Mobile IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Jason Bloomberg, James Carlini, Mauro Carniel, Rostyslav Demush

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

M2M for Supply-Chain Management

When the machines start plotting together...

No longer do people request information from machines, now they're all talking to each other!

M2M technologies and applications span the supply chain. At near individual item level, RFID tags and sensors automate data communications about pallets and cases. Like bar codes, the devices are ID'ed and tracked, and with them the goods and inventory.

For this tracking, the devices need a path to communicate through. Communications infrastructure includes cellular (CDMA, GSM), and value-added networks like Sterling (www.sterlingcommerce.com). Finally, RFID tags and sensors talk to computers that process and interpret collected data so that those computers, or an individual, can make decisions about managing the supply chain (placing orders).

Vendor-Managed Inventory
Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) uses "pallet level technologies to track sales and inventory on a daily basis. Data moves from the customer's server to the machine at the VMI solutions provider or the supplier, and is processed. Recommendations are derived for how much of what inventory to replace and when," says Ian Barkin, managing director, The FocalPoint Group (www.thefpgroup.com).

With VMI, M2M enables vendors to collect accurate, real-time data from their customers, whether they are manufacturers using consumables, parts and raw materials, or retailers and distributors moving finished products. Computers and staff at the VMI solutions providers use exception reports and purchasing recommendations that result from this data to make SCM decisions on behalf of the supplied customer. Through VMI, SCM is not only outsourced so that the customer can attend to other priorities, but also more efficient.

Enterprise Data Management's solution offers a magnified view of VMI. "We gather data from our customers' customers, who generally speaking, are distributors," says Carl Hall, president, Enterprise Data Management (www.edm1.com). The company gathers sales and inventory position data nightly in a variety of formats. These communications are always machine-to-machine, says Hall. "There are no people involved in this process."

Once the customer sets up a means of pushing the data to Hall's organization, via flat-file, EDI, XML, or a combination thereof, SCM is in the hands of its Datalliance VMI solution.

Analysis of Enterprise Data Management's Datalliance VMI solution as used by truck parts suppliers and distributors demonstrated a 49-75% increase in inventory turns, a 31-39% decrease in out-of-stock situations, a 24% sales increase, and a 50% decrease in administrative effort, according to Hall.

VMI moves more product; this benefits every member of the supply chain.

"Some of our customers are pretty vocal about being our customers. Rockwell Automation (www.rockwell.com) is a big customer of ours. They use this data to manage inventory at their distributors' locations around the world," says Hall.

Product, Information, and Finance Flow
Pallets are scanned into warehouses, around warehouses, out of warehouses, and on to trucks that travel to retail stockrooms. "The enterprise planning system registers that so you know exactly where that pallet is at all times," says Barkin. Products are then scanned to the shelf at the retailer.

The scanned information is fed (preferably automatically) into computers at the warehouses and retailers. This is the kind of data that makes its way to VMI solutions providers like Enterprise Data Management.

Enterprise Data Management's Datalliance VMI solution communicates price files and orders by a variety of methodologies. Order placement information is directly available to the customer's record-keeping infrastructure.

Empowering Decisions
"Just-in-time stocking" is realized because the retailer knows immediately what needs to be restocked, says Barkin. You don't need the stock person to check the aisles and discover too late that you are out of something you could have been earning revenue on. "There are software applications that can communicate that relevant data to the appropriate parties," says Barkin.

RFID Tags - Freeing Up the Management Process
RFID tags are imbued with characteristics that facilitate better, faster SCM. You don't have to have line of sight from the tag to the reader, meaning you don't have to move the pallet to read the tag. Radio tags can be reused, which increases their flexibility and worth.

Whereas a bar code is used once and discarded, a read-write RFID tag can be embedded in the pallet. You can keep using that tag over and over, says Dwight Klappich, lead analyst for supply chain research, the META Group (www.metagroup.com). Finally, extra data can be written, rewritten, and tracked through RFID. If you try to do the same thing with bar codes, you have to read multiple areas on the tag. This is awkward, time-consuming, and error-prone.

RFID the IBM Way
Bundled with its middleware offerings, IBM offers three RFID solutions on a single platform. These include automated goods receiving with a three-way matching process, matching against a watch list, and finally, shrinkage detection.

Automated goods receiving with three-way matching automates resolution of discrepancies between ordered goods, promised fulfillment, and actual receipt of goods. The watch list solution speeds the immediate turnaround of goods to the retailer once they are on the radar. Shrinkage detection uses the radio tags to track lost, perished, and stolen goods. These solutions can produce savings for all members of the supply chain against the cost of manually administered chargebacks and related inconveniences.

IBM's single-platform methodology saves the cost of having more than one infrastructure in the course of adding RFID to SCM. IBM's WebSphere Business Integration "helps companies identify the key business processes, and functions within those processes, that they want to string together to orchestrate an RFID process," says Umesh Patel, solutions executive in distribution and industrial sectors, IBM.

"As goods make their way through the supply chain, every custodian has bits and pieces of information related to that pallet or case. When things get down to the item level tagging, far out in the future, how do you associate and fetter it all together? That's where our information integration tool, which comes from the data management category, is very helpful," says Patel.

RFID Aids Manufacturing
By evolving from bar codes to RFID tags, manufacturing can deliver parts to needed destinations in an accelerated fashion. If you have totes with parts that you've dispatched to the work center, those totes can be embedded with RFID tags. You can use the tag to identify the tote and its destination. The tag can be updated for each new delivery, says Klappich.

Practical uses for item-level tracking today don't include small-ticket items. It's too much trouble and expense for too little reward to radio tag at the item level for cheap goods. However, TVs, cars, and other big-ticket items are practical applications of RFID in the current market.

M2M - More Toward Unattended SCM
Much of the collecting of data in the chain and decision making about when to restock or how to regulate the flow of inventory can be handed over to M2M machines and platforms. For example, an IBM customer uses RFID technology in the fabrication process for quality control. In fact, a few months back, when they had a snowstorm, they were able to run the fabrication process for four days in unattended mode because they had been using RFID technology, says Patel.

Thoughts on M2M for SCM
M2M for SCM makes its case when providers and enterprises large enough to see significant ROI work to find applications suited to specific needs and problems. This occurs often enough to support VMI solutions providers, RFID providers, and the acquisition of M2M technologies for SCM by large corporate entities. This trend should expand as the cost of the technologies decreases and examples of successful implementations proliferate in the marketplace.

More Stories By David Geer

David Geer is a contributing writer to WBT, a journalist, and a computer technician. He graduated from Lake Erie College in 1993 with a BA in psychology and has worked in the computer industry and in the media since 1998.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
Matthew Lohbihler 03/06/07 09:18:05 PM EST

The open source community has now entered the M2M world. Serotonin software recently announced that its Mango M2M software will be released under GPL. The initial download distribution is expected within a month. Go to http://mango.serotoninsoftware.com for details.

@ThingsExpo Stories
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...