With the new IoT-powered supply chain, the industry can now track goods from anywhere, at any time, on a global scale, transforming the modern supply chain as we know it.
We live in a complex, global world, and few industries better illustrate this complexity than logistics. In this multifaceted landscape, missteps along the supply chain are unavoidable. Most consumer goods travel thousands of miles, changing hands multiple times, before reaching their final destinations. Yet, no matter how solid the logistics network for a moving asset is, at some point a truck will get stuck in traffic, a crate will be delayed at a warehouse or an asset will go missing altogether.
Most parcels languish for much of their time in transit dead-zones; goods are first logged at factories, warehouses and delivery depots, but little real-time data exists during the journey between these points. Although radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags help track goods as they reach their destination, when it comes to following mobile assets, traditional RFID technology falls short. They give no information on what happens ‘in between’, leaving logistics managers largely in the dark about the state of the goods they’re charged with moving safely, and quickly, through a complex supply chain.
With traditional supply chain management solutions, logistics managers often only learn about delayed or misrouted assets after they arrive hours late—or not at all—at their destinations. These hours in limbo translate into lost productivity, delayed production and broken client relationships.
IoT technology unlocks the value in supply chains
Using the real-time data collected by IoT sensors, companies are now able to identify where to trim the fat and make quicker, bolder and more informed business decisions that sharpen their competitive edge. It also gives unmatched insights on customer behaviors, enabling them to innovate based on sound evidence. And by accessing data in real-time, businesses can anticipate their customers’ needs and desires before they do, enabling them to deploy resources more strategically and be more adaptable.
Real-time asset tracking streamlines field operations
As a tracking tool, IoT technology sharpens efficiencies between warehouses and distributors, giving customers clearer visibility of their deliveries. But more than this, real-time tracking provides data with fine-grain accuracy, hyper-speed connectivity, low-latency (less downtime), and deep coverage.
In contrast to RFID-based scan points, the IoT smart tracking device securely transmits real-time information about the exact location of those goods at any point along the supply chain, enabling businesses to minimize costly errors or avoid disruptive bottlenecks quickly.
Unlike most first-generation smart devices, assets connected to the IoT network don’t rely on WiFi or 4G, so connectivity issues are lessened, regardless of where the asset travels. IoT devices also benefit from deeper coverage in traditionally low-connectivity areas such as garages and basements.
Cameras installed on multiple parts of delivery vehicles give a 360° view of the travelling environment, while LTE signals in vehicles make for better GPS tracking. The quality and quantity of granular data that these intelligent devices can collect and organize is unprecedented. Thanks to this new level of information, global companies are beginning to see their supply chains become leaner and more efficient.
Reducing delay-related costs with improved speed and accuracy
As goods make their way through the supply chain, IoT sensors return information about journey times, traffic surge spots, warehouse delays, network gaps or a change in ambient temperature. These up-to-the-minute alerts allow companies to mobilize quickly across a complex, global transportation network. Delayed assets can cause major disruptions further down the supply chain, but smart logistics turns potentially costly disruptions into a minor hiccup.
Building a lean supply chain
As our global economy becomes even more interconnected, investing in IoT-powered smart logistics solutions has no longer become a ‘nice to have’ option, but a critical necessity, giving the industry all the tools it needs to remain at the forefront of agile innovation in an everchanging world.
Gregg Abbate is the iLogistics key account manager of Advantech.