Supply chain management is a foundational business process that impacts nearly every enterprise, whether you’re a manufacturer who must transport parts into a factory and finished goods to the point of sale, or a farming operation tasked with transporting produce for processing or to commercial kitchens.
Quite often, this important task involves third-party logistics companies, which, while filling an important role, can also insert inefficiency and lack of visibility into the process.
Sensors that can monitor the condition of products in shipment and cloud platforms that can optimize delivery routes are just some of the technologies that are currently disrupting the way supply chains are managed.
Asset Tracking & Fleet Management
Two important supply chain management use cases that have been enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) are asset tracking and fleet management.
Based on RFID tags or global SIMs, for example, asset tracking allows a supply chain manager to know in real-time where a product, truck, or shipping container is located; if it’s passing through the Panama Canal on a container ship or moving down an assembly line on a factory floor.
This granular insight into the supply chain, when coupled with cloud computing and data analytics, can inform predictive models that allow for up-to-the-second delivery information, which, in turn, can create efficiencies in staffing levels as it relates to monitoring and receiving products, as well as the availability of complementary assets, like a crane needed to unload a barge or a forklift to load a truck.
To fully understand the impact of fleet management, consider FedEx or DHL drivers tasked with moving light-trucks filled with packages around an urban area. Factors such as weather, traffic congestion, time of day, day of the week, and whether a co-worker called in sick can all change the time it takes to get packages from a warehouse to the customer.
With so many variables, it’s unrealistic to expect that a human could always make the most efficient decisions. However, cloud platforms that are fed data from the fleet, traffic models, weather reports, and other sources, can plot a much more efficient route.
Packages get to the customer faster, ensuring a better end-user experience. Also, driver headcounts, fuel consumption, and maintenance costs can all be reduced. Finally, fleet management allows operators to know, based on analysis, that asset reliability, availability, and efficiency are all optimized.