It is estimated that up to 40% of returnable assets disappear each year globally because of breakage, misplacement or theft. According to McKinsey's featured insights, nearly 80% of logistics executives surveyed indicated they needed to improve and invest in digital planning to increase supply chain visibility. However, according to the latest IBM study, the tricky part is that the end-to-end transparency must be based in a real-time, contextual understanding of all the right data to provide credible information and build smarter sustainable supply chains.
The big question is, how can companies obtain better visibility into the movement and condition of their shipments? The answer is straightforward: by using modern technology. The latest developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data have an immense potential to enhance every supply chain process, from inventory forecasting to demand and sustainable supply chain management.
The transition to truly digital supply chains is more complex and volatile than ever, and companies must become more agile to get there. This means that traditional solutions based on a single technology are no longer appropriate for the new reality.
Smart data ensures better visibility
The Internet of Things (IoT) is said the most disruptive technology impacting supply chains today. In modern connected packaging solutions with advanced tracking capabilities, every asset is equipped with a sensor associated with a relevant data point. This data is then aggregated and reported in real-time. As packages are tracked in transit, it is simple to see where products are at any given time, when they will arrive, and in what sequence they are packed in a container.
However, innovative packaging is capable of much more. Businesses can also monitor current stock levels and receive alerts when certain events occur, such as shock, tampering, or late deliveries. The data can also help choose the most optimal routes and increase delivery performance, handling, utilization, and lead times. This would eventually improve processes, increase efficiency and lower the costs of connected flows. Lead time can be reduced by up to 65% in some cases.
With multiple data sources, it can be challenging for companies to harmonize, interpret, and efficiently share this data. There is no one-size-fits-all solution either. Every company must ensure that the information they collect adds value and provides insight into their supply chain management. This is why choosing the right software to quickly analyze the data to give valuable insights and create custom alerts and actionable reports is critical. A centralized track-and-trace information hub should be tailored to the needs of every company and have a user-friendly interface to avoid information paralysis.
Being tech-neutral is smart
The digitalization of the supply chain industry is well underway. Tracking technology is evolving at an unprecedented pace: new IoT networks are spreading fast and cheaper devices emerge on the market daily. With no industry standards across the supply chain, each player is using their preferred solution. Disparate technologies, however, can limit their capabilities. This siloed approach complicates data collection processes, reduces visibility, and consequently creates losses across the entire logistical flow.
To overcome those challenges, the industry is championing technology-agnostic track and trace software for connected packaging, allowing full interoperability across different systems. Such networks should cooperate with other devices regardless of their underlying technology (QR, RFID, connected gateways, GPS, Bluetooth, etc.) and can be added to the existing device fleet without needing to replace the current equipment and infrastructure.
The most sophisticated devices can then be configured to the desired preferences. For instance, the number of alerts can be decreased when the product is at the destination warehouse to conserve battery life and increased while the shipment is in transit, to increase product visibility and improve planning. Specific alerts can be switched on and off to single out only the most essential information, which can help to improve alert accuracy by up to 99.9%.
Connected ecosystems pave the way for smart, sustainable supply chains
The future supply chains will have to be more compatible and interconnected than today. According to the World Economic Forum research, sustainable technology solutions for supply chain management must be fully interoperable with other systems within and outside the company. It also stressed that companies with traceable value chains would outperform those without them. Gartner predicts that by 2026, over half of the prominent organizations will compete as collaborative digital ecosystems rather than individual firms. This new, connected world will be driven by open-source and technology-neutral solutions that ensure mass personalization and smooth collaboration between all the ecosystem participants. Investing in a technology-agnostic platform can give businesses a competitive advantage while preparing them for future challenges.
A smart supply chain is also more sustainable. Technology improves and speeds up the decision-making process and helps manage the inventory better, which translates into greater economic sustainability. McKinsey estimates that the supply chain is responsible for more than 80% of the company’s environmental impact. Digital tracing technology offers quicker route optimization and consequently decreases their ecological footprint. Finally, IoT solutions bring accountability and automation to the logistical flows, which maximizes companies’ social impact.