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Revolutionizing Supply Chains: Five Strategic Imperatives

May 29, 2024
Revolutionizing Supply Chains: Five Strategic Imperatives
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Revolutionizing Supply Chains: Five Strategic Imperatives

Supply chains are strained like never before. Upheavals due to the global pandemic, war, extreme climate events, labor challenges and fluctuations in the global economy have placed unprecedented pressure on commerce and delivery of the goods that we all rely on. In today’s global market, there is no such thing as an “isolated” event. That is especially true for our supply chains.

In the midst of this challenging climate, omnichannel business practices are significantly impacting supply chains. Consumers today expect to receive products whenever and wherever they like – whether shopping online or in traditional “brick and mortar” stores. The omnichannel model makes business more competitive, and customer satisfaction a priority. If your customer stays home from work to receive a package and it doesn’t arrive, you run the risk of losing their business the next time.

In light of competition with behemoth retailers, whose businesses specialize in supply chain management, there is much at stake. Today, managing an efficient, cost-effective supply chain has never been more challenging.

This is why a new paradigm is required. Here are five strategic imperatives for managing the supply chain in the light of this shift.

1. Visibility
In the past, we relied on the assumption that once an object leaves the distribution center, it gets where it needs to go. Today, we know that is not always the case. GPS technology has allowed some companies to track the location of cargo at the truck level, but this is not enough. It does not tell you whether the right objects are on the truck, what happens to the items when they’re unloaded, or whether the right conditions were being met throughout the trip (refrigeration, for example).

Today, technology offers much more insight.

Visibility, into location, on a granular level – whether at the case or item level -- can deliver a range of benefits to a company, across sectors. In the apparel sector, for example, visibility of an item once it’s left the truck offers a range of advantages. In order to promise the availability of a product to a customer so they can buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS), it's essential to understand, not just that the product has been shipped from the distribution center but whether it's in transit, sitting in a container at the loading dock, in the back of the store, on the rack or in a changing room. Even for a the non-digital in person shopping experience, salespeople who know where an inventory item is in the store, can more easily locate it for a customer. That means they spend less time searching and more time relationship building, educating and selling, providing an overall better customer experience – one that competes with online shopping.

    Increased visibility can also reap benefits for a host of other industries. Having the ability to track a case of strawberries, for example, from distribution center to supermarket loading dock, affords priceless information for the efficient movement of food goods. And if there is visibility on the temperature of that case of strawberries throughout the journey – even better.

    Temperature excursions that impact waste, shelf life, appearance and flavor can be identified and managed, with benefits to profitability and customer satisfaction.

    2. Provenance
    In today’s global market, knowing where a product comes from is key. Having the ability to track an item from its origins can help a company know definitively a product’s authenticity as well as the production batch it is part of. This is not only good for quality control but is now required in certain markets. The new General Product Safety Regulation introduced by the European Union, for example, takes on the safety of non-food products sold offline or online to EU customers. By having the ability to trace provenance, companies can know exactly where the products were made, and whether those companies abide by safety regulations. This can also be relevant for compliance with social issues, such as ensuring a product does not come from a factory that employs forced labor. Furthermore, in the case of a product recall, knowledge of provenance is essential for managing the recall process and avoiding unnecessary losses.

    3. Real-time tracking
    Mistakes happen, even on loading docks. How many times have we seen the wrong pallet put on the wrong truck? Or the wrong case delivered to the wrong customer. Imagine having the ability to track goods in real time and realize a packing or loading error is about to happen, before it occurs.. If one package is put on the wrong truck, it can be pulled off, before the truck leaves the loading dock. Real-time tracking of objects gives supply chain managers real information they can act on, right now, to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes.

    4. End-to-end Demand Chain Tracking

    The next generation of supply chain is the demand chain, a system where demand signals -- such as inventory movements and out of stocks -- flow through the wholesale distribution system from retailers directly to manufacturers. This will drive efficiencies that can potentially cut excess inventory at every stage and halve distribution and capital costs.

      In the future we can expect connected packaging in the home, to measure consumption and out of stocks as part of a product-as-a-service, or subscription business model. Imagine everything from cornflakes to pepper corns being instrumented so that they never run out, are never duplicated, or consumed past their expiration. The convenience for the customer is second only to the value for the supplier who gains loyalty, reduces promotion and acquisition costs, and captures customer insights that will help drastically reduce the capital tied up in their supply chains. When manufacturers can see customers using their products directly the whole supply chain becomes disrupted, with winners and losers that will move markets.

      5. Sustainability

        Within the environmental, social and governance (ESG) arena, whatever side of the climate debate you fall on, end-to-end tracking is required . A significant proportion of buyers are demanding sustainable products and clear information about the environmental impact of what they purchase. Inaccurate claims are being challenged and the fines and reputational damage can be significant. This requires primary data at a level that isn't economical to gather manually. And legislation mandates make tracking of emissions and other environmental impacts even more imperative. The SEC has enacted rules that require Scope 1 and 2 emissions to be tracked. These are being challenged by environmental groups calling for full Scope 3 tracking of the climate impact, upstream and downstream. Such legislation has already been enacted in markets such as California and the EU. To meet current and pending requirements, many companies are now tracking their Scope 3 emissions, which includes emissions from purchased goods and upstream transportation and distribution. Data related to transportation, whether by road, rail, marine, or air transport is key for these calculations. The GHG Protocol has a calculation tool for transportation that uses a combination of the fuel-based and distance-based methods. End-to-end tracking is one of the easiest ways to obtain accurate distance data.

        At Wiliot, we have talked with hundreds of customers about what they envision in their supply chain management. We’ve heard from innovation and operations teams about what they dream could be possible in the supply chain. With our ambient IoT technology, we’re able to deliver actionable insights. Wiliot shines a light on the questions and data that businesses have been unable to address, until now; including the challenges related to visibility, provenance, real time data, end-to-end tracking, and sustainability.

        Imagine if all your products could speak. Now you can hear them.

        Learn more about Wiliot’s Visibility Platform powered by ambient IoT Pixels. Contact us here www.wiliot.com/contact