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As online shopping surges during lock down, IoT technologies are enabling more deliveries to be made

During the Corona lock down online shopping has reached new levels and new users. To make deliveries efficient when volumes are rising IoT is a crucial enabler.

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Svante Svanberg, Segment Manager
April 14, 2020

IoT seems to indeed be a vital enabler of making the current surge in online deliveries work and perhaps into the near future a permanent reality for retailers and shoppers alike.

As coronavirus lock-down continues across most of the world, people are increasingly shopping from home in order to have essentials – and non-essentials – delivered. This is putting additional strain on retailers’ distribution and delivery networks as they attempt to deal with hugely increased demand.

“It’s like Christmas … but without the contingency planning,” said one retail consultant in the UK, demonstrating the scale of the challenge facing retailers.

Smart routing of delivery vehicles to optimise journey time, the number of border crossings and distance has been a successful application used by logistics companies for many years.  This goes hand-in-hand with systems to automate assignment of delivery slots to customers. These are enabling far larger numbers of deliveries to be made as customers now turn more and more to online shopping.

However, there are still parts of the process that are inefficient and expose workers to unnecessary risks. For example, many distribution warehouses still rely on manual picking of stock and van deliveries by humans are still the only option. Border crossings also involve many manual checks of goods and containers.

The mass movement towards online retail seen during lock-down is now even further accelerating the trend towards home delivery. As the weeks go by, more and more will become familiar with the convenience of online shopping and many may not go back to traditional retail after the coronavirus crisis ends.

IoT has an enormous role to play here. Initially, retailers will build on their already successful usage of vehicle routing technologies and logistics applications, such as those that assure cold chain deliveries, to gain greater granularity and precision into their views of their delivery activities. This could for example lead to more warehouse automation through utilisation of IoT-enabled robots to perform stock picking. Learn more in IoT trends in manufacturing and logistics IoT trends.

Chinese e-commerce giant, JD.com, has opened up a fully automated fulfilment centre where robots and machines handle about 9,000 online shopping orders per hour, the workload of which is equal to 180 human sorters.

Alibaba is also investing heavily in its last mile delivery. The company has demonstrated a driverless delivery robot and released a prototype of its Cainiao Box, an improved version of a smart locker that is installed outside users’ homes.

When things get back to normal after the lock-downs, things may never be the same again as users who switched to online shopping don’t return to traditional physical retail. IoT will indeed be a vital enabler of making the current surge in online deliveries a permanent reality.

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