct research into industry trends and customer needs, as well as they provide education and resources to strengthen their portions of the industry as a whole and to independently develop products that better serve the marketplace.

Similarly, Solutions Groups consist of competing solutions providers who cooperate to share knowledge and information, while addressing trends and challenges facing their customers.

The two new Solutions Groups birthed today came from former product groups that had moved beyond their initial scope. Recognizing a need to better serve and interface with end-users, these groups were established to be the “go to” authorities for customers seeking solutions to their problems.

The former Integrated Systems and Controls (ISC) group has now become the Automated Solutions Group (ASG). More than a name change, the new direction of the group is to identify needs through research, educate the industry and end users about automation, and provide solutions that address industry trends.

Similarly the former Supply Chain Execution Systems and Technologies (SCE) group has been shuttered to make room for the Information Systems Solutions Group (ISSG). These folks will focus on educating the industry on software trends and how information systems connect the varied data streams of the supply chain.

Both new industry groups will be conducting industry research and thought leadership in the coming months and both plan educational presentations as both the MHI Fall meeting held in October in Ponte Vedra, Fla. and at Modex in Atlanta next April.

DC Velocity is a member of both of these Solutions Groups. Look for further updates from us on how these two new groups are designed to better serve you.

Tomorrow is today!

By Mitch Mac Donald | May 12, 2015 | 11:33 AM | Categories: Transportation

Being just on the tail end of a long conference season, with 6 conferences and/or trade shows under belt over the past 8 weeks, it can often be tough to identify just one, two or even three high points. There were so many. 

This year, though, things are different. At the invitation of good friend George Prest at MHI.org, aided by his colleague Daniel Stanton, I was honored to take the main stage at ProMat in Chicago for a "fireside chat" with none other than Apple co-founder, and builder of the first Apple personal computer, Steve Wozniak, or as he prefers to be called, simply "The Woz."


He is simply the finest kind of gentlemen. Passionate about his work. Passionate about the education of our nation's children. And, passionate about technology and its future. Yet, a model of humility. Having dinner the evening before with the man who invented THE machine that changed the daily lives of every human (and business) on the planet, was not unlike dining with a good friend of roughly the same age with interests in music, cars (he drives a Tesla), technology, and education. 

A good part of our discussion in front of the 3500-plus logistics executives who gathered for our "chat" the next day dealt with future technological advances. Among the topics was autonomous (i.e. driverless) vehicles. Certainly and important topic in the motor freight sector of logistics where a driver shortage, it seems, has been going on for over 100 years. (Seriously. Need convincing? Click here)

Everyone has heard about the Google Driverless Car, and we all seem to agree that, as far-fetched as it may seem, many of us will live to see the day when driverless cars (and trucks) will be moving down America's roads.

Well, in fact, we'll only have to what until this summer. Just days before the Woz and I took the stage, Tesla & SpaceX founder Elon Musk made a rather stunning announcement. Autonomous versions of his Tesla Model S will be available for sale, and indeed tooling down the road, as early as this summer.

Wow! Tomorrow really is today. The Tesla will not, admittedly, be fully autonomous, but will include enough driverless features that they can rightfully be called the first of its kind to be available to the motoring public. 

Now, just a month later, Musk made potentially even bigger news. Watch this YouTube clip and let me know what you think: https://youtu.be/NvCIhn7_FXI

How do you beat on-the-job stress?

By Martha Spizziri | May 07, 2015 | 2:36 PM

Job satisfaction is high for logistics professionals, according to the results of this year’s salary survey, That’s despite a 5-percent drop in average salary since the previous year. But there are a few areas of the job that could be improved, according to those who responded to our survey. A big one: work-life balance. 

Asked what company management could do to increase their job satisfaction—barring a salary increase—survey respondents offered comments such as:  

  • “Hire enough people so we all don't work 50-60 hours a week.”
  • “Draw the line for acceptable hours and offer comp time for beyond those hours.” 
  • “Flex time.”
  • “Allow us to get help where it is needed to properly get projects finished on time, or at all,” and, more bluntly:
  • “Reduce stress and allow some work-life balance.”

One respondent said management should “[p]rogress into the real world and stop being so ‘old school’ in their culture and approach.”

More vacation time or time off during holidays were also frequent requests. And there were calls for better processes and technology: “Provide the departments the tools to complete the job efficiently,” said one; another survey-taker wished for a “fully configured SAP to avoid repetitive tasks.” Those types of changes have the potential to make for a more manageable workload. 

One respondent summed up the general sentiment particularly well:

I have found that providing a quality-of-life aspect has been key to myself and my staff. People do not want to work 60-80 hours per week and in most businesses I have worked that is the norm.

On the plus side, the logistics sector is adding jobs much faster than is the general economy; hiring is expected to increase by 22 percent over the next 10 years. We can hope that the need to attract talent will encourage employers to create more employee-friendly work environments. But in the meantime, logistics professionals will have to figure out for themselves how to juggle work and home life and avoid getting burnt out.

Have you found ways to reduce stress on the job, or to keep the job from taking over your life? If so, please share them in the comments section below.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.

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