Top IoT Trends in the Supply Chain Industry This Year

The supply chain industry has evolved considerably in recent years. Where it once merely provided essential services to a range of involved industries, it is now viewed more as a tool for advancement, and a means of providing better service. In a past piece on ‘Simplifying Change And Making Your Life Easier’ we discussed the benefit of a simple supply chain with “technical knowhow already in place.” And since then, those ideas — of simplified, streamlined, and tech-driven supply chains — have come to redefine the industry.

This has happened largely through the introduction of technology that falls under the vast umbrella of the IoT — the Internet of Things wirelessly connecting systems and equipment. As more IoT tech has been put into use, supply chains have become real assets, as opposed to just obligatory aspects of company operations.

With that in mind, here are some of the top IoT trends we’re seeing in supply chains this year.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is becoming useful in various facets of modern industry, but its impact on supply chains is beginning to look particularly significant. A piece on Medium examined machine learning in the supply chain and defined the technology’s impact in a very helpful way: “machine learning uses algorithms to help businesses turn large volumes of passive data into useful business information.” Applied via the IoT, this means that machine learning can use data that is collected and relayed from every step of the supply chain: delivery times, product sales, manufacturing completion, and so on. All of this data can then be automatically analysed to provide actionable information to supply chain managers, and ultimately optimise operations.

Fleet Tracking

Another major IoT-driven innovation in supply chain industries of late has been the expansion of fleet tracking. A blog post on fleet management by Verizon Connect delved into some of the details, and specifically made note of “internet-based tracking devices” making fleet vehicles more visible. At one point this description might have referred to basic GPS, but with today’s IoT capabilities, fleet tracking goes well beyond simple positioning. Those same internet-based tracking devices can now monitor vehicle and driver performance, route efficiency, and delivery timing — all automatically, and all for purposes of data collection. This level of visibility is giving fleet managers unprecedented insight into their supply chain operations.

Automated Predictive Maintenance

When IoT sensors in the supply chain are discussed, it’s often with regard to product tracking, fleet management, or inventory monitoring (which we’ll touch on below). However, IoT sensors can also be used to keep tabs on the equipment used in the manufacturing process at the very top of the supply chain. Basically, this equipment can now be set up such that it reports on its own performance — alerting factory and/or supply chain managers to potential disrepair or malfunctions. This in turn can help companies to avoid significant problems due to faulty manufacturing.

Bluetooth Beacons

Bluetooth beacons got a lot of attention a few years ago for their potential to alter shopping experiences. A TechCrunch article covered the technology when it was unveiled in some large stores, highlighting various ways in which connected “beacons” placed around the aisles could enhance customers’ experiences. This is indeed one use for beacon technology, but similar tiny, connected devices can also now be used to track inventory and communicate back to the supply chain. Basically, the IoT can recognise when a store or supply centre is running low on a given product, and automatically send a message that begins the process of re-supplying said product.

These IoT-driven functions are drastically improving the modern supply chain industry. And while they’re still relatively new at the moment, they’re getting trendier, and are likely to be more widely used in the coming years.

Written by: Jonah Bliffin For: