Integrating Warehouses and Distribution Centers into the Enterprise NetworkContributors: Hari Srinivasan
We’re witnessing digital transformation all around us, and it’s driving fierce competition, new challenges, and compelling opportunities in every industry. In our last blog, we talked about some of the ways business are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to extend operations beyond traditional carpeted spaces inside the office and out to environments of all kinds.
In this edition, we’ll focus on how organizations with complex enterprise supply chains are transforming their businesses. Global retailers, distributors, manufacturers, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and container operators are all driving innovation in the Extended Enterprise.
These innovators are exploring new strategies for Digital Transformation in industries to increase profitability, fulfill orders faster, improve safety, reduce cost and complexity, and more.
Everything Starts with Connectivity
To achieve these outcomes, secure connectivity across your entire supply chain is key.
You may be hampered by siloed and independent enterprise operations in your warehouses and distribution facilities due to inadequate system integration, lack of real-time visibility, and inconsistent safety control. Manual and error-prone inventory and reporting processes cost time and money—and create dissatisfied customers. To overcome these challenges and increase productivity and safety of your employees, you need to adopt digitization of your entire enterprise.
This isn’t always easy in busy and open industrial environments with massive volumes of traffic and employees constantly on the move. You need smart cameras and sensors to monitor operations and physical security to protect yourself against asset loss and theft, but also sophisticated cybersecurity to keep sensitive company and customer data from being compromised.
By securely connecting various warehouse systems – sensors, automated conveyors and sorters, safety and security systems and smart mobile devices you can monitor all warehouse systems and operations closely and gain access to data from disparate data sources. You can then analyze the data and develop insights to improve safety and operational efficiency.
Finally, you need real-time visibility to track heavy equipment and other assets, so you can perform timely maintenance and keep resources available and working at their best.
What You’ll Need
What’s required to connect and digitize warehouses? Enterprise supply chain environments are often harsh, dynamic environments that may be exposed to the weather, and require ruggedized connectivity to warehouse systems. To support employees and equipment on the move, they also require wireless connectivity everywhere. Physical security and real-time surveillance systems are key to keeping materials, people, and assets safe.
Also in order to keep IT operational costs low and centrally manage the entire enterprise, the warehouse network must be fully manageable using the same familiar management and policy-based orchestration tools used in the core enterprise. The network should provide secure access between warehouse devices and the enterprise, with the ability to scale and replicate to more warehouses and distribution centers as the organization evolves and grows.
Putting the Extended Enterprise to Work
Let’s take a closer look at how Cisco’s IoT solutions can help retailers scale to hundreds of connected and fully digitized warehouses and fulfillment centers.
Cisco Industrial Ethernet Switches and Cisco Outdoor and Industrial Access Points are purpose-built ruggedized solutions that can operate in environments without air-conditioning and deliver high performance Gigabit Ethernet connectivity for warehouse systems – sensors, cameras, sorters, conveyors, mobile phones etc. You can use the Cisco DNA Center to design, provision and manage these switches and APs.
Retailers also require end-to-end management and smooth communication with upper layer systems such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Warehouse Control Systems (WCS), and cloud services. Cisco Industrial Ethernet Switches and Cisco Industrial Security Appliances (ISA) offer strong security mechanisms to enable secure integration and communication with these upper layer systems. Cisco Industrial Integrated Services Routers extend connectivity further to service fleet such as delivery trucks for efficient fleet management and tracking of shipments.
Cisco Extended Enterprise solutions improve tracking and management of assets and inventory, as well as machinery and shipping equipment. Robust cybersecurity and video surveillance help keep data and assets safe. Retailers also gain complete operational visibility into operations across the organization, by fully integrating their supply chain into business applications.
No matter what type of warehouse or distribution center environment you’re supporting, Cisco Extended Enterprise solutions can help you extend your organization to gain real competitive advantages in today’s IoT age.