Once relatively simple, the process of producing and delivering a product, especially in the high-tech sector, is becoming vastly more complex due to a range of new demands: overnight and within-an-hour deliveries, ethically sourced ingredients, fierce competition, and shifting consumer demand. Even the easiest of shipments can be thrown off course by additional hurdles due to cost, regulatory compliance, customs inspections, risk of loss and damage, or geopolitical instability.
Continually increasing demands to improve delivery velocity are necessitating that industry suppliers streamline operations to remain competitive, maintain profitable growth and minimize disruption from these challenges. Visibility is crucial in creating stability and reliability for the global supply chain to minimize both risk and cost. Organizations are attempting to close the remaining visibility gaps more rapidly by implementing new technology-based solutions.
The weakest link in the connected supply chain: Information
The technology tools available today to accelerate supply chain velocity are varied, complex and sometimes fraught with the complication of contemplated coordination—integrated EDI platforms relying on estimated workflow standards instead of real-time data. As ERP, TMS, WMS and other platforms continuously exchange data to calculate the best estimates, they are only as precise as the data provided to them, and they often lack key information – real-time environmental status, location and performance standard variances from logistics processes. As the expression goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” That is an apt summary because velocity cannot be improved without integrating real-time quantitative information into the supply chain.
Opportunities to improve velocity
Goods are managed most effectively when more information is available, especially when they are under roof, or under direct control. Opportunities for improvement appear where delays and uncertainty come into play: when goods are in motion, or when they are in the process of transition from one point of custody control to another. To bridge these information gaps requires an evolution of smart tracking IoT solutions.
These solutions provide real-time visibility through sensor data that continuously updates electronic data interchange (EDI) and other systems at a level of precision that helps deploy contingency plans faster. While there is still the possibility of errors or “black swan” events that can slow down or suspend movements, real-time visibility along the entire supply chain delivers real, measurable, dramatic improvements to shipping velocity.
A few IoT scenarios of real-Time data to improve velocity
Consider how these examples of real-time data can increase velocity by improving the information managed by the EDI platform:
- Time of departure, time of arrival and time at way points: Geo-fencing definitions can be placed around various step measure points to improve contemplation of movements. Driver adherence to business rules and the uncertainty of traffic can be measured more precisely to provide better updated estimates. Smart tracking IoT solutions transmit alerts in real time and add quantitative data to improve accuracy. System information is updated seamlessly without the need for manual input, improving the customer experience and reducing errors.
- Green lane passage: With the continuing emphasis on border security, visual inspection can be replaced by secure electronic reports that show the route of goods from time of departure to the border. Detailed status of the container or trailer doors through light or movement detection indicate whether they have been opened. These digital records help reduce inspections from days or hours to minutes.
- Integrity validation checks: Properly placed intelligent sensors send real-time data about the load’s condition and environment throughout the transit process. Additionally, this information is logged for later availability, making inspections and validation easier at waypoints and final delivery.
- Last mile visibility: Onboard tracking sensors can now continually provide actual location and movement via digital maps and reports via a simple shipment URL, reducing the time and energy spent by shippers and customers alike to determine the exact location of a package or load.
The above are just a few examples of how the introduction of smart tracking IoT solutions help improve supply chain process and delivery velocity. The future of supply chain management is about providing the right information when it’s needed in order to make informed strategic decisions.