4 Way Logistics, Inc. | Is Your Logistics Chain Leaking? The IoT May Be the Answer
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Is Your Logistics Chain Leaking? The IoT May Be the Answer

24 Jul 2017, by Mike Rogers in Blog, Logistics Outsourcing, Transportation Spend, Transportation Technology

Until a few years ago, inventory was a labor-intensive process that typically required either stopping operations for several days or bringing in a large crew to painstakingly count products overnight. These methods were heavily susceptible to human error, with end counts that didn’t necessarily reflect full accuracy. With buyers demanding transparency – particularly in eCommerce – the need for something better was clear.  Without digital oversight and assistance, your supply chain could be “leaking” time-sensitive opportunities for profit and stability, turning away customers frustrated by a lack of timely inventory. In a competitive market, that’s not a position that will remain tenable for long. Many companies have found that the seamless integration and digital connection of the IoT along a supply chain handles this challenge admirably.  In a nutshell, if your supply chain can get a digital window into your sales and vice-versa, stock can be replenished more efficiently and reliably.

How Do You Communicate?

When you need to signal to a product or material supplier that there’s a problem, how do you currently accomplish that? For many companies, it requires a person-to-person contact just to relay the information and request a longer conversation. While humans will always need to be part of the equation at some point, technology has become sophisticated enough to do your heavy lifting – even literally, in some warehouse robotic applications. Time-consuming phone tag sessions over order shortages or incorrect deliveries can skip the phone altogether with a well-constructed electronic data interchange, or EDI, plan. When both your receiving inventory data and your vendor invoices live in the same digital system, it’s a simple matter to ask a computer to make comparisons, triggering an alert for both parties if something doesn’t match up.

Smart Allocation of Hours

Every minute that your warehouse team spends waiting on an arrival is time they could spend picking, packing, or organizing. While sku accuracy is the most obvious benefit of using automated IoT sensors and smart shelving in the warehouse, the connectivity of a digitally-sound supply chain extends past the loading dock, as well. When you consciously parter with a 3PL provider that offers transparent tracking and data on vehicles, not just packages, you know exactly when your shipments are moving off the dock. That allows you to intelligently plan staff projects without disruption, putting receiving inventory and pallet-loading responsibilities in the optimal position on your daily to-do list. This time-sensitive, tech-aided outlook cuts down on missed shipping targets and keeps things running smoothly, particularly in very busy or cross-docking style warehouses.

Starting Might Be As Simple as an Opt-In

Chances are, large supply chain vendors and service providers that you are already using are fully committed to IoT technologies, and are willing to extend data and connections for the asking. Adding your “node” in the digital information chain benefits all parties, speeding up both delivery and accuracy chain-wide. Most IoT devices and systems have grown sophisticated enough to protect proprietary information as well. However, as with all digital components of a company, security from outside threats like hacking will need to be taken seriously along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for IoT device recommendations from vendors and service providers, either; joining up with the same devices could make supply chain communications even more seamless.

Thankfully, most IoT devices and systems are scalable by nature, so you can drive success without concerns over logistical growing pains. No matter what stage of digital development your company is in, using devices that offer a “top down view” of your current stock levels and operations is a step you’ll need to take eventually. The smart move is to start laying the foundation and building that path now.

4 Way Logistics, Inc.is on a mission to help small & medium size businesses compete against larger players by using logistics as a competitive advantage. We are empowering executives to look at logistics strategically, rather than treating it as a commodity. For ideas to transform your logistics, email me at miker@4way.com