Over the years, supply chains have become increasingly complex, especially as logistics volumes have continued to grow. In fact, moving a single package through a supply chain today may require more than 200 interactions, and involve an average of 25 people around the world.
These complexities, coupled with increasing consumer demands for speed and efficiency, bring new challenges for supply chain managers — the biggest of which is visibility.
Even though companies may have access to general information, such as when goods left their last destination, they rarely have the visibility to ascertain the precise location or status at any given time. However, this information can be indispensable in preventing situations that can lead to supply-chain disruption, such as:
So how do companies obtain this essential information and better visibility into the movement and condition of shipments? The answers lies in technology, specifically the internet of things (IoT).
With IoT sensors attached to containers, supply-chain managers can retrieve data needed to track the location and condition of assets, as well as the security of the shipment. IoT devices can transmit real-time information on temperature, humidity, shock and tilt. This can help to ensure both timely delivery and the arrival of goods undamaged and safe to consume. Many foodstuffs and medicines are fragile and can’t tolerate variations in temperature; thanks to the IoT, suppliers can intervene if conditions vary during the trip.
In addition to monitoring and tracking goods, the IoT can increase supply-chain efficiency by providing valuable information about machinery conditions, including predictive maintenance requirements, within a logistics center or warehouse. The technology can also provide insights into the best routes for avoiding delivery delays.
IoT solutions can help to improve visibility at each step of the supply chain. At the same time, and the development of low-speed networks such as 0G offers fresh opportunities for enhancing communications. They can send data over very long distances, and operate in such a way that they can’t be jammed, making them more secure. Low-power area networks tend to be very efficient, requiring less energy consumption by devices. As a result, sensors have a longer service life, and maintenance is greatly reduced. Sensor longevity ensures that even on the longest of journeys, the goods can be tracked via the IoT sensor without fear of a battery dying halfway through a shipment.
As we enter the Industry 4.0 era, digital transformation becomes essential for companies wishing to remain competitive on all fronts, including the supply chain. Technology in general, and the IoT in particular, enable real-time data analysis and visibility across the supply chain. As a result, companies can save money, deliver goods on time, and increase the bottom line.
Patrick Cason is general manager at Sigfox France.
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