The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals defines a supply chain as the “companies that participate in the design, assembly, and delivery of a particular product.”
For example, the supply chain for bananas involves suppliers of seeds, growers, distributor networks, facilities for storage and ripening, logistics, and grocery stores. Along each step of that journey, there exist a variety of challenges. For example, what if a shipment gets lost? How do stakeholders know exactly where a shipment may have been lost along the supply chain? Additionally, there are implications for storage conditions, given the banana has a limited shelf life that can be extended or reduced based on outside conditions. Who is responsible if a large shipment of bananas arrives spoiled at the grocery store?
IoT can greatly enhance supply chain management and associated processes. Some of the biggest difficulties revolve around knowing the quality and location of assets throughout supply chain processes. Leveraging sensors that provide real-time location, temperature, motion, g-force, and other important data can transform a business’s supply chain immensely.
In this article, we’ll overview a few of the ways that IoT can greatly augment supply chain management for all stakeholders involved.
One clear-cut way that IoT improves supply chain management is through asset tracking. Not only can the final product/good be tracked, but individual components can be tracked throughout their supply chain as well. With location data unlocked, suppliers, distributors, and wholesalers alike can benefit from a more transparent supply chain. Knowing the location of goods along the supply chain can solve a variety of problems, including:
There are several ways to get the location of a good along the supply chain, either real-time or on an incremental basis. Sensors receiving location via GPS can provide the real-time location over cellular networks, but there are cost and battery-life implications to consider when providing real-time location. The more communication devices have with a network, the faster its battery will drain. If a sensor has a constant power source, then battery-life would likely not be a major factor in finding the right hardware and network solution for a specific use-case.
All of this is to say that the right makeup of hardware, network, operations, and business logic for a supply-chain management, asset-tracking solution depend on the exact use case a company is trying to solve.
Another area where IoT improves the supply chain is unlocking the ability for different companies along the supply chain to validate and ensure the quality of the goods being produced and transported.
Cold Chain Management Solutions are a great example of managing quality throughout the supply chain. Many different types of food and medicine need to be maintained at specific temperatures throughout the supply chain in order to ensure quality. Each year, billions of dollars are lost due to damage from high temperature. For example, if apples or insulin are kept in a truck with a broken air conditioner, they may be spoiled upon arrival at the distributor. Cold Chain Management Solutions are a huge help when it comes to maintaining quality of assets.
Leverege’s Cold Chain Management Solution is overviewed here. In the demo video, we explain how our UI and solution helps to ensure compliance, monitor the vitals of different goods, and, of course, track the location of said goods.