THE “internet of things” is coming to the logistics sector and can increase efficiencies through greater connectivity and integration.
An application of the concept is being trialled by DHL Supply Chain in partnership with Huawei Technologies at an automotive site in Liuzhou, China.
The basic idea behind the “internet of things” is to connect objects to the internet to gather data and exert control through a network – controlling heating and lighting in your house from a mobile telephone is an example of this.
DHL and Huawei launched a narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) application at the site, involving 100 DHL drivers at a section with 30 docks.
Logistics involving inbound-to-manufacturing processes can face time-consuming inefficiencies, particularly at sites with high turnover of supply deliveries.
Delays can occur when shipments are delivered at a dock far away from where they need to be handled – for example, when tyres are delivered to the beginning of the assembly line rather than at the end.
The application DHL and Huawei are implementing connects vehicles to the internet via common cellular telecommunications bands such as LTE, allowing for simple and cheap implementation, as data is transmitted using existing public base stations.
When a truck arrives at the site, its driver checks in via an app on their mobile telephone, receiving a queue number and an estimated waiting time.
The yard management system then automatically screens the docks for their availability, providing each driver with real-time status updates.
As soon as a dock is free, the driver is notified to proceed accordingly.
In this way, inbound trucks can be prioritised to the site’s needs, and shipments are unloaded at the most appropriate dock.
DHL Supply Chain COO Markus Voss said the internet of things has the potential to generate up to €1.77 trillion in additional value for the international logistics industry.
“Together with Huawei, we want to pursue this path in developing cellular-based IoT technology able to connect to multiple devices across long distances,” he said.
“Our goal is to enable a more integrated logistics value chain through greater connectivity, enhancing the customer experience.”
DHL Supply Chain greater China CEO Yin Zou said the system offers connectivity, smart operations and device management functions supported by a range of industrial protocols and interfaces.
“Exploring new technologies like NB-IoT is one of many ways we are forging forward with our digitalization journey in China,” he said.