We use IoT technologies to make our lives easier, both in commercial and consumer spheres. Whether it solves a distinct problem or simply eases the way for a recurring process, IoT can make us more effective and more efficient in everything we do. But IoT is at its absolute best not when it’s solving problems or easing daily processes; it’s at it’s best when it’s predicting problems before they happen so those problems can be addressed proactively and largely avoided. Nowhere is this more apparent or more important than within the supply chain.


 

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Using IoT in supply chain to anticipate problems means that logistics and trucking operations can minimize disruptions at every stage of the process. It means that fleet managers and other operators can predict what’s going to happen before it occurs and then plan accordingly to accommodate. All this is done through the power of data analytics and the trends they unveil; if you know what the trends are, you know what is most likely to happen down the line. We’ll take a look at how these technologies bring supply chain challenges to light before delving deeper into the problems that you can anticipate with an IoT platform and why anticipating and addressing those problems ahead of time is important.

How IoT and Data Analytics Unveil Supply Chain Challenges

At the most basic, IoT involves connecting physical objects to one another and to the internet. These objects are embedded with sensors and software that communicate by collecting and transmitting data. In the context of logistics, these vast interconnected networks usually include everything from trucks to pallets, which tend to communicate valuable information about location and condition through real-time IoT asset tracking systems. This helps fleet managers understand where their trailers are, how far deliveries are from their destination, whether perishable items are being held at the proper temperature, if there have been any unexpected delays, what cargo is on each trailer, and so much more. Usually, operators will select a solution that provides the insights they need with the option to activate more forms of visibility if they need it in the future.

End-to-end supply chain visibility and the data it produces is a holy grail for logistics professionals looking to anticipate supply chain problems before they happen. IoT plays a pivotal role here by providing a continuous stream of data points from the entire supply chain. This visibility ensures that logistics managers can spot bottlenecks, delays, or other issues early by observing unexpected shifts in the data and analyzing previous trends for similar timeframes or situations. This places them in a position where it’s easier to prepare for and respond to challenges while minimizing disruptions and delays.

Because at the end of the day, IoT data isn't just about tracking; it's also about prediction. By analyzing historical data and real-time information, logistics companies can use IoT to predict when equipment is likely to fail, when maintenance is needed, or even when customer demand might surge. IoT generates vast amounts of data, but it's the analytics that turn this data into actionable insights that allow operators to both predict and respond to supply chain challenges. More data means more predictive power, and more predictive power means that companies can use IoT data to both keep up with daily processes and continuously improve their logistics operations.

Problems You Can Anticipate With IoT Asset Tracking

Different forms of data visibility and analytics can help you anticipate a variety of different problems. By strategically using asset tracking, you can unlock all these benefits at the same time; it’s just about knowing what data to look for, how to get it, and how to use it. Some of the problems you can anticipate with asset tracking include:

1. Resource Shortages

With IoT asset tracking in place, you can predict when you’re not going to have enough resources to continue smooth operations and when you’re going to require more. IoT asset tracking provides detailed usage analytics by collecting data on asset activity. With the right system, you can gain full visibility of each type of asset, including trailers, tools, equipment, pallets, and personnel, to understand how and when they’re being used at any given time. Understanding how assets are used is essential for anticipating resource shortages. Usage records help managers make decisions about replacing assets before their life span ends, that way there isn’t a backorder of equipment that needs to be replaced causing a shortage. Usage records can also help managers identify when their operations are growing to the point where their current resources are not enough to handle the strain; with these analytics, they can begin taking measures to purchase new assets and hire new personnel so the company can grow as a whole.

