Industry views | 29 March 2018
By Richard Gifford, CIO, Wincanton
As highlighted in my recent post, ‘Fuelling the supply chain with data’, success in the logistics industry has traditionally relied on effective utilisation of four primary assets: trucks, warehouses, people and IT foundation. Now, there is a fifth major asset: data.
One of the many ways this data will be collected in the evolving supply network is through the massive growth in connected assets and products. These connected items, forming the Internet of Things (IoT), will generate and communicate much more information from the supply chain than we see today.
The proliferation of cloud-based technologies, increased connectivity across networks and the ubiquity of sensors has allowed IoT to develop considerably over recent months. It is no longer just a concept or a technology reserved for agile start-ups and asset-rich multinationals.
Within the Wincanton Guide to the Digitised Supply Chain, we have considered IoT to be a ‘next’ technology.
This is not a decision based on the technology’s lack of maturity. It is more a reflection of the need for businesses to invest in their IT infrastructure to support the integration of massive amounts of IoT data. A variety of systems and data repositories need to be able to communicate with each other and allow all data in the network to be viewed together. To allow this, investment in IT foundation and platforms to properly collect, analyse and distribute data from sensors throughout the supply network will be vital if the potential of this technology is to be realised.
And what benefit will this new technology and investment bring? Firstly, it will add an unprecedented level of supply chain visibility. Real-time information collected from assets and products throughout the supply network leads to immediate decision-making, increased accuracy in forecasting and more efficient asset deployment. Secondly, it will allow businesses to learn more about their customers, anticipate their needs and provide a more tailored service. And thirdly, the combination of IoT and Blockchain will ultimately provide the most complete view of the provenance of all food products (for example) as they traverse the supply chain from end-to-end, giving us a new level of confidence in the quality of what we consume
As the supply chain evolves to become a more connected network, sharing accurate and timely information between partners will be a vital component for achieving success. IoT, as a technology on the cusp of mass adoption, has the potential to be a game-changing technology for the network to achieve this aim.