Using IoT to monitor customer’s stock

Hey, I need to know what do you think about monitoring stock of products which I supply to customer. Information about actual stock allows to replenish product without customer’s call and also I can forecast demand etc… I know that I can get these informations by EDI but software to do that is too expensive for start.
If there exist any project like this then please share it. And let me know what do you think about IoT vs. EDI. Greetings :slight_smile:

Such stock control systems are expensive because they are large complicated databases often providing all sorts of features all the way from stock control to point of sale, assemblies, CRM and maybe even linking in with phone system, portable devices, scanners etc.

IoT makes a lot of sense for monitoring the level of something consumable where a large database is not needed.
Lets say for example you supply animal feed to a farm, that farm might store the feed in a large silo, by adding some sensors to the silo a simple IoT device could then order more when stock gets low. Downsides could be the need to implement a contract stating you will keep that Silo topped up, and related things like the Farm deciding it really didn’t need that top-up because it was summer or they found another supplier who is cheaper than you and refusing to pay.

A single device could easily monitor several silos but using this approach to reorder stock of say a shop selling phone cases of which there are 100’s of variants would make no sense at all.

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I supply fresh fruit&veg so monitoring it makes a sense. I think to make IoT scale looking a bin for stock. I sell products in KGs.
How can I get all analytics, forecast demand of my IoT device. Is there any software for that?
I am going to use Azure IoT Hub - will it allow me to see it?

I work in wholesale distribution. What @Viscacha says is true for bulk stocked product; product in tanks, silos, mounds, etc. Especially where there might be alot of loss in a production process or something. However, I have a 75k ft² warehouse with a lot of palletized racking. But we do not sell by the pallet, we usually sell by the each. So there are partial pallet quantities on the shelf. I cannot fathom a cheap method for monitoring my stock using IoT. That is why we have an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) server. The server tracks all product on hand and we have automatic replenishment of stock based on sales. Our ERP is capable of using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) which is a fancy way of transmitting a purchase order to a supplier. Most of our suppliers don’t use EDI and so we email the purchase orders directly from the ERP (emails as a .pdf attachment).

So, I totally see where monitoring bulk product with IoT make a lot of sense. Or perhaps tracking of a shipping container while in transit. I just can’t see it in most typical warehouse situations.

I don’t think IoT is meant for forecasting like you desire. IoT is meant for monitoring and reporting. I can imaging that you have many bins with fruit in them. You could put sensors in those bins to monitor the amount of fruit within them. You could use a distance sensor from a fixed position. You could add scales in the bottom of each bin. And you would use IoT to monitor those sensors and send the data to a platform. In your case, Azure IoT is meant for that. Azure has machine learning and AI tools that you could use to forecast when you are about to run out of product so that you can act upon that forecast ahead of the stock-out condition.

I am not saying that IoT cannot forecast, however, to do it well, you need more code and processing power than, say, a Particle Photon has available. But the best part of the Particle platform is the ease of connecting to outside resources such as Azure.

Since your subject says you are using this at a customer’s premise, I would take a step back and say “does the customer already have an ERP or retail software that is already tracking this data?” The customer should know how much of a product they have on the shelf and, based on sales, how many they need to buy to replenish. You could argue that with fruit, there is a lot of loss due to spoilage. And so the customer’s ERP software might not track that in which case an IoT monitoring system might make sense.

Guys thanks for reply. Even if my client got ERP there is some barrier to use software which monitor data from client’s ERP. Main barrier is costs, not always the same client’s ERP software, clients will be afraid of that Im receiving data from their ERP, etc…
BTW. I recommend you to read Particle Supply Chain white papper.

Do you have a link?

Sure, https://www.particle.io/resources/iot-revolutionizing-supply-chain-management/