Supply Chain Digital Transformation – The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT - in business, also referred to as the “Industrial Internet of Things”, or IIoT) encompasses a network of smart, interconnected objects that can provide real-time visibility and detailed information on the surrounding environment.

This is achieved through the use of a range of sensors able to provide information on objects and the surroundings, integrated with microcontrollers (MCUs) for embedded processing power and RFID technology that enables communication with the wider network.

These smart objects constantly feed data to a central management system, enabling the integration of all relevant information across the supply chain to help businesses to understand the interdependencies within individual operations, as well as across the wider network.

This means IoT enabled supply chains can eliminate visibility gaps, as data from hundreds, thousands, or even millions of connected smart objects can be used to continuously monitor processes and operations across multiple sites, regions and service partnerships, all in real-time.

IoT enabled devices can also sense constraints or exceptions that may impact service levels.  When used in conjunction with other technologies such as advanced analytics and machine learning, autonomous control systems can then automate certain decision-making processes and initiate suitable adjustments and resolutions instantly, without the need for manual intervention.

With these abilities, businesses can proactively resolve disruptive events at any stage of the supply chain and adjust to complex situations in real-time, providing significant benefits for business processes that have previously been based around static data analysis and structures.

Some of the key areas where IoT can provide the transparency needed to gain the further insights businesses require for optimising the supply chain are:

Asset tracking – Using tracking technologies to determine the real-time location of shipments, equipment and assets.

Fleet management – Using tracking technologies to connect all fleets and collect real-time data about their mileage and performance. 

Inventory and warehouse management – Monitoring data from long-range networks to determine the activity level within the warehouse facility.

Vendor management – Using data gathered from asset tracking tools to gauge the performance of vendors.

Predictive maintenance – Equipping machinery with sensors to determine if they need to be fixed ahead of time.