AT&T focuses on connected pallets to improve logistics
AT&T is working with U.K. firm RM2 to provide connected and reusable pallets
AT&T is implementing internet of things (IoT) technology to develop connected pallets, with the aim of reducing the use of traditional wooden pallets, which pose a number of environmental and economic challenges for logistics operators.
Today, there are approximately 10 billion of these wooden pallets worldwide. However, despite their benefits to trade, wooden pallets present a variety of challenges for businesses and the environment. Some of the challenges include:
-Financial and environmental costs of pallet disposal and replacement when no longer useful;
-Food and consumer safety issues from porous surfaces;
-Warehouse safety hazards from wood shards and nails, and
-Supply chain inefficiency from broken or lost pallets
The implementation of reusable pallets made from composite materials address many of these challenges while also reducing pallet height, weight and repair and replacement frequency. However, they are manufactured from advanced materials, making them cost more to produce. The ability for pallet users to rent these durable pallets from a pool of pallets eliminates the need for high up-front capital investment. Reusable pallets provide solutions to some traditional pallet challenges, but they fail to address one key problem: expensive pallet loss.
According to AT&T, the ability to track pallets and control loss rates could stimulate widespread adoption of durable pallets.
“Internet of Things technology connects objects to the internet, and provides the loss prevention necessary to make reusable modern pallets financially competitive in today’s complex supply chain,” AT&T said. “A connected pallet unlocks the benefits of reusable pallets by empowering users to maintain oversight of inventory to prevent loss and by obtaining new data from segments of the supply chain that were previously invisible.”
The operator highlighted that the use of IoT connectivity changes the economics of reusable pallets, enabling more widespread adoption, which generates significant financial and environmental benefits.
AT&T said that reusable, connected pallets allow users to reduce fuel consumption, decrease wood waste from broken pallets, and decrease the amount of raw materials required to produce replacement pallets by reducing the average number of pallets that are lost or broken each trip.
“With connectivity, users can track pallets in the supply chain as they move from one location to another, dramatically reducing the risk of loss, and the costs and time associated with locating or replacing missing pallets.”
“Supply chain operators benefit from new information about how pallets and inventory move through multiple, interrelated supply chains. This combination of elements creates a business model in which a connected, reusable pallet can be used 162 times before it reaches end of life, resulting in a per trip cost up to 20% lower than non–reusable alternative,” the telco added.
AT&T is currently working with U.K company RM2, which specializes in the production of reusable pallets, to embed an IoT based track and trace solution in the pallets. This solution, called RM2ELIoT, pairs RM2’s reusable pallet with AT&T’s LTE-M network.
AT&T also said that a widespread adoption of connected reusable pallets – particularly by large retailers and logistics providers that interact with thousands of pallets a day – could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts.