Real-time visibility adoption growing in retail logistics

Daniel Dombach, director, EMEA, industry solutions, Zebra Technologies explains how the IoT revolution is reshaping general logistics and retail supply chains.
Fashion, Retail, IoT, Technology, Inventory


Labelled as hyperbole for a long time, the Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed into a real success factor across industries, especially logistics and retail.

IoT solutions are delivering entirely new visibility in the supply chain.

According to IDC, the number of connected devices will increase by almost 70% between 2015 and 2020 – from 12 billion to over 30 billion IoT devices. Data generated from these “things” is collected and analysed automatically by computers, helping humans – and increasingly self-learning machines – make better decisions based on actionable insights.

 IoT:  A Growing Force

Thousands of new use cases are in development right now; innovative ideas that can deliver a real added value to businesses.

According to IDC, although most companies are still in the planning and evaluation phases of their IoT projects, 37% have already implemented IoT projects and have thus already taken a big step toward the digitization of their businesses.

This sort of evolution is essential since technological progress is fast and irreversible. To many companies, it even feels threatening.

Yet, the digitization and IoT hold enormous opportunities and if companies don’t want to fall behind, they need to act.

A connected, “intelligent” enterprise connects the physical with the digital world, increasing productivity, efficiency, growth and innovation. Any industry can benefit from the IoT.

The Logistics Industry

Many logistics businesses use the capacities of their trucks insufficiently, which has a negative impact on their efficiency.

With the help of 3D-cameras on the loading docks and suitable analytics software, companies can collect and analyze a variety of data about the loading process and gain valuable information on metrics such as loading density and speed, fill-rate and employees’ loading techniques.

When the system detects mistakes or inefficiencies in the loading process, it sends a notification to the dock manager who supervises the process with a tablet or from his desktop. Based on these insights, the manager can intervene if necessary, improve employee training and thus the loading quality.

Other logistics solutions use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to signal employees whether they are loading parcels into the right truck.

Correct loading and improved efficiency helps deliver parcels faster and increase customer satisfaction while reducing costs for fuel and maintenance as well as reducing companies’ environmental impact.

The Retail Industry

Approximately four percent of potential revenue is lost every year because stores can’t satisfy customer demand for specific products in their inventories.

Fashion retailers are particularly affected by this problem with items often being left or forgotten in the changing rooms or restored in the wrong places.

If items were equipped with radio frequency identification tags (RFID), staff would be able to locate items anywhere and at any time, access inventory information in real-time and improve the availability of items on the sales floor.

In addition, tagging items helps prevent theft as tagged products can set off an alarm when they are brought near the exit without having passed the checkout first – a theft prevention method that is especially relevant in the luxury sector.

Leveraging this technology, retailers can significantly reduce lost merchandise and revenues due to out-of-stocks.

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