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Three drivers to digitally transforming the world of physical operations with IoT

Philip van der Wilt Profile picture for user Philip van der Wilt Samsara March 10, 2022
Summary:
There is huge potential for IoT to drive change in industrial operations - Philip Van der Wilt of Samsara shares three examples of how this can be done.

Industry 4.0 Robot concept .Engineers use laptop computers for machine maintenance, automation tools, robot arm at the factory © PaO_STUDIO - Shutterstock
(© PaO_STUDIO - Shutterstock)

Industrial operations have come under a huge amount of pressure over the past two years. We’ve all seen how businesses have suffered from issues including disrupted supply chains, staff shortages, and rising inflation and fuel prices.

These essential businesses are powering our economy and everyday lives, but it’s clear that we need to change how these industrial operations work.

New connected operations technologies are designed to take away the heavy lifting, enabling companies to create smarter operating models, powered by IoT.

Here are three key areas where IoT can drive change in industrial operations:

Efficiency

As with every business, controlling costs and maximising productivity are critical for organisations running physical operations.

Without visibility into day-to-day operations, it’s likely money and time are being wasted unknowingly. Yet Samsara data shows that on average19% of employee time is used searching for information and 20% of commercial vehicles are underutilised.

IoT is an enabler to cut out inefficiency from a physical, previously unconnected world. Even at its simplest, using GPS tracking every vehicle, asset and piece of equipment can be located instantly providing critical, usable data that can be acted upon in the moment. For instance, ensuring the safety and support of a driver who has been involved in an accident, and also delivering up to the minute customer service data to affected customers. 

Drivers being provided with real-time information, customised routes and digitised documents makes the life of an industrial worker simply better. The delays, frustration and bottom-line costs caused by pen and paper, manual unconnected processes and workflows are mind boggling. 

It’s time for the industrial, blue collar workers, and their management counterparts to benefit from the same digitised workflows and processes industries such as telecommunications, financial services and retail have experienced for years.

Just one example is the telecoms and utility services provider Kelly Group in the UK, which is using real-time GPS data to track the precise location of its 2,500 vehicles, with remote diagnostic alerts helping to prevent maintenance issues and reduce downtime.

Sustainability and the ESG agenda

Pressure is mounting for transportation leaders to cut carbon emissions. IoT data makes it possible to not only understand the environmental impact of their daily operations but determine how they can make changes to drive reductions.

Real-time data from sensors and cameras can be used to understand the fuel used when fleets are idling, determine optimal, more efficient routes, and inform fuel-saving driver coaching programs. Critically, this data gives business leaders the ability to benchmark emissions and then measure progress towards the sustainability goals they have committed to.

Dohrn Transfer Company, which runs a 545-vehicle fleet from Illinois, USA, is seeing the benefits of placing IoT sensors in every truck. Live data reporting by GPS, fuel usage and idling time have enabled Dohrn to reduce idling time by 50% and deliver $500,000 savings in fuel costs per year.

Another area is the electrification of the transport sector. As a cleaner, more efficient alternative to gas and diesel, electric vehicles (EVs) are an important step in sustainable transportation, but data is essential to their effective management. For example, planning routes based on the availability of charging stations, insights on charging times, and energy consumption.

Safety

In physical operations, the safety of employees is the number one priority, whether that’s working at remote plants, operating cranes, or driving the last mile for customer orders.

Using dash cams or high-definition cameras, connected via the cloud, businesses can capture important incidents as they happen. Workforce buy-in can be challenging, yet it’s an approach designed to protect employees as much as the business, and we’ve started to see much greater acceptance as a result.

Our own data from our 28000+ customers shows that more than 50% of those with dash cams have used that footage to exonerate drivers. Putting the emphasis on the driver experience and improving safe habits brings the workforce with you, with coaching programs and initiatives that show employees are valued and worth investing in.

It’s an approach that has worked effectively at warehousing and distribution company Bretts Transport, with dual-facing dash cams bringing visibility into incidents and driver behaviour, and footage shared via the cloud rather than on manually retrieved SD cards. Accidents have reduced, alongside the number of recorded fault incidents, and driver performance has improved.

What’s next?

Industrial operations are at the tipping point of a wave of digital transformation, but there are challenges to changing such established business models.

The businesses who rely on physical operations are finding success by building their strategy around three core pillars:

  • Innovating fleet design and usage – whether that’s the introduction of EVs, smarter route planning or preventative maintenance to optimise fuel usage and reduce costs
  • Driving a people-first safety culture – creating a proactive approach to reducing high-risk behaviours, helping to reduce accidents and lower insurance premiums
  • Investing in smart sensors and software – for real-time visibility across production facilities, remote assets, fleets and end-customer services, to digitally transform on a massive scale

In taking this approach, businesses are moving industrial operations to the forefront of some exciting innovations, many of which are already starting to take hold.

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