2. Equipment Failures

IoT technology also provides a method of anticipating equipment failures before they occur. This visibility is provided in much the same way as visibility around resource shortages: an asset tracking system makes it possible to keep accurate, automated records that reflect the usage of individual assets. By keeping track of what tools and equipment are being used and how long they’re being used, supervisors can anticipate when certain tools may require inspection or maintenance. Staying on top of inspection and preventive maintenance schedules allows supervisors to catch equipment problems before they escalate into full-blown failures and cannot be salvaged. This means that less money is spent on repairs and replacements, and for trailers, there’s a significantly reduced chance that equipment will fail while on the road. Preventative maintenance is the safer, more affordable way to deal with well-used equipment, and by using an asset tracking system, companies can better enforce these schedules based on usage data and reduced efficiency for singular assets.

3. Delivery Delays

Anticipating delivery delays is another key benefit of trailer tracking technologies. Delivery delays can occur at any stage of the supply chain for any number of reasons. For instance, inventory might be late getting to the warehouse, or it might be misplaced when the trailer is being loaded. Deliveries can also be delayed due to resource shortages or challenges involving traffic or weather conditions. Asset tracking can help prevent some of these challenges entirely – namely, resource shortages or misplacing cargo – but it can also be used to anticipate those challenges that you don’t have control over. When a trailer is on the road, a robust trailer tracking system can provide insight into what’s on that trailer. If the trailer slows down, stops entirely, or needs to go elsewhere for whatever reason, fleet managers are able to predict the impact for each individual delivery on that trailer. Then, they can take measures to either keep the more time sensitive deliveries on schedule by sending replacements or deciding on an alternate route. If these options aren’t available to them, they at least know to inform their customer ahead of time that there is going to be a potential delay. With the right data, they might even be able to predict how long this delay will be.

4. Inventory Overstocks and Stockouts

As part of their base functions, asset tracking systems provide real-time insights into inventory levels. This real-time data empowers businesses to take proactive measures when approaching overstock or stockout scenarios, which both create unique but equally disrupting challenges. Inventory overstocks can be a costly affair, tying up capital and increasing storage costs. Asset tracking solutions provide a real-time view of stock levels, ensuring that businesses can set up automated alerts to prevent overstock situations. When stock levels approach predefined thresholds, alerts are triggered, allowing for adjustments in procurement and production to avoid excess inventory. As for stockouts, running out of essential items can lead to missed sales opportunities and customer dissatisfaction. Asset tracking systems enable businesses to predict when stock levels are nearing critically low points. This early warning system allows for timely reordering or production adjustments to avert stockouts. The data provided by asset tracking can also help operators better understand the flow of inventory, that way they’re not wholly dependent on staying apprised of current numbers and can make forecasting projects for dates further out.

5. Demand Increases

IoT asset tracking provides further value by unlocking the insights needed to predict increases in demand. The power of anticipating demand shares some aspects with anticipating resource requirements and inventory levels: if you predict a lasting increase in demand, your resources and inventory might also need to increase accordingly. But it’s just as important to be able to predict when temporary demand increases might occur, those that don’t necessarily warrant a permanent expansion of resources and will only require a brief increase in inventory levels. Demand increases may occur at different times of the year depending on what’s being transported: outdoor goods might increase at the beginning of the summer while heater systems might increase during autumn or winter. Demand for other products might increase around the holiday season. Whatever the cause, these demand increases don’t necessarily last, so they don’t necessarily warrant the extra money to add new resources. With asset tracking, logistics companies can discern what these trends are for their annual operations and plan accordingly to accommodate for those times. It can also help them identify when an increase in demand is unseasonal and might instead indicate that they need to increase their regular capacity.

The Proactive Power of AirFinder Everywhere

With Link Lab’s AirFinder Everywhere solution, you can access the data you need to anticipate all of these problems and more. Our system provides information about the location and relevant conditions for all of your most important assets, and it easily scales if you want to track more assets down the road. Furthermore, our system can integrate with telematics systems and other fleet management platforms so that all your integral data can be accessed in one shared location and you can make more effective predictions about all aspects of your daily operations. Book a demo with our experts to learn more about how our solution can work for you.

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Written by Makenna Dudley

Makenna Dudley is a Marketing Associate for Link Labs, with practical experience in written communications, media writing, and additional forms of content creation. She has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication.

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