A statistic that was recently revealed by Chetan Sharma Consulting highlights just how much IoT is poised to take over life as we know it: American mobile carriers are now adding more IoT connections to their networks than phones. In the second quarter of this year, around 1.4 million cars were connected to cell networks, while the same could be said for just 1.2 million phones and fewer than 900,000 tablets.
Although it’s important to note that the second quarter doesn’t typically see the high phone sales that the holiday season of the fourth quarter tends to inspire, the IoT growth has actually been a long-term trend.
For example, when viewed in isolation AT&T has been adding connected cars faster than smartphones and tablets combined for seven quarters in a row. The firm looks set to hit 10 million car connections in the very near future.
Car Makers Benefit From Connected Cars
In most of these cases, it is not the driver of the car who is initiating the connection. Instead, car makers are rolling the cars out with live cell connections already set up, which can help with tasks like software updates, condition monitoring, and data collection for future improvements. In addition, having cars online could reduce the need for recalls that cost car makers money and inconvenience drivers, who have to bring their cars in for service when a recall arises. The consumers themselves haven’t been as quick to rely on their car’s cell services, mostly because many people have them in their phones already.
Cellular IoT is also cropping up other places. For example, shipping container tracking, fleet management, and smart city uses like connected parking meters and lights are all finding uses for the technology. This phenomenon is not only being seen in our country; Vodafone and China Mobile are just a few of the big operators around the world who have been setting up expansive IoT operational efforts.
We recently spoke with Forrest Burnson, researcher at Software Advice, a site that provides analysis and reviews of warehouse management systems, regarding his latest thoughts on supply chain strategies for SMBs. Read our Q&A with Burnson below and share your thoughts by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.
Q: Why is it so important for SMBs to pay attention to Amazon’s supply chain strategies?
A: Amazon isn’t just a pioneer to be admired—it’s the main competition for practically every retail store in the country. So it’s critical to examine what they do and emulate the “Amazon supply chain model”, including their best practices, when possible.
Q: What competitive edge can smaller retailers get from trying to be more like Amazon?
A: Amazon is notorious for having an extremely frugal corporate culture. It’s quite interesting to read about the various cost-cutting measures they take, and no doubt every business could learn a thing or two from Amazon on how to cut costs. Even small things like using different packing materials or looking for ways to automate simple warehouse tasks can add up over time.
Q: Since your average e-commer realistically can’t keep up with more advanced technology such as drone and same-day delivery, which technologies should these smaller retailers invest in?
A: There are a lot of things Amazon does that nobody can touch them on. So for the average e-commerce retailer, it’s really a question of going back to basics: provide superior customer service and higher quality products. It’s a myth now that Amazon is the cheapest place to shop online; indeed a lot of Prime products are actually inflated in price to make up for the “free” two-day shipping. Figure out where Amazon is overcharging and see if you can compete that way.
Another thing to keep in mind: Have you ever noticed how easy it is to order something off of Amazon? That is very much so intentional. Every time I shop on a smaller e-commerce site, it’s mind-boggling how complicated the ordering process can be. Just doing little things like tweaking your site to be more user-friendly can drive a lot more purchases.
Q: When it’s time to invest in new warehouse management software, what are some tips SMBs should keep in mind?
A: Before selecting a new warehouse management system, do your research on the different options out there. Be sure that the vendors you are considering also serve businesses like yours. For example, a lot of WMS vendors specifically cater to 3PLs and can lack the integrated manufacturing modules that manufacturers who handle their own distribution in-house require. Vet the vendors and get references. Everything in life is negotiable—even contracts for a new warehouse management system.
Datalogic recently announced a new series of MX-E GigE vision processors. These cutting-edge processors get their tremendous computing power and unparalleled flexibility when it comes to applications from their reliance on IMPACT software. Of course, all of this groundbreaking hardware needs to be protected, so they’re housed it in a rugged chassis to make sure they can continue to perform for years to come.
According to Datalogic, the MX-E processors are as much as 25 percent faster than their predecessors, the MX vision family of processors. They also offer camera support to the E100 GigE camera series, which are high-speed CMOS PoE models.
Three Models, Ten Configurations
Three different models of these processors are being produced in order to cater to a broad range of different performance needs. In addition, the choice between two or four ports for GigE cameras and two options for digital I/O mean that a total of ten configurations of the hardware are possible. This means that any industry can create something to meet their needs, whether it’s electronics, food and beverage, or automotive.
A number of accessories are available to complement the processors. I/O cables for the processors are made in lengths that vary from just .75 meters to 15 meters to run from the processor to the terminal block. I/O and power cables I/O boards, and Ethernet cables that connect to the M and E series of cameras are also being offered in varying lengths.
Datalogic’s website claims there will be long-term availability for these products. An external dongle will make SW license management a lot easier. Some of its possible applications include the verification of car parts and components, electronic component and PCB inspection, packaging quality checks, and laser and robot guidance.
Most businesses know that achieving good driver behavior levels is critical, but getting there can be quite a challenge in many cases. One approach that is proving successful for many firms is gamification.
Even though the concept of using game mechanics to get things done on the job might sound a bit too lighthearted, it’s actually a seriously effective way to engage and motivate drivers. In fact, Gartner predicts that gamification across the business world as a whole is on the verge of skyrocketing as more corporations realize its potential for helping them keep employees engaged and reach all of their objectives.
Rewards, Recognition And Competition Can Boost Your Bottom Line
Competition, rewards, and recognition are surprisingly powerful, and the psychology behind the concept is sound. If people have the ability to complete a certain task and are given a trigger to do it, having the motivation that can come from the chance to earn a reward or recognition can make all the difference in the world.
For example, a leaderboard or league table that is published showing drivers’ performances against their peers can help inspire some friendly competition and motivate them to improve. For fleet drivers, this could mean deciding to take a corner more slowly or hitting the brakes less severely.
Several companies are already seeing how well this strategy can pay off. For example, road transportation experts Pentalver and plant hire firm Garic have noted gains of £50,000 by offering drivers a quarterly bonus for hitting certain performance targets. Ventilation specialist EnviroVent has seen a 10 percent fuel consumption drop and savings amounting to £36,000 by issuing driver performance reports that foster competitiveness. Zenith Hygiene Group has found fuel cost savings exceeding £220,000 by using driver league tables. With such measurable gains possible, what are you waiting for?
Check out this week’s Supply Chain roundup below:
- Wondering what to expect with 3D and the 21st Century Supply Chain? WSJ tells us here!
- Could we be entering the golden age of procurement? Click here to find out!
- What could you do with a supply chain that thinks? Check out this article by IBM to see why a thinking supply chain system could be the new frontier!
- HBR tells us how “Fintech” services could help to increase supply chain efficiencies.