Use IoT Tech to Respond to Changes in the Supply Chain

July 23, 2019
Internet of Things technology is transforming the ways retailers and manufacturers respond to supply and demand.

Today, consumers expect orders to be delivered faster and with constant updates along the way, putting immense pressure on retailers and manufacturers to quickly and efficiently respond to changes in supply and demand. Constantly shifting supply chains, with countless moving parts, make transparency even more difficult for businesses to achieve. To meet this increasing customer demand, companies are looking for more ways to access data and get the most value out of what’s being collected.

The first step in gaining access to business data is to deploy modern technologies throughout the supply chain, starting with hardware and software solutions. With enterprise-grade mobile devices that connect to an organization’s business data through software solutions, companies are able to begin gathering data and using it to their advantage. Once the basics are in place, companies can deploy smart edge technology, like radio-frequency-identification (RFID) portals, scanning devices, and conveyor systems, that gather data along each part of the supply chain and feed it into the software and mobile devices, providing a more holistic view into business operations.

With the help of smart data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and sensors along the supply chain, retailers and manufacturers can effectively respond to changes in the supply chain and better prepare for the future.

Enhancing Response Time

With smart edge technologies positioned throughout the supply chain, retailers and manufacturers have access to a constant stream of real-time data that enables them to quickly respond to changes in supply and demand.

For example, if there’s a natural disaster at a distribution center, the company needs to know exactly what was in the facility so that it can quickly respond and make production adjustments to continue to meet customer demands. IoT technology helps speed reaction time because the complete inventory and shipment data is already accounted for in the system. Access to this critical information can make or break the way a business responds to unexpected changes.

With logistics technologies in place, businesses can be better prepared when immediate decisions must be made to keep the supply chain moving and ensure that orders are being transferred to another facility or dealt with properly.

Receiving Inventory Alerts

Retailers depend on accurate inventory data to place orders or fill the sales floor. By adding sensors to warehouses or clothing racks, retailers can be alerted when inventory is low and needs to be restocked, or if more of a certain item needs to be shipped to the store.

Associates on the floor can also access the current status of inventory on a mobile device and place orders face-to-face with a customer or see if a nearby store has an item in stock. The ability to place an order based on reliable information provides an added a layer of customer service and prevents the retailer from losing out on a sale.

The data gathered from sensors also helps retailers predict how much of any given item will be needed based on actual data and purchasing patterns. When inventory is more accurately accounted for, retailers can increase their bottom line and reduce lost profit from unsold inventory.

Predicting Equipment Maintenance

Manufacturers rely on equipment to keep operations moving efficiently. So, when an issue pops up that results in unscheduled maintenance, multiple days of work can be set back. Sensors and other IoT technology allow manufacturers to better predict equipment maintenance through transmitted data and enable them to avoid costly downtime in production.

Sensors can track the amount of time a system has been in use and alerts manufacturers when the machine needs to be shut down, cleaned, serviced, or fixed. Armed with this valuable information, businesses get an earlier heads-up about upcoming maintenance, enabling them to better prepare their fleet and keep manufacturing running efficiently 24/7.

The data also informs manufacturers of preventative maintenance, which at times can require parts that the company doesn’t have on hand. When this occurs, manufacturers can order the needed items and schedule maintenance in advance to ensure that production doesn’t get slowed or shut down.

As the IoT develops further and more companies deploy smart edge technologies to meet rising consumer expectations, the technology will only continue to get better. With the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), businesses are beginning to get a taste of what the technology can do. For example, we’re already seeing AI enhance supply-chain operations by automatically shifting shipments or orders to a different port of entry if there happens to be a weather event in a certain location, like a typhoon, that could negatively impact distribution.

When businesses operating within the retail, distribution, and manufacturing industries deploy smart technologies throughout the supply chain, they’re better prepared to quickly and efficiently respond to changes and keep customers happy and well-informed. Businesses are benefitting greatly from the data provided by IoT technologies, which leads to data-driven decisions that will set them up for success, today and in the future. 

Jim Dempsey is National Sales Manager at Panasonic.

About the Author

Jim Dempsey | Director, U.S. Business Development & Partnerships, Panasonic

Jim Dempsey is director of U.S. business development & partnerships, which focuses on identifying, recruiting, and managing strategic relationships to broaden Panasonic mobility’s presence in existing and emerging business verticals. He has worked for Panasonic since 2011 in various roles, including director of the TOUGHBOOK EDGE Authorized Mobility Partner Program, and business development manager and national manager of the Mobility Partner Development Group.

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