It’s no secret that around the world, supply chains are breaking. In the US, the auto industry is retreating from its 50-year history with just-in-time manufacturing, and the tight, ecosystem-wide coordination it entails. In India, the COVID crisis has completely disrupted globally integrated supply chains across every major business sector, threatening long-lasting impact on multiple fronts: social, political, technical, industrial and economic. But the pandemic is only the most recent shock; climate change and geopolitical risk have provided a threatening background drumbeat for several years now.
I believe there is a simple solution to the trauma buyers and suppliers are experiencing: data. Specifically, suppliers can easily receive extremely granular logistics data about where their goods are at any point on the globe, in a digestible format that allows customers to quickly pivot if problems occur. In doing so, suppliers give their customers the intelligence required to manage their supply chains effectively and keep business on track. This new constant stream of micro-reporting is enabled by a combination of low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) technology and narrowband satellite communications, allowing goods to be pinpointed at any moment, anywhere under the sky.
Taking a page from the consumer playbook
As consumers we are already familiar with micro-reporting—when we order a Lyft or an Uber ride, we can track every inch of our driver’s progress to our location. We can also see what kind of vehicle we’ll be riding in, and a numeric rating for our driver—and decline the ride if neither of these meet our satisfaction. Why not apply this real time, granular view across gigantic supply chains, and consolidate the data in a dashboard command center? Let’s break it down.
IoT technology-enabled transparency is the next wave
As e-commerce continues to drive retail sales growth for giants like Walmart and Amazon, all industries will sharpen their focus on supply chain and logistics as a means of gaining a competitive edge. I believe that all forward-thinking suppliers and logistics companies will soon be more transparent about sharing detailed transit information with customers, in a bid to solve problems and build stronger partnerships.
New technologies are available to drive down the cost of ubiquitous data collection. Low-cost, ruggedized IoT hubs, or hotspots, can be installed on thousands of trucks economically; they can transmit data with the seamless, affordable connectivity of narrowband satellite communications, and all without geographic constraints.
On the customer end, advanced dashboard and mobile solutions consolidate and provide analytic interpretation of supplier data and alerts. When a freighter is greeted with a backlog in port, or trucks are sidelined by inclement weather, customers can be apprised immediately, giving them the earliest notice possible. Armed with up-to-the minute information, companies can quickly offer alternative strategies.
As parts of our planet begin to enter a post-COVID world, the pandemic continues to grip numerous others. The global supply chain ecosystem will no doubt continue to be rocked by current and future pandemics, and climate and geopolitical change. As the world gets more complicated, the solution is apparent and simple: providing abundant data to help supply chain participants better cope with relentless change.
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