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:
- Unfavorable conditions for merchandise.Without visibility, supply-chain managers can’t monitor the condition of their containers. This is particularly critical when transporting food or medical goods which have specific temperature requirements or limited shelf life.
- Losses and thefts. By accessing information on the location of goods in real time, companies can drastically reduce the number of lost goods. In addition, supply-chain managers can identify and prevent theft, which represents $30 billion in lost revenue for U.S. companies every year.
- Excessive delays. By knowing the exact location and condition of goods in transit, a supply-chain manager can make the right decisions quickly to avoid excessive delays. For example, if the delivery of a product is held up, the manager can inform the end customer directly. In addition, logistics teams can set up local stock to enable delivery of the goods quickly if a product is delayed or lost in transit.
So how do companies obtain this essential information and better visibility into the movement and condition of shipments? The answer 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.
Author: Patrick Cason, Sigfox.
WND UK, is the UK #0G secure sensor data network operator, powered by Sigfox. The public network, which was deployed in a period of just 18 months, covers over 90% of the UK’s population. WND is now continuing to strengthen our network through densification and by working with channel partners to achieve deep in-building coverage where required.
Sigfox is the world’s first global dedicated low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) communications service for sensor data, typically deployed in Internet of Things (IoT) applications. WND UK’s network solution provides reliable and affordable communications for sensor devices that require very little power.
WND UK’s growing ecosystem of channel partners operate across a broad range of industry sectors providing a range of applications, such as the monitoring of legionella in healthcare and public sector buildings, automated meter readings for utilities, property technology, leak detection and asset management within logistical, returnable packaging and post and parcel sectors. Learn more: WND Technology Overview