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Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) in smart logistics

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By Ayesha Katgara, Head Corporate Strategy, Jeena & Company

The logistics sector is heading towards intelligent operations, with an emphasis on the seamless integration of logistics management systems and information technology, which serves as the foundation for smart logistics. India’s logistics sector, with its sophisticated network of transportation, warehousing, and delivery systems, stands to profit from the implementation of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). This adoption seeks to streamline operations by tackling inefficiencies, high costs, and transparency concerns.

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) integrate computer algorithms with physical operations, allowing for real-time data sharing and intelligent decision-making. It works around three Cs that lead to smart efficiency:
Communication that lets data exchange between physical elements such as sensors and actuators and the digital domain.
Computation that involves powerful processors analysing and interpreting collected data to generate insights and potential courses of action.
Control that uses the processed data to influence and optimise physical operations. This integration offers smoother interactions between digital and physical elements, resulting in improved performance and efficiency.
Common examples of cyber-physical systems like smart home devices, wearable health monitors such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, self-driving cars, and medical devices like pacemakers that monitor and regulate bodily functions have revolutionized their industries for the better. Their integration has led to such significant advancements that there is no turning back.

CPS: Transforming the Indian logistics space:
Time and temperature sensitive transportation:
Sensors integrated into packages, vehicles, and storage facilities serve as the network’s nervous system, gathering real-time information on location, temperature, humidity, and other critical characteristics.

This data stream is fed into strong analytics engines, which track the status of products in transit and spot potential problems. Deviations from ideal circumstances, such as temperature variations or delays, can be discovered and resolved quickly. Furthermore, CPS promotes regulatory compliance by giving a reliable record of a shipment’s path.

CPS’s real-time visibility is especially useful for logistics players that deal with time and temperature-sensitive commodities such as pharmaceuticals, blood samples, and human organs. CPS contributes to the efficacy and prevention of spoilage by ensuring that these vital items remain in optimal conditions throughout transport. This feature is particularly important in medical and pharmaceutical logistics, where small delays or temperature
fluctuations can have serious implications.

Warehousing:
-CPS expands its capabilities beyond real-time monitoring to transform warehouse operations.
-Machines with sensors and communication modules use CPS to do tasks more efficiently.
-They can pick, pack, and sort things with better precision and speed than traditional methods.
-Similarly, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) use CPS to navigate warehouses flawlessly.
-These cars get orders and real-time data over the CPS network, allowing them to deliver commodities effectively within the facility while avoiding hazards.
-This connection improves internal logistics by automating repetitive processes and optimising procedures.

Port and terminal operations:
Port and terminal operations encompass the handling, storage, and movement of cargo in maritime settings, including container management and loading/unloading tasks. Cyber- Physical Systems (CPS) are instrumental in transforming these operations. CPS optimizes traffic flow and resource allocation through dynamic scheduling and data analytics, leading to enhanced operational efficiency. This results in reduced downtime, improved safety for workers and equipment, and overall streamlined port operations.

Consumer benefits:
These modern systems offer real-time data transmission and intelligent decision-making, resulting in faster and more consistent deliveries. Consumers will no longer have to wait in suspense wondering where their delivery is. With CPS, they will get up-to-date information on the status and location of their orders, ensuring complete transparency throughout the delivery process.

Furthermore, CPS streamlines procedures and reduces errors, dramatically lowering the likelihood of lost or damaged packages. The overall efficiency advantages from CPS can also translate into significant cost savings, making logistical services more affordable to consumers.

Roadblocks and solutions:

Insufficient infrastructure: Implementing Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) in India’s logistics sector presents significant hurdles. These modern systems are built on a solid foundation of reliable internet connectivity, smart sensors, and powerful data analysis tools. Unfortunately, many regions in India still lack this critical infrastructure.

Lack of skilled workforce: There is a shortage of experienced workers who can develop, implement, and manage these complex systems. To address the skill gap, investments in infrastructure and focused training programmes are required.

High initial cost: Economically, the initial costs of implementing CPS can be high. This comprises not just the gear and software, but also the necessary personnel training. For many small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), justifying these costs can be difficult. Companies can overcome these challenges by looking into finance sources, using government incentives, and deploying CPS in stages.

Regulatory issues: Compliance with data security, privacy, and operational safety requirements is essential. However, navigating these restrictions can be difficult and time-consuming, especially in the absence of clear recommendations from regulatory organisations. Simplifying regulatory processes and offering clearer directions would considerably improve the path to CPS adoption in India’s logistics sector.

To sum up, the integration of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) promises to revolutionise India’s logistics sector. By addressing existing inefficiencies and streamlining operations, CPS has the potential to build a logistics industry that is extremely efficient, transparent, and responsive.

The Department of Science & Technology (DST) is implementing the multi-stakeholder national mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical Systems (NM-ICPS), with aims to make India a leading player in CPS technologies, translate these technologies for societal and commercial use, nurture startups, increase job opportunities, and produce the next generation of technocrats. This mission provides a ray of hope for quicker implementation
of CPS across various sectors. This transition would not only benefit consumers, but it will also boost Indian enterprises, worldwide competitiveness. We must prepare for a new era of unprecedented improvements in overall logistics operations, all driven by CPS, transformative potential.

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