The Journey of a Product through the Smart Logistics Cycle
Industry 4.0 impacts all parts of the value chain, including logistics, which makes smart logistics a key aspect of digital transformation. In this article, learn about the smart logistics cycle and selecting the right components for the tools needed.
According to IBM, Industry 4.0 represents the integration of digital technologies, including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), automation, advanced sensors, and wirelessly shared data. These technologies combine to support better productivity, real-time decision-making, agility, and flexibility. Industry 4.0 impacts all parts of the value chain, including logistics -- making smart logistics a key aspect of digital transformation.
Figure 1. Industry 4.0 combines multiple digital technologies, including smart logistics. Image provided courtesy of Pixabay.
Smart Logistics in a Warehouse
Warehouses are one area where smart logistics can have a tremendous impact. From product intake to shipping, smart logistics technology and components can increase efficiency, avoid problematic bottlenecks, and reduce errors, supporting the digital transformation to Industry 4.0.
According to Shopify, print books are among the top trending items sold online. As an example, consider the journey of a book as it arrives at an online book retailer until it departs to a customer. And as you will see, without careful engineering of smart logistics by the online book retailer, it will take much longer for the end customer to receive their next favorite book.
Critical Components of Smart Logistics
Barcode scanners, thermal printers, automation, and warehouse management systems play an essential role in implementing smart logistics to support Industry 4.0. And each of these devices requires the proper selection of components, such as the following:
- Barcode scanners need rugged LEDs that provide enough light intensity to accurately capture a barcode while still making efficient use of power to ensure battery power lasts as long as possible
- Indicator lights require energy-efficient, dependable LEDs in a wide range of colors
- Optical sensors, which include infrared LEDs, transmission photointerrupters, and reflective type phototransistors, must be rugged, efficient, and effective
- Printers must have the correct printhead for the job, taking into account factors such as speed and resolution
- Warehouse goods management systems must be able to reliably keep track of critical data but also support extensive coverage and secure data transmission, much of which relies heavily on wireless communication modules
Arrival at the Warehouse
Books that have been printed and bound arrive at the distribution center warehouse in cartons packed on pallets. Intake is the first area where the books will encounter bar code scanners, thermal printers, and the warehouse goods management system - all three smart logistics tools that are crucial to Industry 4.0.
Barcode scanners are used to quickly log the receipt of items and add those items (in this case, books) to the warehouse inventory system. The warehouse goods management system assigns new barcodes to the books (or, as the case may be, book cartons) and wirelessly manages the data associated with them. Thermal printers create a physical version of the barcode assigned to each book.
These smart logistics tools make intake much more efficient by accelerating the speed at which items can be processed, eliminating most human errors by automating inventory management.
Once the books have been received and logged into the system, they need to be stored for later retrieval. This, again, ties into the warehouse goods management system which keeps track of where items are in real-time (e.g., intake, storage, packaging, etc.). Keep in mind that for large facilities, extensive physical space is involved which makes it necessary for the warehouse goods management system to transfer data wirelessly.
Figure 2. Conveyor belts, such as the one shown, often play a crucial role in moving goods and packages throughout a warehouse that implements smart logistics. Image provided courtesy of Pixabay.
Barcode scanners, indicator lights, and optical sensors work together with automation tools such as conveyor belts (such as the one shown in Fig. 2), robotics, or AGVs (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) to transfer the books to their correct storage location. Once the books are where they need to be, the warehouse goods management system is updated to reflect inventory changes. This is far more effective, both in terms of speed and accuracy, than traditional manual methods.
When an order comes in for a book, the warehouse goods management system determines where the books (or book, as the case may be) are located and provides that information to an automated retrieval system.
The automated picking/retrieval system will then calculate a time-optimized route to retrieve the books. The automated inventory management system will then wirelessly update its inventory.
Packaging, Shipping, and Delivery Logistics
Once all the books in the order have been retrieved, they will be delivered to packaging. For warehouses with automated packaging, an optimally sized package will be determined based on the dimensions of the books and the available packaging options.
The books are then packed with the appropriate filler materials to protect them during shipment. The package is sealed and sent to shipping. At shipping, the weight, dimensions of the shipping container, and destination info are all retrieved and a shipping label is printed. Once the order goes out the door, the warehouse goods management system will update to reflect that the label has been printed and the order is awaiting pickup.
Figure 3. Smart logistics not only supports Industry 4.0 but also improves customer experience. Image provided courtesy of Canva.
Once the item is picked up for shipping, it is reflected in the inventory management system and tracking the order becomes the responsibility of the shipping company.
ROHM Solutions for Smart Logistics
ROHM understands the needs of Industry 4.0 and the smart logistics components that make it possible, offering an extensive product line that includes the following solutions for each step of the smart logistics lifecycle:
- Barcode scanner LEDs such as the RLD65 Series of 650nm red single-mode laser diodes
- Indicator lights that include both mono-color and multi-color variants
- Optical sensors, such as the RPR-0521RS reflective type light sensor as well as transmission type photointerrupters and reflective type phototransistors
- Thermal printheads (i.e. the KD2002-TQFW00A for high-speed large label printing, TH3001-2P1W00A for data code printing, and the KR2002-D06N10A for high-efficiency QR label printing)
- Wi-SUN wireless communication modules that support warehouse goods management systems by seamlessly extending network coverage throughout the facility, regardless of size
Moving from the concept of Industry 4.0 to its practical application involves several different smart logistics tools, regardless of whether the inventory consists of books or fishing accessories. Selecting the right components for the tools needed from intake to shipping is made much easier using ROHM’s extensive product portfolio of smart logistics solutions.