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IIoT for Quality and Supply Chain

Nicole Radziwill

Where should you place internet-connected IIoT sensors and controllers, and what information should they provide? Discover one researcher’s recommendations.

The power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for quality lies in its ability to provide information about products, processes, and environments. Knowing more about the conditions under which production occurs can help companies avoid waste, rework, and customer dissatisfaction. Similarly, knowing about the conditions of transport can help producers maintain product quality during packing and shipping, and provide valuable information to consumers to inform their purchasing decisions.

But where should you place internet-connected sensors, and what information should they provide? Where should you place internet-connected controllers, and how should you interface with them? Jayaram (2016) examined these questions with a particular goal in mind: how to improve the efficiency of the global supply chain. He identified four categories of IIoT sensors and controllers that could be introduced specifically for quality and process improvement in the supply chain. They are:

  • Product sensors: Active RFID tags, QR tags, and barcodes can be attached to products, and (depending upon their complexity) can be used to track and communicate product metadata (like product information, weight, dimensions, and sender and recipient details)
  • Logistics sensors: These sensors monitor the environments the product travels through, including temperature, pressure, motion, leakage, and chemical exposures. Since the environment may impact product quality, being able to assess the impact of the environment on the product level can prevent customers from being exposed to problems.
  • Vehicle sensors: This class of IIoT devices monitors characteristics of fleet vehicles that might influence overall costs, such as speed, fuel use, mileage, and power. The information can be used to track fuel consumption, utilization, and manage the vehicles as assets.
  • Black box sensors: These sensors are connected to controllers that influence how vehicles are used. For example, it could include tracking routes taken, protecting the vehicle from misuse (by locking, braking, or preventing it from traveling outside a specific area), or preventing the vehicle from traveling at unsafe speeds.


With so many possibilities, how should you phase the introduction of IIoT into your operations? Jayaram also provides a suggestion here. Work on connectivity first -- what information do you need from your products, vehicles, or supply chain environment? Next, use that information to create visualizations of the data. Many quick-win improvements are possible just by making data visible. Next, identify where you can use that data to optimize a pilot process and expand to other processes. Finally, consider autonomy -- where can you predict events or changes, or use the data to automatically take action or make recommendations for action? A phased approach can increase your potential for success with IIoT in the supply chain.

Additional Resources:

Duda, K. (2019, May 14). Health & Safety is a Team Effort: Industry 4.0 and IIoT. Intelex Blog. Available from

Jayaram, A. (2016, December). Lean six sigma approach for global supply chain management using industry 4.0 and IIoT. In 2016 2nd International Conference on Contemporary Computing and Informatics (IC3I) (pp. 89-94). IEEE.

About the Author: Nicole Radziwill is the Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain at Intelex Technologies. Before Intelex, she was an Associate Professor of Data Science and Production Systems, Assistant Director (VP) End-to-End Operations at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and manager and consultant for several other organizations since the late 1990's bringing quality management to technologically-oriented operations. She is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) with a Ph.D. in Quality Systems from Indiana State University. Nicole serves as Editor of Software Quality Professional (SQP) journal and is a former Chair of the ASQ Software Division. She is an ASQ Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) and Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB). 



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January 09, 2020 @ 09:00 AM EST Manufacturing Operations, Quality, Supply Chain

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