The Resilient Supply Chain: How IoT Change the Game

Aug 16, 2021
5 min read

Today, 27.6 percent of the world population (i.e. 2.14 billion people) shop online, and the numbers are increasing as you read this. You buy goods online and get them delivered in the designated time interval at your location. As customers, people want to be assured of quick delivery and excellent quality of the delivered product. These expectations can be met with effective use of Supply Chains to ensure that the customer experience is kept at the highest priority.

What Is A Supply Chain?

A high-tech, all-encompassing term for a sequence of tasks involved in a product delivery process designed to meet customer demands. These tasks include sourcing, assembly, packaging, shipping and receiving of goods or services. It is a multi-step framework designed to facilitate the traditional model by providing features like multi-point delivery checkouts, synchronized processing and better handling of goods.

But, even Thanos had weaknesses that made him more vulnerable to death. Similarly, the Supply Chain framework has its own challenges. Curious to know more? Keep reading!

Challenges in Supply Chain Without IoT

Supply Chains, being a physical network of points (locations dedicated to a purpose), are often prone to several issues. These issues can mostly be resolved with the use of relevant technology or well-planned methods. Let us have a look at some of the major challenges with Supply Chains.

1. Expense Monitoring and Reduction
Keeping good track of expenses is important for growing businesses, but unforeseen expenditures are always on the way. Businesses spend a lot on fuel, equipment, vehicles, new technologies and more. Besides these expenses, the fluctuations in the prices are an additional pain.

It was difficult to keep a near-to-perfect track of all these things in the earlier days as the systems were ultimately human-dependent.


2. Customer Experience
I bet you would agree with me on this! A business is run by its customers and their experiences have a huge impact. Earlier, it wasn’t possible to track down the shipments, expedite them if required and ensure on or before-time deliveries. Also, the quality of the delivered products was a mystery unless reported by the customer.

It was a blind process with no monitoring or tracking, and hence the number of failed deliveries or damaged products soon became a regular thing.


3. Resource Management
Resources are important to get the work done, be it the vehicles, staff, systems, or devices. It is only possible to keep the business booming if the internal resources are kept at their best quality.

From tracking the staff’s work efficiency and training them to check and making sure the devices used in the process are at mint conditions, every single step makes a difference. This is not easily possible if we rely on how humans judge and decide these parameters and their results.


4. Risk Management
We are in a pandemic and the product or shipment industry has never seen a bigger blow. The pandemic brought a number of issues tied to it such as new movement regulations, port closures, customers changing their minds, and many more.

Unforeseen risks or blows like the pandemic, natural disasters and others impact the businesses negatively and eventually take them down. It is nearly impossible to track these incoming risks in time and prevent them without magic (anyways a good technology is no less than MAGIC).

Internet of Things: The Best Fitted Solution

According to Oracle, the Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects or things that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.

With respect to a supply chain, IoT can be defined as the network of devices (sensors, actuators, controllers and monitors) that are placed at the various checkpoints of a supply chain to transfer and receive data and streamline the process.

Let's take an example!

Consider a scenario in which a very fragile item has to be delivered to a customer who is miles away from the source point. We all know fragile items need extra care, more frequent and accurate tracking and monitoring,

Benefits of IoT in Different Parts of The Supply Chain

The complexity and the automation in the supply chain are driving for agility, reduced costs and higher customer satisfaction. A resilient supply chain model takes into account several aspects that are essential for operational efficiency and adaptability. When the resilient model is incorporated with IoT technology, it becomes more efficient and reliable.

Let us see how IoT helps improve different parts of a Supply Chain:


1. Improved Warehouse Management:

A. Quality Management
Problem: Picture this, you are the owner of an e-commerce business and the quantity of goods at the warehouses increases every month, and it's challenging to check the condition of every single product.

Solution: With the use of environmental sensors, cameras, and other monitoring and detection devices, you can easily keep an eye with the help of scheduled automated reports generated by the IoT system or can self-monitor based on the data.

Detection of defects and monitoring the product condition is possible with the use of environmental sensors and cameras which are connected to each other. You can easily keep an eye on the quality with the help of scheduled automated reports generated by the IoT system.

B. Inventory Management
Problem: Keeping a track of all the incoming and outgoing products from your warehouse is crucial, but necessary. Earlier, the process included maintaining a register (now an Excel sheet) and regular checks. This resulted in humans wasting time in doing the non-essential tasks rather than focus on the business-centric ones.

Solution: With IoT, you can put a sensor or a microchip tag on each product and the system automatically adds or subtracts the quantity when an item moves in or out of the warehouse. This saves time, money and the excessive burden.


2. Real-Time Tracking and Monitoring:
We have all been there! You have bought yourself a PlayStation 5 and you just can’t wait, so you wish to keep an eye on every step of the delivery, right from the warehouse to you. Well, this was not possible just a few years ago and now it is with Live Tracking, where you get to see every stage of the shipment, from packaging to every junction to finally your house.

These processes work in real-time and have very less chances of errors. With the use of sensors and network devices at every halt, it is made easy to monitor the shipment’s journey and its pattern to enable the delivery company to avoid mistakes (if any).


3. Data-Dependent Analysis and Prediction
Predicting the uncertain is not just difficult but mostly impossible. The natural disasters, extreme weather, structural breakdown and more are huge blows to a company and are required to be prevented.

Using environmental sensors and other sensors that help detect a possible disaster to a system can be used to provide necessary data to act upon and prevent the companies from huge losses.


4. Faster Decision Making
Since it’s all computer operated, the speed and accuracy of the process is way beyond human capabilities. Better and quicker tracking, monitoring, detecting and ultimately creating a plan to act upon is what IoT comes with. Making decisions requires knowledge of the situation and who better than a sensor or tracking device to quickly address that.


5. Preventive Detection of Possible Failures
Not just the disasters, but other failures like network breakdown or system failure can have a bad impact. With IoT, certain devices can detect possible abnormalities in the system or the network at an early stage and send alerts for taking the necessary preventive actions.

Conclusion

It’s pretty straightforward and hence by now, you agree that IoT has the best possible set of solutions for Supply Chains. Quick connection, ease-of-deployment and access, accurate monitoring, proactive detection and effective prevention of failures and other money-making and time-saving features make IoT the perfect way to optimize your supply chain and make it more resilient and error-proof.

Companies have started investing in IoT and the continuous reports have been the proof of its boon-full results. So, there you go, you know how IoT can change the Supply Chain game!