Thought Leadership

Ideas that design the supply chain of the future

The Hyper connected world of IoT based Supply Chain Management

Imagine a world of hyper-connected, artificially intelligent and IoT based bots or tracking sensors enabled with the power of AI and M2M communications that designs a seamless framework of highly efficient supply chain management. A world where exceptions and disruptions are handled on its own with minimal human interaction but at a much higher efficiency. With hassle-free order fulfillment, disruption avoidance and better predictability and visibility. Won’t this be a dream framework for supply chain management for us all?

Let me indulge you even further in a use case from the future:

James, a procurement manager of a US based automotive parts provider, places an order on his system, for a set of sub-parts that they source from a manufacturer in South Korea. But due to some natural calamity the supplier’s logistics delivery chain has been disrupted and James’s system has been notified and alerted on the possible delay in the sub-parts arrival by the shipment’s tracking sensor. James’s system then internally communicates with the network systems of a series of domestic sub-parts distributors and manufacturers. It intelligently creates a ‘what if’ analysis of sourcing the particular sub-parts from a new domestic manufacturer and creates a contingency plan to ensure that there is no delay or repercussions over the final order fulfillment. It displays the analysis and contingency plan to James and waits for his decision to implement the next steps accordingly.

Well apart from getting excited, how many of you did in the back of the mind just imagine SkyNet or maybe “Rise of the Machines” like scenario? We all have that nightmare sometimes, but that’s just effect of fictional books and movies, reality is a bit different. IoT and artificial intelligence are here to disrupt the world of supply chain management and make it more free-flowing, resilient, hassle-free and smarter, at present however it’s just all about ‘the wait’.

Supply chain is at the heart of all businesses and if there was any doubt about it, the last few months has been a constant reminder of that to us all. A problem or disruption in the supply chain has a rippling effect on the other functions and processes of the business from sales to manufacturing and thus making it more resilient, adaptable and disruption-proof has become the need of the hour. And, IoT based Supply Chain Management for creating a hyper-connected supply chain framework, provides us with a set of smart solutions to easily detect and handle the supply chain hurdles more efficiently.

Having said that, let’s explore the top benefits that we can expect from more IoT based supply chain management solutions of the future:

  • Putting the “real” back in “Real-Time tracking”

    Though there a majority of solutions right now available in the current market that assert on providing “real-time tracking” of your shipments, your inventory or even of your labor activities. But how many of them are really “real-time”, most of the solutions can provide you with the latest current tracking and visibility details but they can’t be “real-time” unless some part of it is being implemented with the help of IoT devices. So whether it be the ELD devices on your delivery trucks or GPS and telematics based shipment trackers on them, or the wearable tech of your warehouse workers to detect the “real-time” picking accuracy or the drone based scanning of the warehouse inventory to automatically update the exact location and quantity of products. A combination of IoT enabled and cloud based systems with IoT devices can provide you with the highly desired “real-time” tracking data and help you manage your supply chain more efficiently.

  • Automating the repetitive logistics processes that require less human interaction

    In a recent article, I had already mentioned about the impact bots or AMRs (Automated Mobile Robots) can have in a warehouse of the future. How mobile robots today are well equipped to work in most complex warehouse situations and can independently work around humans too, thus augmenting their work. AMRs can be guided through their own software portal with picking tasks allocated to them. Automatic smart navigation and collaborative cloud sharing space helps them create a collective intelligence. It allows them to easily navigate the warehouse space, identify the items (even if changes to the item location has been made), create an optimized and smart picking route, avoid collisions (with human or bot counterparts), store the items temporarily, transport the items back to the required destinations. Or the use case we had seen earlier, there were IoT enabled devices and systems talking to each other through machine-to-machine communication mediums and automating a set of repetitive logistics processes that help the users to take a faster and smarter decision or execute the processes faster, thereby ensuring a more efficient supply chain management.

  • Driving high accuracy in supply chain predictive analytics and forecasting

    Forecasting or even creating a full-proof predictive analytical model for your supply chain needs a highly accurate and real-time data system. And, already established, IoT enabled systems can provide you the perfectly “real-time” data all around. Well, it’s not rocket science to understand that the data provided by IoT devices is not just real-time but also highly accurate. It removes the human-error factor from the whole process and provide supply chain managers with the highly accurate data and on a frequent basis, to help them utilize in training their predictive or forecasting models for other related processes of the logistics module. Being automated and highly trainable to follow instructions, IoT devices or bots can be used in gathering process data quite frequently and even collect shipment tracking details in real-time and forecast the completion times and thereby plan the subsequent processes much more efficiently.

Reaping the full benefits from IoT based Supply Chain Management might not be a thing of the future for long. All it needs, is a vision, time and an efficient implementation plan. The last one being a major game changer as anything less than an efficient implementation of this setup could lead to a major disaster and even a high-risk of security breach.

However, if implemented correctly, an IoT based supply chain management framework can transform your business efficiency and processes, multi-fold. It can create a hassle-free and hyper-connected system for you where you are in control with high visibility, yet less efforts. As the world of supply chain sets itself to be disrupted even further in the IoT space, we are getting all set for a smarter and resilient supply chain of the future, soon. One that can predict and resolve crisis easily and in minutes not months.

So, what is the biggest disruption in the logistics IoT space that you are looking forward to?

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About the author :

Srini Vaidy

President and CEO, Highway 905

Srini Vaidy is the President and CEO of the award-winning, cloud-based logistics technology provider Highway 905. He is an established innovator in the Supply Chain & Logistics space, with an ever-dying passion for coding and technology. For more than 30 years he has been ideating customer-centric and efficiency-driven supply chain execution solutions for the Fortune 500 to help them optimize their logistics costs and strengthen their competitive market position. With one eye on technological trends and the other on the happenings in the logistics space, he likes providing readers with an interesting perspective on the future of logistics industry.