Using data to make processes more efficient is nothing new to material handling operations. For years, they’ve used barcode or RFID systems for quick, accurate data collection, and warehouse management systems (WMS) to use that data to direct picking, manage routing, and schedule delivery.
Many material handling operations, however, are finding that legacy systems aren’t enough in today’s competitive climate. Everyone is racing to be the fastest and the best. Customers want instant gratification, and they’ll choose to do business where they can have immediate delivery of flawless orders. To stay competitive, you need to move beyond basic data collection and WMS to a totally connected system. And to achieve it, your operation needs Edge IoT.
Benefits of Edge IoT for Complex Machinery
Internet of Things (IoT) technology used in industrial settings captures and shares data among equipment, assets, communications systems, networks, and people. Edge IoT enables system-level connectivity to industrial machines. Using embedded computers or modules, it allows data to be extracted at the source and solves problems at the edge. Connecting complex material handling equipment to your network allows your operation to anticipate demand, run more smoothly, enable just-in-time operation — and increase customer satisfaction.
Edge IoT is the solution for connecting complex equipment such as:
● Conveyor systems, to allow for quick, intelligent transportation and packaging
● Palletizers, to automatically stack cases on pallets based on delivery data
● Cranes, to optimally position heavy or large items
● Industrial trucks, for control of forklifts, aisle trucks, and hand trucks
Connecting complex material handling equipment with an Edge IoT system not only results in greater efficiency through automation, it also provides visibility into the status of the equipment to show when it needs maintenance, helping to avoid downtime. You also gain asset tracking capability, allowing you to locate non-stationary assets as they move or are stored throughout your facility. Edge IoT also enhances safety; for example, sensors on aisle trucks can keep them within a safe perimeter and prevent them from exceeding a maximum height.
Solving the Problem of Connecting the Unconnectable
Unfortunately, much of the machinery at use in material handling operations isn’t ready to simply plug into the network. This intricate equipment often uses proprietary technology that prohibits integrating it with your system — not to mention the objections your managers will have to making any changes that could alter your system’s operation. Moreover, even if you had the ability to integrate this complex machinery, some of which is almost like a stand-alone operation itself, the cost to do so would probably be prohibitive.
The solution is to use Edge IoT appliances that remotely control equipment and retrieve data, without interfering with the material handling equipment’s current operations. For example, ADLINK’s smart factory solution makes it possible to connect currently unconnected equipment with your network, giving you new capabilities and operational efficiencies by making sure the right data is at the right place at the right time.
This approach has the advantage of low latency, since computing takes place securely at the data source — it’s not necessary for data to travel to the cloud for analysis and then back to the equipment to trigger an action. In addition, there is no single point of failure; if one part of the system goes down, Edge IoT keeps critical operations going.
Keep up with a Rapidly Moving Industry
Technavio predicts the material handling industry will grow at a CAGR of 6% though 2020, with automated technology for material handling processes contributing to that growth. Major players in the industry are automating warehouse systems and industrial trucks and using automated systems to maximize storage capacity and vertical space. They’re also using IoT systems to monitor equipment to proactively address maintenance, as well as to study asset utilization.
It’s time to take stock of your operation with regard to how connected, visible, and controllable your equipment is. Are you losing time — and maybe money and customers — due to disparate systems, siloed data, and inherently inefficient processes? Solve those challenges by creating a connected material handling operation with Edge IoT technology.