RFID, barcodes, data loggers, Transport Management Systems (TMS) and distributed ledgers are just some of the tools companies have historically been able to choose from when looking to track supply chain activities. However, each of these only handles one aspect of tracking. RFID and barcodes aid in inventory management. Data loggers monitor cargo condition or cargo location during transit. TMS and distributed ledgers are both forms of tracking software that allow supply chain actors to manually collect and organize their tracking data.
None of them offer full tracking capabilities. Neither do they deliver comprehensive, real-time information. They either deliver a part of the information you need, or they do so only after the event i.e. after your shipments have arrived. In addition, they all involve time-consuming, manual steps and may not even be possible to integrate with your existing digital infrastructure.
What TMS, RFID, data loggers, and distributed ledgers do is turn analogue information into digital formats. While this digitisation makes many business processes easier to manage, digitised operations by themselves do not differ dramatically from non-digitised operations. The true potential of digitisation lies in what can be done to the information.
Digitalization of logistics tracking
The next generation of logistics tracking technology fully embraces digitalization. To find out more about recent developments in this field, we spoke to Erik Lund, Head of Tracking division, Sony Network Communications Europe.
Erik explains, “We’re convinced that real-time IoT tracking solutions that embrace digitalization are the way forward for the logistics industry. Designed to address the weaknesses of existing solutions, digitalization automates the process of data collection, lets you know what’s happening as it happens, and uses aggregated data to establish trends over time. Moreover, it eliminates several manual steps and generates valuable new types of data. The result is a more timely and holistic view of what’s happening in your supply chain.”
At its most basic level, real-time IoT tracking provides knowledge of where your goods are. However, its impact is more far-reaching than it may at first appear. The data can be aggregated over time and lead to better choices of routes and carriers as well as an overall streamlining of supply chain operations. And the indirect impact of a more efficient supply chain is huge. For example, more reliable shipments mean more satisfied customers and fewer resources wasted – which is better for the environment and builds trust with the public.
Condition monitoring of goods is another area where real-time IoT tracking stands out. Why is this so important? Without it, logistics managers have no way of knowing whether or not their temperature-sensitive goods, like pharmaceuticals, have been kept at the correct temperature in transit. Neither do they know if high-value cargos of e.g. electronic equipment have been handled carefully or exposed to shocks and tilts en route. All these things have an impact on the quality and usability of the goods when they arrive.
“Last but not least,” says Erik, “having access to real-time information about the location and the condition of goods is valuable not only to logistics companies, but also to their customers and other stakeholders. Think what a difference it makes when you can share supply chain data easily at the click of a button! You can update customers on delivery times, keep an open dialogue in crisis situations and generally improve trust and understanding.”
While legacy tracking solutions served a valuable purpose in the absence of more timely, comprehensive visibility solutions, they look likely to be phased out in favour of real-time IoT tracking in the future. “The new connected services go way beyond what any legacy solution is capable of and open up a whole new world of efficient and collaborative supply chain operations,” concludes Erik.
For more information: https://www.sonynetworkcom.com/visilion ✷