At one time, managing supply chain logistics was among the most difficult challenges that existed for a shipping company. Previously, the shippers with the best operational management programs sat at the head of the pack by default. Today, with increased automation and near-instantaneous data availability, controlling logistics has never been easier, and just about everyone is at least competent at handling their supply chains. This is a very positive thing for consumers; however, it also means that for companies to be able to innovate, grow and maintain a competitive edge, just being “good” at supply chains isn’t enough–these days, to achieve long-term success, you have to be great.
Here are five steps shippers can take to leverage IoT technology solutions in their supply chains:
1. Map out your existing process
Knowing what you are starting with is one of the most important steps in the entire process. Map out your existing process with fine, granular detail. If you have access to a Six Sigma expert, bring them in. When you have your current process defined, then, and only then, are you prepared to further enhance and improve your supply chain with IoT solutions.
2. Build a dedicated team to implement new IoT solutions
Ensure you have a chairperson, as well as enough allocated resources with “skin in the game,” to spearhead the implementation process. Nothing will throw sand in the gears faster than a team that has minimal direction and does not have any incentive to push things forward quickly and efficiently. Identify these people, have regular meetings with them and work together on S.M.A.R.T. type goals.
3. Know your competition
Study your peers and competitors to see what they are or are not doing. It’s highly probable that their struggles are also your struggles. However, don’t just follow your biggest competitor blindly, but rather study what they’re doing and develop a competitive edge based on their weaknesses. Map out their processes, see where they have implemented IoT technology, ask the ‘why’ and then take the best parts to incorporate into your own unique strategy.
4. Ask an expert
Consultants are experts for a reason. They’ve done this before and know what works and does not work. Developing an IoT solution is no easy task, so picking your consultant is an important step. Speak to multiple experts to gain multiple, educated opinions on how to proceed. Use the task force you created earlier and choose the best path for your organization that will have the greatest ROI.
5. Study your results and constantly evolve
Once you have mapped out your existing process, built your team, studied your competition, enlisted the help of experts, calculated your ROI and implemented your IoT technology solutions – don’t stop! IoT technology is ever-changing and learning, constantly collecting and analyzing granular data for your use. The more time and data that is dedicated to this process, the sharper your process will become. This access to information will open doors to opportunities for efficiency and possibly new markets in your supply chain.
What all of this translates to is a potential market that is broader than ever before. However, as new tech continues to narrow traditional gaps in efficiency, it also means that companies are now battling one another on that basis – when competing in an environment where customers can compare shipping speed and choose accordingly, getting package there faster is of paramount importance.
Companies need to find ways of protecting current market share while expanding into other areas. In this regard, IoT technology becomes especially valuable. IoT allows businesses to be more adaptable and make decisions on-the-fly, in addition to minimizing costly errors. Data collection also gives unprecedented perspective on customer needs as well as behaviors, allowing companies to innovate based on sound evidence – all of which creates opportunity for increased revenues.
The bottom line: technology is the way forward for just about every aspect of supply chain development. As always, innovation is an ongoing process and in the pursuit of greatness there’s simply no solution for investment and creativity. With all the tools that IoT provides, and these actionable steps, the possibilities truly are endless.