Visibility across the supply chain can mean any number of things from inventory throughout the network to availability of capacity to the focus of this report, which is in transit inventory. Managing inventory in motion is certainly a struggle, as inventory is often coming from many corners of the globe, in different points in their journey, and on board a variety of modes of transportation (ocean, rail, road, air). Typically, supply-chain managers inject buffer inventory and capacity in order to ensure adequate supply is available to support business needs over an often variable amount of transit time. The historic way of managing transit times was to work with carriers to communicate, via EDI, on a periodic basis with information relative to where "our stuff" was at a given point in time.
Today, however, the dynamics have changed thanks to the Internet of Things. As more and more "things" are connected, we begin to gain an abundance of new data points relative to the location and condition of assets in motion, that become significantly more accurate and valuable than periodic EDI transmissions. As a shipment is en route, there are now several purpose-built IoT analytic applications, such as TransVoyant and Savi, that leverage IoT-connected devices to provide real-time insight into where a shipment is with a tremendously accurate ability to provide an ETA.
Some of the benefits associated with real-time visibility of inventory include:
• Improved downstream operations. The ability to know where your shipment is, in real time, and accurately predict when a shipment will arrive can drastically improve how you plan and execute your downstream operations. A more accurate ETA enables a company to make better use of its warehouse resources, redeploy assets instead of waiting on late arrivals, improve how inventory is managed, and more.
• Improved customer service level. Improving customer service is often at the front end of supply-chain improvement initiatives. With real-time visibility into shipments, companies have a better handle on what to expect when having to allocate inventory across a broad range of customers.
• Risk avoidance. An abundance of information exists that can now be analyzed to predict when and where a disruption may occur along a transit lane. Companies are using advanced analytics on top of a variety of data points (weather, traffic, port congestion, social sentiment, etc.) to be able to predict a disruption, which can then be used to avoid an impending disruption.
• Leveraging inventory in-transit as available to promise. With real-time visibility to inventory in motion, companies can now rethink how they manage inventory and start to leverage inventory in motion as available to promise.
The key point here is that IoT is providing real value to companies that are using it is a resource to gain real-time visibility to assets in motion.
The Internet of Things is delivering an abundance of value for companies able to harness the massive amounts of data generated and leverage this data to deliver actionable insight. One highly valuable application is in the area of real-time visibility to in-transit inventory. With IoT and advanced analytics, supply chains are able to inject a never before attained level of visibility which is translating into significant business value.
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