Did you know there are 8.4 billion smart devices in the world – that’s more than the number of people on the planet! These range from smart TVs and wearable fitness trackers to driverless cars. All of these devices ‘talk’ to other related devices over the internet, collecting data and processing data during the process.
The network of these devices is called the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s turning everyday objects into smart technology that can be controlled and monitored remotely, over the web. But beyond consumer products, how is it used? Specifically, how can it leverage and improve distribution systems in business?
To see just how transformative IoT is, let’s look at it in action. For this article, we’ll be specifically looking at its impact on the food distribution industry. We’ll review how it’s being used throughout the supply chain, as well as how you can use IoT to future-proof your food distribution business.
As we’ve previously mentioned, the Internet of Things is the network that the smart devices we use are connected to. The ‘things’ in the name refers to the different physical devices, and the ‘internet’ refers to the network that they’re connected to. Examples of the ‘things’ include thermostats, smart meters, RFID tags, and mobile phones. The IoT operates on cloud technology, allowing a large number of different devices to communicate with each other, as well as other digital systems, in real-time.
The IoT has a huge number of applications across businesses and industries, providing granular-level data that was previously too complex for many to easily access. As of 2021, it is currently being used by an estimated 48% of large-scale enterprises in Europe.
The IoT is used across a range of industries, but let’s hone in on food distribution. This industry faces the challenges of high waste levels and rigorous food safety standards, meaning that additional, real-time data can dramatically improve operating costs and reduce risk. Here’s a closer look at how the IoT benefits the food distribution industry:
According to research, 40% of food waste comes post-harvest and half of this spoilage is happening before consumers even get their hands on the goods.
This mainly comes down to Mother Nature – the fact that fresh food deteriorates at different rates is hard to control. Fruit picked in the morning might go moldy faster than fruit harvested in the afternoon. These are impacted by the amount of carbon dioxide and heat the fruit gives off. And this can change dramatically according to the time of day it was picked.
Thanks to IoT technology, producers can now use sensors to monitor the respiration rate of fruit and modify their actions accordingly. Fruit that respires quicker will be given more ventilation, allocated a quicker delivery time, and might be given a shorter ‘use by’ date. This cunning use of smart technology helps reduce wastage and makes sure customers get their fresh produce in peak condition.
Once food is packaged and loaded the risk isn’t over yet. The food might be chilled, frozen, or fresh but still need to be shipped hundreds of miles to reach its destination. There are any number of things that could happen along that journey – there could be a delay, a seal on a container might break, or temperature and humidity controls could fail.
To make sure the food arrives safely, food distributors need to remotely monitor and control the conditions in which it’s being kept. By using sensors that measure changes in temperature and humidity within the shipping containers, supply chain managers can be alerted to incidents and rectify situations before they cause concerns, health risks, or result in product recalls. It’s a cost-efficient way of making sure your delivery is kept in safe hands.
Picking and packing items is far more laborious when it’s done by hand. A warehouse worker needs to find the goods, manually pick them, and cross them off the order. Thanks to the IoT, cart-like robots can now receive orders automatically, locate items in a warehouse, and retrieve the products. It means lorries can be loaded faster and turnaround times can be reduced.
The capability of smart warehouses doesn’t stop there – IoT sensors will also monitor the movement of goods in and out and reorder stock once it gets to critical levels. It means you might never have to manually place an order again and reduces the risk of running out. The tracking is also a clever way to identify patterns and trends in demand which means you can be far more proactive about the stock you carry in the future too.
Multi-drop route planning software – like the one we offer – allows food distribution businesses to track where their goods are when they’re on-the-go, and helps get them to their destinations faster. It uses cloud-based technology to manage drivers’ schedules, calculate the most efficient routes, and alert the customers of delivery times. This technology even integrates real-time data on traffic and weather conditions to modify the route, while taking into account the vehicle type and load restrictions.
It’s connected delivery software like this which will help speed up your delivery times, cut deadhead miles, increase route efficiency, and reduce costs. And it will do all this while letting you track and manage your fleet remotely.
So if you’re looking to improve the efficiency and speed of your business while cutting costs, IoT is the way to go. Any of what we’ve covered above will change your business forever.
Our delivery planning and multi-drop route optimisation software is one of the simplest ways to get started. Not only is it easy to use, but it’s cloud-based. This means there’s no expensive or lengthy installation – you can simply plug in and go.
To make life even easier, we offer a full range of packages to suit every budget and business. If you’re ready to take your first step into the future of food distribution, contact us for a free trial.