The Key to Logistics Visibility: Connecting Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) attempted to improve logistics visibility by connecting fleets to help gain control over shipments. However, these solutions miss the mark on other logistics issues including end-to-end transport, shipment conditions other than location, stolen cargo recovery, and overall accuracy. Instead of connecting the fleets themselves, the key is to connect to the cargo itself to establish complete visibility into and control over your own logistics.

Tracking shipments independent of the carrier or mode of transport also provides you with analytics that help you cut through the noise and make sense of the data to improve operational efficiencies (probably 25 percent or more), and secure an early warning system you can bank on.

A Connected Things model for logistics visibility—discreet wireless trackers and tags for monitoring individual assets — is ideal for actionable data that can help manage the things you care about, whether they’re individual packages, LTLs, or the pallets they’re on.

Here are a few tips to help you understand what kind of IoT-enabled smart logistics gear you need now for your supply chain.

Get Granular Data — Know More About What You’re Managing

Although you could probably make do with tracking at the consignment level (LTL, FTL), monitoring at the package level is critical, especially if you’re transporting sensitive or fragile products like pharmaceuticals, chemicals, or food and beverages.

Portable, compact, and multi-sensor devices are perfect for the job, especially ones that can travel IN a shipment rather than just with it. Hybrid IoT technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), with GSM connectivity, real-time GPS tracking, and a host of other sensors can give you visibility down to the package level. Add additional context like local weather conditions, traffic congestion, and more, to get a better idea of your logistics operations and the things that could disrupt them.

Filter Your Data — Cut Through the Noise

With big data comes big headaches. Stare at a data stream long enough and it’ll look like white noise. Ditto for periodic pings from the real-time monitoring systems that track your shipments.

Make sure your IoT solution filters the noise and flags only the more relevant alerts that need your immediate attention. You need a smart logistics visibility solution that can analyze patterns to predict—maybe even prevent—what happens next.

Act on Alerts Promptly — Or At Least Make Sure Someone Else Does

Your real-time monitoring system can help you keep track of things and flag what’s important. That’s about as far as it can help you. It’s up to you to take charge during disruptions and do what you can to resolve it.

That’s easier said than done, especially if you’re running global operations and have to be on top of things halfway around the world, or you frequently need to handle things into the wee hours of the night.

It’s probably a good idea to get help, outsourcing your monitoring as well as real-time risk mitigation and other critical tasks to a response center that’s closer to the action and available 24×7.

Outsourced logistics control towers are catching on, especially with manufacturers that ship large volumes around the world.

If you’re in the market for a logistics control tower, make sure it’s not a glorified call center—it should be as data-driven as you are. For instance, recurring “Hope you will reach on time” calls to your truck drivers may not be as effective as that one call that promptly offers help when he/she has had a vehicle breakdown.

With good granular data mining, reliable analytics and alerts, as well as a data-driven control tower setup, you can do more than just boost performance, you can do the impossible—become the backseat driver you always wanted to be for your logistics operations.

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