In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven, and ever-changing world, businesses need to be able to track their products and shipments in real-time in order to stay competitive. This is where emerging technologies come in. We’re on the cusp of a revolution in real-time visibility, primarily driven by IoT, AI, ML, Blockchain, Data Fabric, and Cloud Computing. These technologies are the new arsenal for organizations looking to streamline their supply chain operations. The synergy of emerging technologies is already transforming how businesses operate, and this trend is only going to continue in the years to come.
We now expect Amazon to deliver in a day. Groceries are to be delivered in minutes. Online shopping, e-commerce and customer expectations along with the competition are Driving the supply chain to bring the best of the technology to use. So much so is the impact of Real-time visibility that a study by Zebra Technologies found that companies with real-time visibility can reduce product recalls by up to 70%. This is absolutely unprecedented. It is not just visibility. Supply chain organizations need to track all the other KPIs as well.
Supply chain failures could gave global ripple effects across industries when it comes to key components when it comes to our daily lives. One such example is The global chip shortage crisis. This is when demand for semiconductor chips – essential in many electronics – exceeds supply. This shortage has had significant ripple effects across many industries.
Real-time visibility is the ability to track goods and products as they move through the supply chain network in real-time. This is important because it helps companies identify and address bottlenecks and inefficiencies, improve operational efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction. The time has come that we explore and use emerging technologies extensively for Real-Time Visibility in the Supply Chain
What is Real-time visibility in the supply chain?
Real-time visibility in the supply chain means being able to track and watch products at every point in the supply chain as it happens. This gives companies an up-to-date picture of where their goods are and in what condition. The companies can send messages like ‘Your order is out for delivery’ and ‘Track your order’ due to real-time analytics.
Real-time visibility means monitoring the exact location and conditions of goods at any moment, allowing for instant problem-solving and cost-saving. In the context of supply chains and logistics, real-time visibility has become crucial. Data analytics companies use a Supply Chain Control Tower to track various KPIs and keep a real-time visibility of the shipments and this is crucial to achieving operational excellence in the Supply chain.
This is really helpful because if something goes wrong or gets delayed, businesses can see that instantly and do something about it. It’s like if your package got stuck somewhere, you’d want to know right away so you could sort it out. This all leads to things running more smoothly, customers being happier because they get their stuff on time, and even saves money because it cuts down on mistakes and delays. And all of this is possible because of cool technology like GPS and special software.
All Leading Shipping companies like FedEx, AllCargo, and UPS use Advanced technologies to Track Shipments. In a 2017 blog post, FedEx stated that it had saved $1.4 billion in fuel costs and $100 million in labor costs by using real-time analytics to optimize its routes. FedEx has reduced its carbon emissions by 1.5 million tons by using real-time analytics to improve the efficiency of its fleet. This is equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road.
Emerging technologies that are transforming the supply chain
Internet of Things (IoT) and Sensors One of the key technologies that enable real-time visibility in the supply chain is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the interconnectivity of devices, sensors, and systems. Sensors can be embedded in products, packages, and containers, which enable companies to track the location and condition of products as they move through the supply chain. This real-time visibility helps companies to optimize delivery times, reduce inventory costs, and improve supply chain performance.
IT/OT convergence refers to the integration and alignment of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) systems within an organization or industrial environment. These two domains historically operated in separate silos.
- Information Technology (IT): IT encompasses the use of computers, networks, software, and other technologies to manage and process information. It focuses on data storage, analysis, and communication for business applications and administrative purposes.
- Operational Technology (OT): OT, on the other hand, deals with the hardware and software technologies used to monitor and control physical devices and processes in various industries such as manufacturing, energy, transportation, and more. OT is responsible for managing industrial control systems (ICS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and other automation tools.
Blockchain Technology Blockchain technology is another technology that can enable real-time visibility in the supply chain. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that allows for secure and transparent tracking of transactions. Companies can use blockchain to create a tamper-proof record of transactions in the supply chain, from the origin of the product to the final destination. This real-time visibility can help to reduce fraud, errors, and delays in the supply chain, leading to improved efficiency and reduced costs.
Cloud Computing Cloud computing is a technology that allows companies to store and access data over the Internet. Cloud computing can be used to store data from various sources in the supply chain, including sensors, GPS devices, and other sources. This data can be processed and analyzed in real-time, enabling companies to make quick decisions and optimize their supply chain operations. Cloud computing can also provide a platform for collaboration between supply chain partners, enabling them to share data and insights in real-time.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) AI and ML are technologies that can be used to analyze data in the supply chain and identify patterns and trends. AI and ML can be used to predict demand, optimize inventory, and improve delivery times. They can also be used to identify potential bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain, enabling companies to take corrective action and improve performance.
Data Fabric A Data fabric is an ideal platform for real-time visibility in the supply chain. A Data Fabric provides a unified view of data from various sources, including IoT devices, sensors, and systems. This unified view enables companies to analyze and process data in real time, providing insights into supply chain operations. A Data Fabric can also provide a platform for collaboration between supply chain partners, enabling them to share data and insights in real time.
Real-time visibility in the supply chain is a competitive edge
Real-time visibility in the supply chain is particularly important for products that are time-sensitive, high-value or have a high risk of damage or theft. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, real-time visibility is critical for tracking and monitoring the temperature and humidity levels of products to ensure their quality and safety.
Similarly, in the food industry, real-time visibility is necessary to maintain the freshness and quality of perishable goods. In the fashion industry, real-time visibility can help companies keep track of inventory levels and quickly respond to changes in consumer demand. Overall, any industry that deals with high-value or time-sensitive products can benefit from real-time visibility in their supply chain management.
Real-time visibility in logistics and supply chains has transformed how businesses track and manage their goods, a change primarily brought about by technological advancements. It’s like having a live map of all goods, at all times, making operations smoother and more efficient.
With real-time tracking, businesses can promptly address issues, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction, increasing productivity, and reducing costs. It’s clear that as the digital age advances, the importance of real-time visibility in supply chains and logistics will only continue to grow. This not only gives businesses a competitive edge but also caters to the modern customer’s need for prompt and precise information.
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