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Industrial Internet of Things is remaking the retail supply chain

The Industrial Internet of Things is quickening the pace of innovation within the retail supply chain, helping retailers navigate disruptions and get items moving from the warehouses to the stores. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The traditional supply chain is slowly receiving a makeover, thanks to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies that are bringing connectivity, and scalability, to more participants. For retailers, especially small and midsized ones, to remain engaged with the various moving parts of the supply chain and shifting consumer demands, that connectivity is becoming more important than ever.

“It is forever changed because people are buying anything and everything, and it is making it more difficult for the SMB retailers to keep up,” explained Brandon Black, senior vice president of supply chain for Ivanti Wavelink, an IIoT provider. “But it’s also created a little more opportunity for SMBs.”

Black’s grandfather founded Wavelink, which was eventually bought by Ivanti. He has spent more than 25 years in the supply chain and is excited about the possibilities of IIoT.

“It allows these retailers … to implement their technology and move faster [around e-commerce],” he said.

Speed and scalability are among the two biggest needs for retailers today when it comes to supply chain innovation. The inventory visibility needed to meet e-commerce demands, the tracking requirements for shipments and the balancing act between in-store and online demands requires retailers to have insight into their entire supply chain. Those using antiquated systems can be left behind.

“For anybody who has been in supply chain for any amount of time, there is a reason they adopt a process and stay with it for 40 years because it works [and is difficult to replace],” Black said. IIoT is changing that.

Watch: Consumers are driving retail change

IIoT is designed for industrial sectors of the supply chain, using connected devices to create high-level intelligence. Importantly, it is easily scalable, allowing users to add devices as needed rather than conducting a complete overhaul of an existing system.

“It is adaptable in small chunks. … It is taking modules you have today and [adding to them],” Black said. “This is something that allows you access to a full portfolio” of technologies.

Last week, Ivanti Wavelink introduced its Neurons for IIoT system. Neurons connects many of the systems in warehouses — smart conveyors, sensors, cameras and robots — and it does so with low-code or no-code applications, allowing quick and easy expansion of systems as new nodes are added to the supply chain.

Ivanti said its Neurons system specifically:

  • Integrates data from connected devices and operational technology applications, including Ivanti Velocity, to ensure a single-source repository for diverse business insights.
  • Creates a low-code/no-code workflow builder so that enterprises can implement rapid solutions.
  • Provides tools and capabilities to derive insights from data, allowing for a deeper understanding of the environment and to spot opportunities for improvement.
  • Automates the orchestration of productivity workflows, optimizes devices for peak performance and improves process automation.
  • Delivers real-time contextual dashboards that provide cross-device insights, deep analytics and predictive recommendations.

“What we are able to do with our new products is simply create modules that can be adapted to existing systems,” Black said.

Black said most warehouses have similar problems for which Ivanti Wavelink is focused on developing solutions “to cover the use cases that cover the majority of our customers.” The company is also working with outside providers, such as warehouse management system providers, to develop future use case solutions.

For now, e-commerce brands can focus their attention on modernizing their supply chain operations by adopting technology that improves efficiency, Black said. They should also identify assets and asset management that achieve these goals and automate where they can.

“With our install base, what did we learn over the years?” Black asked. “We have a repository and knowledge base of problems we’ve solved so we are building out [modules] for problems we have solved over the last 30 years.”

Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]