How IoT Can Optimize Overwhelmed Supply Chains

With more and more brick-and-mortar shops temporarily closing their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s immense pressure on retailers to deliver much-needed supplies to individuals at home. More packages—including crucial deliveries of food, medications and sanitation supplies—need to be shipped, which increases the pressure on supply chains to perform as efficiently as possible. At the same time, the uptick in shipments increases the risk for steps going wrong along the package journey.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can help mitigate this risk and ensure supply chains operate as swiftly as possible. IoT-enabled sensors attached to containers can provide insight into shipment whereabouts and conditions so that retailers can meet consumer expectations for timely and safe deliveries. Here are four ways supply chain operators can leverage IoT to optimize their supply chains during this critical time:

Monitor the Package Journey in Real Time

As people stay home to contain the spread of the virus, the value of the products they are ordering online has increased significantly, which raises consumer expectations for timely deliveries. By installing IoT-enabled sensors in their shipping containers, operators can harness the devices’ geolocation capabilities to secure, track and communicate up-to-date delivery approximations to consumers as they await their deliveries.

In addition to managing consumer expectations, this location data can also be analyzed by operators using AI and Machine Learning algorithms to identify patterns and even predict any recurring delays in delivery routes. Operators can use this insight to evaluate quicker, more direct routes that will accelerate deliveries and optimize the overall package journey.

Regulate Container Conditions

By attaching IoT-enabled sensors to shipments, operators can also maintain oversight into container conditions to assure product quality. Insights provided by IoT devices can alert retailers to condition changes or disturbances so they can proactively detect and address any issues with the proper shipping environment before it poses a danger to the product. The ability to do this is critical for providers of perishable or fragile items such as pharmaceutical products, for which changes in temperature can have serious health ramifications. In this way, IoT devices help supply chain operators ensure consumers receive packages in their expected, safe conditions.

Optimize Warehouse Operations

Operators need insights into the entire product journey—not just when a package is out on the road—to drive overall supply chain efficiencies. Especially with potential decreases in warehouse staff availability, retailers need optimal operational levels to be able to fulfill orders and meet consumer expectations. IoT can help them achieve this by alerting retailers to operational delays, like a broken machine, as well as product availability.

By monitoring weight fluctuations on shelves, wireless IoT sensors can automatically report (without human intervention or stock taking) which items are moving the quickest so that retailers can build up stock, as well as keep an awareness of any product shortages so that retailers can proactively manage consumer expectations regarding availability.

Maintain Global Connectivity

To best employ the IoT across expansive, global supply chains, operators should use a 0G network, a low-power, wide-area network that can transfer small amounts of data across long ranges. Because 0G devices consume very little energy, the battery life of IoT sensors lasts longer, enabling retailers to stay informed throughout the entire package journey. And at no loss to quality, 0G-enabled sensors have the ability to transmit data at a lower cost than traditional networks.

In times where a retailer’s failure to deliver its goods to consumers on time and in proper condition can have critical repercussions, supply chain stakeholders need to take every precaution in ensuring successful operations, and the IoT can help. By collecting, computing, and delivering data on shipment whereabouts and conditions, as well as product supplies back at the warehouse, IoT-enabled sensors help operators proactively identify weak points in the package journey so that they can act quickly to remedy it. Insights from the technology empower retailers to better manage and meet consumer expectations.

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