More Material Handling Magic

Could a future implementation of the Industrial Internet of Things include an application that manages the flow of products super efficiently so that the local grocery store can react to your purchase of a half gallon of milk late on a Saturday afternoon?  Sure, why not?

Vending machines have operated this way for years.  Internet ready vending machines are able to send status information to their owners.  In the early days of this approach it was simple predictive maintenance.  Let the owner know when a machine has a service issue.  This approach quickly expanded to include monitoring of product available inside the machine.  When a machine needs more drinks, a phone message is sent out.  Using predictive analysis or rate of sales over time, it would be easy to anticipate when a machine is running low and how often to stock up to meet sales.

The same thing is true in the grocery store.  The difference is that if it were possible to monitor product flow from Universal Product Codes recorded at the time of purchase, it would also be possible to instantly update suppliers.  This would have dramatic effects on the entire supply chain of goods in many facets of consumer goods.

For the farmers producing $21 billion worth of milk each year, it could be a very big deal.  1,578,000 gallons per day need to be delivered in a variety of products and packages.  Knowing exactly what is being bought, and how quickly would allow everyone in the production and supply chain to closely monitor their output and better manage their costs.  Lead time to the market, especially from the standpoint of delivery of the product, could be better managed resulting in better freshness and hopefully lower costs.

In the vending arena it starts with the mechanical structure of the machine that dispenses one unit of product at a time.  This might not be the ideal solution for grocery stores.  On the other hand, the expense of developing a unique refrigeration unit that keeps only a single product on the front of the unit might make for a unique situation that reduces energy cost in refrigeration and maintains a more constant temperature throughout the rest of the unit.

Meanwhile, in a distribution warehouse, the next case of half gallon milk cartons is picked autonomously for shipment with a large replenishment order to your favorite grocery for delivery that night.

The transformation throughout the grocery world would be dramatic.

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