April 2020 | Commentary | Reverse Logistics

Get RIP-Roaring Results with IoT

Tags: Packaging, Technology , Sustainability

Companies are increasingly investing in returnable industrial packaging (RIP) to ship products to customers as sustainably as possible.

Ana Maria Giménez, Global Business Development, Sales & Channel Acceleration, Sigfox, 844-974-4369

Reusable pallets, racks, and containers allow manufacturers and their customers to reduce the amount of packaging-related waste they create, while improving efficiencies and cutting costs. While RIP is great from a cost-cutting and sustainability perspective, it adds complexity to already difficult supply chain processes. By making trips two-way, tracking containers becomes infinitely more complicated because customers ship the containers back to the manufacturer—adding a whole second leg to the journey.

This doesn't just extend the shipping loop; not knowing where RIP is or when it's expected to arrive at a warehouse or plant could have bigger impacts on a company's bottom line. Luckily, the Internet of Things (IoT) can solve some of these tough challenges by providing visibility into container whereabouts and conditions. Here's how:

  • Visibility when it matters most. Unlike normal shipments, RIP not only goes down the supply chain to customers, but also has to make its way back to the manufacturer. If the RIP doesn't return, manufacturers will have insufficient packaging to ship new items, and face costly fees that come with losing RIP; a lost pallet or container costs hundreds of dollars to replace. And this doesn't even account for the production and delivery delays that can occur from not having enough containers present.
  • By placing IoT sensors on RIP, supply chain managers can secure instant visibility into the location of the RIP as well as container conditions.

    But this information means nothing if it's not readily available to users. Manufacturers must choose a reliable network to ensure they have a live feed of information on the RIP. While networks like Wi-Fi and cellular seem promising, they often require close range and high costs to work effectively, which isn't always practical for global shipments.

    Alternative options, like 0G networks, enable the transmission of remote data at the right time and at an affordable cost. IoT devices connected to a 0G network can transfer small amounts of data across long ranges and around the world to communicate critical information, such as RIP location. Plus, this all can be done with a simple message and reduced battery consumption, which translate to lower costs.

  • Keep production lines and shipments running smoothly. In many cases, RIP can contain valuable pieces of equipment needed to keep the production line moving. A delay in the arrival of RIP could mean a loss of production and profits for manufacturers.
  • With IoT solutions, manufacturers can receive critical information, such as where and when RIP has to be moved from one location to the next. By using all the data the IoT devices collect along the journey, supply chain managers have access to insights that indicate the most efficient routes in the supply chain in the context of its surroundings. This ensures the parts contained in the RIP get back in time to be used on the production line.

  • Keep customers happy. IoT sensors attached to RIP give manufacturers the ability to present customers with accurate and real-time shipment updates, as well as a friendly nudge for when customers need to send back the RIP.

Devices can also alert customers and manufacturers when shipments have made it to the destination safely so both can feel at ease knowing the shipment arrived, while also knowing that they aren't wasting shipping materials.

By leveraging the insight IoT provides, supply chain managers can reduce complexity and streamline processes—while becoming more sustainable and appealing to customers.






Visit Our Sponsors