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The Basics

Top Supply Chain Visibility Issues and How to Solve Them With Bluetooth Beacons

March 06, 2024
Top Supply Chain Visibility Issues and How to Solve Them With Bluetooth Beacons
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Effectively managing and optimizing a company’s supply chain is essential for its profitability and survival in today’s competitive business landscape. An inefficient supply chain can result in direct financial losses as well as long-term repercussions due to the inability to service customers. Visibility into every aspect of a supply chain is crucial to its effective management.

Achieving accurate visibility into the supply chain is difficult or impossible using traditional technological solutions. We are going to look at the top supply chain visibility issues and how implementing Bluetooth beacon technology can help solve them. In each case, a lack of effective visibility is damaging to the organization and can be addressed with Bluetooth beacons.


Providing Visibility into Temperature Excursions

A temperature excursion occurs when a product is exposed to temperatures outside the recommended ranges for transport and storage. Temperature excursions can be responsible for multiple problems including impacting the efficacy of vaccines and medications, spoilage of fragile products, or damaging items by storing them at the wrong temperature.

Bluetooth beacons can identify temperature fluctuations during storage or transportation so that the appropriate actions can be taken. For instance, the effects of a faulty refrigeration unit in a truck can be identified before the temperature change damages the contents. The technology can help ensure the safety of food and medication for the benefit of consumers and producers.

Identifying Inventory or Asset Shrinkage

As supply chains grow they become harder to manage effectively. Keeping track of thousands of fleet vehicles and their contents manually is inefficient and prone to errors. Problems with ineffective inventory management include:


  • Inability to find specific parts or products;

  • Understanding when and why products leave the supply chain through theft or other reasons;

  • Losing track of reusable transport items which may be inadvertently destroyed.


Affixing Bluetooth beacons to shipping containers and individual products provides real-time information that can help minimize asset shrinkage. The beacons facilitate accurate inventory management which furthers productivity, profitability, and sustainability.


Delivering Accurate and Fine-Grained Inventory Visibility

Bluetooth tracking technology provides organizations with accurate and fine-grained inventory information that is impossible to achieve using traditional methods. Supply chain issues addressed by this precise tracking include:


  • Providing inventory visibility to locate specific items;

  • Allowing case-level visibility to track individual cases on a pallet;

  • Last mile visibility to improve delivery and fulfillment by understanding exactly where, when, and by whom an item is delivered;

  • End-to-end inventory visibility, tracking products from the manufacturer through the transport process and to the consumer.


Implementing a Bluetooth beacon solution provides manufacturers and transportation companies with the information they need to improve internal processes and enhance customer satisfaction.


Promoting Sustainability

Inefficient supply chains negatively affect the environment by expending excessive amounts of fuel and generating unnecessary carbon emissions. Bluetooth beacons can help alleviate this problem and address the difficult problem of tracking the Scope 3 emissions originating from third parties involved in the supply chain.

Benefits of tracking with Bluetooth beacons such as Wiliot’s IoT Pixels include:


  • Measuring and eliminating Scope 3 emissions by measuring the carbon footprint throughout the complete supply chain;

  • Demonstrating sustainability in transportation and storage to attract consumers concerned with the environmental cost of commerce.


A Bluetooth beacon implementation represents an important step towards achieving operational sustainability.


Enabling Supplier Transparency

Supplier transparency is another supply chain issue that can be addressed through the implementation of Bluetooth tracking. Items can be tagged at the source as they are harvested on a farm or produced in a factory and tracked during transport and storage. Tracking continues through delivery to the retailer, ensuring that products are reaching their destination while still fresh and suitable for sale to consumers.

The information available through supplier transparency enables consumers to make informed purchasing decisions to promote sustainability. For instance, they can be certain that no rainforest destruction is involved in the products they choose to buy.


Understanding Demand and Distribution Channels

Supply chain visibility is crucial for companies wishing to understand consumer demand and their distribution channels. Implementing Bluetooth tracking gives an organization valuable information that can be used to:


  • Monitor sales in real-time to address demand fluctuations and avoid inventory shortages;

  • Reduce the number of delivery vehicles, minimizing the carbon footprint and promoting sustainability;

  • Address changing customer trends to quickly provide in-demand products.


Controlling Operational Costs

Reducing the cost of maintaining a supply chain benefits a company’s bottom line. Bluetooth beacons can be instrumental in reducing costs in several ways including:


  • Minimizing labor costs as Bluetooth tags are automatically read by readers, reducing errors and requiring less manual scanning;

  • Reducing lost and misplaced inventory items that degrade productivity;

  • Enabling better purchasing forecasts to maintain proper inventory levels without overspending.


Ensuring Regulatory Compliance

Regulatory compliance is an important concern for many organizations and can be streamlined through the use of Bluetooth stickers. Examples of how compliance is promoted include:


  • Ensuring food safety by identifying temperature excursions;

  • Managing recalls of food and products efficiently by identifying specific items or crates rather than recalling a complete shipment;

  • Ensuring the items are sourced properly and don’t originate in deforested land in the Amazon.


Implementing Medical Traceability

Traceability is essential when dealing with medical devices or medications. Companies must adhere to standards such as EPCIS and GS1. Bluetooth beacons provide information for the electronic data exchange necessary for tracking and tracing deliveries of medical products to ensure their safety.

Advanced Bluetooth beacons can track the location as well as the conditions under which medications are being stored. This ensures that the items can be located efficiently and they have not been tainted by being kept in an inadequate storage facility.



Addressing Natural Disasters

Supply chain disruptions following a natural disaster can impede the recovery of the affected communities. The ability to quickly locate food, medicine, and other essential supplies can spell the difference between life and death for citizens in the wake of a disaster. Bluetooth beacons allow organizations to find supplies promptly and distribute them to those in need.

Lives can be saved and economic damage minimized by having immediate access to emergency equipment and supplies. A Bluetooth beacon environment stores data in the cloud where it can be accessed from anywhere in the wake of a disaster.


Empowering Consumers

Consumers are demanding more information regarding how the food and products they purchase are sourced or manufactured. The fine-grained and end-to-end visibility provided by Bluetooth tracking technology gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. Data that can be made available to consumers includes:


  • Whether the food has been organically grown;

  • If the products have been manufactured in locations employing unethical labor practices;

  • The climate impact of the products they choose to buy.


Companies risk losing market share if they fail to provide consumers with the information they desire. Opting for early adoption of Bluetooth beacons can provide an organization with a substantial competitive advantage.


Ensuring Authenticity

Unethical companies may be selling inauthentic products that are labeled to mislead consumers. For example, there have been instances of meat products supposedly produced in Australia that were shipped from China. The end-to-end tracking and visibility possible with Bluetooth technology can assure consumers that they are purchasing authentic products that have not been adulterated as they move through the supply chain.


Eliminating Grey Markets

Grey markets legally sell new products outside a company’s authorized distribution channels. Organizations can leverage the fine-grained tracking and traceability provided by Bluetooth beacons to identify grey markets and take the necessary steps to shut them down and regain control of how their products are displayed and sold.

In addition to the organizational advantages of eliminating grey markets, consumers can benefit by being able to verify they are purchasing authentic products.


Conclusion

Many factors can negatively impact an organization’s ability to achieve the level of visibility into its supply chain needed to address the issues we have discussed. Implementing Bluetooth beacons offers companies a cost-effective and efficient method of achieving previously unattainable degrees of visibility. The technology provides extensive benefits to companies, consumers, and society as a whole by promoting efficiency and sustainability.