Why IoT May Not Be the Best Solution to Supply Chain Disruption

Data mesh and intelligent data orchestration are now providing a new route to unlock supply chain value and deliver competitive advantage.

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More than 10 billion IoT devices around the world are constantly adding data to already overflowing data stores. Yet global supply chain disruption persists because it is not caused by a lack of data– which is why more IoT may not the answer. The real answer lies in creating effective connections between numerous stakeholders performing a range of functions, across multiple enterprise platforms and in different jurisdictions. Until now, that has been easier said than done.

Achieving visibility in parts of the supply chain that involve goods moving between physical locations and stakeholders is difficult due to the number of independent organizations involved. It is comparatively simple to digitize a factory– with everything under one roof and controlled by one organization. But an entire global supply chain is a very different matter. Mobile devices enable single stakeholders to track and monitor outside their respective domains. However, the cost of such devices is prohibitive, and they present operational challenges, such as maintenance and retrieval.

As a result, although there is no shortage of data to achieve granular visibility throughout the supply chain, it is fragmented across a variety of siloed systems, each owned, operated and controlled by different independent organizations. To unlock the benefits, the data needs to be captured and combined, while maintaining privacy between the respective organizations, and very different data needs to be brought together in a way that can deliver the coherent visibility required.

New data mesh technology is now providing a breakthrough and unlocking value from even the most challenging supply chains through the use of intelligent data orchestration. Data mesh is based on distributed architecture for analytical data management and enables end users to easily access and query data where it lives, without first transporting it to a data lake or data warehouse.

This means data from multiple supply chain systems can be captured and combined to create a 'digital twin' of a consignment– providing a single data product from which all stakeholders can get the visibility they need. Leveraging data across the supply chain enables a much fuller picture to be achieved at a granular level. And, as the data is from existing systems used in the day-to-day running of the various organizations, it is of high quality, can be trusted and the systems are well maintained.

Intelligent data orchestration is then what connects and harmonizes the different supply chain systems in a way that allows them to work together. Just like in a traditional orchestra, a 'conductor' takes center stage and synchronizes all the various data inputs. Each separate system communicates directly and only to the conductor platform– removing the need for numerous discrete connections and maintaining data integrity. As each digital twin is created, proprietary algorithms define and assign policies to it to ensure only relevant data is captured from each connected system.

Data from order management and transport management systems is combined with more real-time data sources from other systems present across the supply chain. For example, consignment and inventory data can be combined with transport schedules and allocated transport. The telematics system of the associated transport vehicle provides real-time location and condition data from the consignment which, when combined with analytics, generates detailed consignment lifecycle records, capturing key events throughout. These events can be communicated across the supply chain, improving communication, and paving the way to automation of processes.

Being able to interact with all data for a single consignment in a single place can have a profound impact on business operations. For example, better equipped customer service agents can reduce call handling times due to having all information easily accessible, helping to reduce the overall administrative burden of many online B2C businesses.

In the middle-mile, goods-in teams can be better prepared to receive products, and the receipt of a product can be notified to all stakeholders involved, streamlining the invoicing process. What’s more, in both these examples, delivering key updates to relevant stakeholders can reduce the number of phone calls received.

The increasing complexity of supply chains is making optimization more challenging than ever, while the cost of inefficiencies is growing. Research suggests that businesses with optimal supply chains can halve their inventory holdings, reduce their supply chain costs by 15% and triple the speed of their cash-to-cash cycle. Data mesh and intelligent data orchestration are now providing a new route to unlock supply chain value and deliver competitive advantage.