When we talk about how the digital age is reshaping and revolutionising how we do business, we’re often talking about the obvious impact of person-to-person devices like computers and smartphones. But the last few years have seen the rise of the Internet of Things, and it’s a new concept that business owners should be aware of.
The Internet of Things is a term used to describe online communication between ‘dumb’ devices – stop thinking about your laptops and start thinking about sensors, stickers and even appliances. Over the last few years, all sorts of ‘dumb’ devices have been given online functionality, making them able to talk to each other, form networks, collect data and pass that data to servers where it can be analysed and acted on.
The Internet of Things offers a range of benefits to business owners, but it’s particularly useful for streamlining supply chains. Here are some of the ways that it can help make your supply chains more efficient and effective.
Tracking your inventory
RFID tags, sensors and beacons can more efficiently track your inventory as it’s moved around your premises, making it easier to locate inventory.
Reducing paper-based processes
Using devices that talk to each other on your business’ online network means that you can cut down on paper-based processes and paper-based storage, reducing inefficiencies in your online inventory management in the process.
Better integration of pre-existing automation
You might already have some automation in your warehouse, but cutting down on paper-based processes and manual labour means you can better integrate these processes and make sure they’re singing in harmony.
The data collected through the Internet of Things is more accurate and more detailed, making it easier to track trends in things like production and demand and, consequently, making it easier for you to change what’s happening in your business to better respond to those trends.
More efficient routing
Transport logistics is made easier by the Internet of Things, as the range of data you can draw from your devices makes it easier to find and set up better routes for delivering or receiving goods.
But what effect might this have on my online inventory management software?
The idea behind the Internet of Things is that it improves the volume and quality of your data – you get more data, and more specific data – and that makes helps make your business easier to run and more efficient across the board. This principle applies to your online inventory management software, as a range of ‘dumb’ devices like RFID tags and sensors track your inventory as it arrives, moves around and leaves your warehouse. The Internet of Things tracks your inventory more closely and with greater detail than you could otherwise.
We’ve already mentioned some of the ways this can improve your online inventory management – better forecasting helps reduce inefficiencies in your warehouse, for example, and tracking devices can help you track inventory even if it’s been processed incorrectly. But how will it affect your inventory management software?
Most fundamentally, it might change what software you use and change how that software integrates with the rest of your business’ processes. If you’re using spreadsheets or other standalone software, moving toward a fully-integrated system that takes advantage of the Internet of Things might mean replacing those systems with new ones. But the efficiencies and savings that your new system will create far outweigh the initial cost of replacement.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.