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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sensing Stock Levels

More on my theme of sensing, but, rather than sensing water levels, this example is about sensing stock levels. It comes from implementation of a wireless-based system that BT implemented for one of our customers, Britvic, a softdrink producer and distributor. Wireless devices were installed in Britvic’s soda machines. Previously, drivers would have to drive around to the machines to check and restock those that required it.

Collecting and processing data from the wireless devices in each machine, Britvic was able to eliminate the journeys to those machines that didn’t need restocking. That reduced the mileage logged by their fleet by 10%. Knowing in advance what stock was required in the machines allowed them to stock their vehicles more efficiently and thereby reduce their loads by 30%. Assuming a mileage reduction of 10% equates to an emissions reduction of 10%, and that 30% reduction in vehicle load equates to an emissions reduction of 10%, we have about a 20% reduction in carbon footprint for the fleet as a whole.

Of course, we also have to consider the emissions of the wireless devices, the network and application hosting and perhaps the screen and computer at the customer’s operations center. But, we only get an allocation of most of these components as they are also being used by other applications. Added together, the footprint of the solution represents only a very small proportion of the emissions saved from a 20% reduction in driven miles.

And, the beauty of a solution like this is that it makes commercial sense even without the emissions reduction benefit -- just in terms of the cost savings and increased revenue from improved vending machine stock levels.

That said, as per my previous post, “RFID: A Double-Edged Sword in Sustainability,” it is always valuable to consider emissions benefits in your solution design, or what seems like a good solution can backfire on you.

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