When someone mentions the Internet of Things (IoT), most people think of electronics or wearables – the types of technologies that are driving adoption of a highly personalized “smart” consumer lifestyle. But there’s much more to the IoT story, and more particularly, its impact on the supply chain.
Research firm Gartner recently released a write-up highlighting that the IoT trend is going to impact businesses, and in particular, it will disrupt the way we think about logistics. They acclaim that a thirty-fold increase in Internet-connected physical devices by the year 2020 will “significantly alter how the supply chain functions.”
The IoT revolution will allow us to enhance those solutions by intelligently connecting people, processes, data, and things via devices and sensors. SCM 2.0, this deeper intelligence can come to life in many different ways when it comes to supply chain data and intelligence – from automation of the manufacturing process to improved visibility within the warehouse.
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Improving In-Transit Visibility
Products are handled and transferred between the manufacturer, suppliers, the distribution center, retailer, and customer. This many nodes in the supply chain calls for an agile and informed supply network in regards to product whereabouts and other specs.
Key to in-transit visibility is cloud-based GPS and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies, which provide identity, location, and other tracking information. By tapping the data gathered by these technologies, detailed visibility of an item is provided all the way from the manufacturer to the retailer. Data gathered from GPS and RFID technologies not only allows supply chain professionals to automate shipping and delivery by exactly predicting the time of arrival; they can monitor important details like temperature control, which impact the quality of a product in-transit.
Combining real-time sensor data with environmental data can provide intelligence of higher order to all the stakeholders in the ecosystem. This allows the stakeholders to be socially aware and make efficient decisions that drive overall productivity. For example, providing information about a traffic jam and potential delay before the trip starts has much higher value than getting that alert when one is already stuck in the traffic. This context-aware intelligence can enhance the supply chain visibility by implementing IoT.
By allowing devices to “talk to each other” in the right way, IoT can help supply chain professionals in the following way:
- Reduce asset loss: Know about product issues in time to find a solution.
- Save fuel costs: Optimize fleet routes by monitoring traffic conditions.
- Ensure temperature stability: Monitor the cold chain – according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about one third of food perishes in transit every year. Such losses can be significantly reduced with aid of IoT.
- Manage warehouse stock: Monitor inventory to reduce out-of-stock situations
- Gain user insight: Embedded sensors provide visibility into customer behavior and product usage.
Create fleet efficiencies: Reduce redundancies – deadhead miles account for up to 10 percent of truck miles, according to the EPA, and 28 percent for private fleet trucks, according to the National Private Truck Council.
Also See: ROLE OF IOT MOBILE APPS IN REVOLUTIONIZING THE SMART WORLD
It should be noted that while IoT in this application is still nascent, supply chain management professionals should tune into the conversation now to consider its potential. Deeper intelligence into supply and demand will not only benefit manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, but also consumers, as their demands can be better met with this deeper level of intelligence.