IoT for increased Supply Chain transparency


Patrick CASON, Managing Director, Sigfox France
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Today, routing a package through a supply chain can require more than 200 interactions and involves 25 people spread across the world. And this logistics chain continues to become more complex, over the years and in all sectors, as logistics volumes continue to increase. This, added to new consumer demands in terms of speed and efficiency, brings entirely new challenges for those responsible for these supply chains.


Visibility, an essential element


If they have access to general information such as the moment when the goods left their last crossing point, companies rarely have the visibility allowing them, at any time, to know the exact location or even the state. However, this information can be vital in preventing situations that could lead to the damaging disorganisation of the supply chain, such as:

• Unfavorable conditions for goods : Without visibility, supply chain managers cannot monitor the status of their containers. However, this is particularly critical when transporting food or medical goods requiring specific packaging requirements (temperature, expiry date, etc.)
• Losses and thefts : by providing availability of information regarding the location of goods in real time, it is possible to drastically reduce the share of lost goods. In addition, supply chain managers can identify and prevent theft situations. These represent $30 billion in lost revenue for American businesses each year.
• Excessive delays : by knowing exactly the position and packaging state of the goods, supply chain managers can make the appropriate decisions quickly in order to avoid significant delays. Thus, if the delivery of a product is delayed, it can inform the end customer directly, thus making it possible to improve the relationship with the latter. He can even decide to re-deliver the product as quickly as possible when goods have been lost or their packaging has been damaged. In addition, customers are obliged to set up offshore stocks, in order to allow the delivery of the goods in advance to their end customers.


Thanks to this direct visibility of their containers or packages, customers can modify their choices and/or manage their subcontractors in order to reduce transport times. For example, it may be more judicious to send a container from a port in the south of Spain with pre-transportation by truck, than to choose a boat departing from Fos-sur-Mer which will make a stop in Barcelona. This new visibility also makes it possible to verify that actual flows comply with the initial transport voucher via supplier-independent indicators.


IoT to improve visibility


At a time when a number of technologies such as RFID chips and 5G are set to help managers and businesses get the most out of their activities, it's important that everyone analyses their needs and provides appropriate solutions. The good news is that IoT solutions can help improve this supply chain visibility. Thanks to an IoT sensor attached to the container, the supply chain manager can retrieve the data necessary to monitor its assets, their condition, as well as their security. For example, its use in tracking perishable goods is a real asset. Indeed, certain foods or medicines are very fragile and too great a variation in temperature can damage them. Thanks to IoT which can transmit information in real time, it is possible to know the current state of foodstuffs and intervene accordingly. This system is a real advantage for the companies that implement it because it will allow them to make certain savings.

Beyond this control and tracking of goods, IoT can also help the supply chain to be even more efficient by offering valuable information on the condition of machines – with predictive maintenance for example – but also on obstacles on the route. To avoid delivery delays linked to congestion in a city, for example, IoT proves to be an effective and inexpensive solution.


An inexpensive, efficient and secure solution


The advantage of these solutions is that they offer the possibility to improve visibility in each stage of the supply chain. In addition, the development of low-speed networks, such as 0G, offer new opportunities for businesses. Indeed, these communications networks can send data over very long distances and operate in such a way that they cannot be jammed. Another advantage of this solution is the low energy consumption that its use requires from IoT sensors. They can thus benefit from a longer lifespan and their maintenance is greatly reduced. This longevity of the sensors can be particularly useful for preventing theft when the goods are stored for long periods of time: even after several months, the goods can be tracked by their owner using the IoT sensor.


We are entering the 4.0 era. This digital transformation at all levels is essential for companies if they want to stay in the race. And the supply chain is no exception. Technology, particularly IoT, makes it possible to analyze data in real time and have visibility over the entire chain. This is a considerable asset for companies which can thus save money and increase their profits.



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