The global supply chain has become extremely complex. Proctor and Gamble has more than 75,000 suppliers, while Walmart counts more than 100,000. With so many suppliers in the mix, companies are finding it extremely challenging to keep tabs on their shipping containers.
Estimates indicate that roughly 1,400 shipping containers are lost at sea each year, with as many as 50 going overboard in a single incident. Cargo theft adds to the problem, costing the industry up to $30bn each year in the U.S alone. With lost packaging as prevalent as it is, organizations are increasingly demanding end-to-end supply chain visibility, in order to identify issues when they happen, and prevent problems from occurring. The alternative is faulty operations, waning customer loyalty and significant revenue loss.
The internet of things (IoT) offers increased visibility into every step of the supply chain. IoT-enabled devices can capture valuable bits of data throughout a shipment’s journey, providing organizations with a holistic view of the supplier network. With IoT sensors attached to containers, organizations can keep tabs on a shipment’s whereabouts and condition up and down the supply chain.
That said, the real value of IoT sensors is only realized if there’s tangible business value. And that’s where the 0G network comes into play. Unlike Wi-Fi, which can only transmit data in close range to the connection source, and cellular, which is often associated with high costs of deployment and operation, 0G technology enables remote data transfer at the right time, at an affordable cost.
IoT-enabled devices connected to a 0G network — often referred to as a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) — can transmit small amounts of data around the world to communicate critical information, such as container temperature or location. Moreover, all of this can be done with a simple message requiring less battery consumption, which translates to lower costs.
Once a shipment leaves the warehouse, it begins its supply-chain journey. Traditionally, the outbound logistics manager has checked the box denoting that the pallet left the first checkpoint. Then, once the shipment arrives to the next checkpoint — whether that be a distribution center three states away, or seaport across an ocean — the inbound logistics manager has historically notified the supplier that the shipment made it to the desired destination. What has remained unclear is what happens between those two points.
The data collected from IoT sensors on the 0G network can also help to ensure the integrity of goods. From perishables such as food and beverages to life-saving pharmaceuticals, ensuring the optimal environmental conditions of products is key for bringing to market reliable products that meet industry standards. By installing devices connected to the 0G network in containers, organizations can receive real-time notifications of shipment conditions. For instance, if the temperature changes or if a pallet moves irregularly, the manufacturer can trigger swift remedial action.
A third of all vehicle breakdowns are due to tire malfunctions. Of that number, 90 percent of issues are caused by improper pressure control. Michelin, a leading tire provider, has harnessed the power of IoT to secure real-time information from shipping vehicles while in transit. With these insights, the company can better understand and control tire pressures, reduce breakdowns, keep shipments running smoothly and on time and, most importantly, ensure the safety of its customers.
The global logistics market is set to reach $15 trillion within the next five years. With such extensive capital on the line, and an increasingly competitive market, businesses can’t afford the cost of recovering and replacing lost containers. To get ahead of these challenges, and deliver operational efficiency at the right cost, supply-chain managers must invest in IoT-enabled solutions, using a reliable network to ensure visibility at every step of the container’s journey.
Laetitia Jay is chief marketing officer with Sigfox.
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