In order to plan for the future of your logistics operations, you need to understand the future of the technologies that will enable your own growth and success. One such technology is supply chain management technology, which is used to provide complete process visibility and responsiveness over your supply chain assets and cargo at every stage from the storage facility to their final destination. Let’s take a look at where this technology originated, how it’s changed, and how we can expect it to change in the future, arming you and your company with the knowledge you need to be an industry leader.


 

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The Evolution of Supply Chain Management Technology

The origins of supply chain management technology can be traced to the emergence of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. In the early 2000s, RFID tags gained popularity as a means to track products in supply chains, aiming to enhance inventory and process visibility. This technology represented a significant breakthrough, automating inventory management processes and improving product tracking accuracy. Previously, manual documentation, shared spreadsheets, or barcode tracking were the norm. While technically a supply chain management technology itself, barcode tracking lacked the sophistication and range of RFID, relying on close-range scanners and offering limited functionality.

In these early days, RFID adoption soared due to its ability to provide a faster and more reliable system for monitoring product levels and locations. However, RFID had its own limitations, including high implementation and maintenance costs, restrictions on applicable product types, and issues with data accuracy, interoperability, and compatibility with existing systems. Companies sought alternatives that better aligned with their unique needs, especially in retaining visibility when goods were lost or ended up in unexpected locations. RFID simply did not provide comprehensive visibility throughout the entire supply chain. In response to this realization and increasing demand for a better solution, innovators pushed forward.

While RFID tracking is still an option today depending on the use case, it has evolved alongside alternative real-time location tracking and data analytics solutions that have effectively reshaped the landscape of supply chain visibility. These technologies are designed with logistics and supply chain operations in mind, enhancing the identification and tracking of goods and assets and automating supply chain management processes beyond what RFID could achieve. These solutions have developed to incorporate sensors, GPS, and other location technologies, which allow for improved insight into the movement of goods. These advanced asset tracking systems are designed to provide fully automated real-time visibility, with sensors also providing options for tracking environmental factors like temperature and humidity. This added functionality has resulted in these systems becoming the new norm for supply chain management, even if RFID is still used more prominently in other fields.

How Supply Chain Management Technology is Used Today

The future of a technology is also strongly influenced by how it’s being used within industrial and consumer markets. Just because a technology is designed with a specific intent does not mean that intent reflects the only or even primary way that the technology is actually being used. Instead, it’s far more likely that the applications of these technologies will change with the needs of their users, and that the companies that provide the most innovative versions of those technologies will respond by making their solution better suited to those changes in needs. In other words, the current applications of supply chain management technology will have a direct impact on what the future of that technology looks like. With that in mind, let’s break down the most prominent uses of these systems.

Improve Supply Chain Efficiency

Another common use for supply chain management technology today is improving supply chain efficiency. Through real-time monitoring, managers can swiftly identify and address operational issues before they escalate into more lasting problems. This data-driven approach allows for continuous performance optimization. For example, predictive maintenance, made possible by these sophisticated IoT solutions, can significantly reduce downtime by detecting and resolving issues with trailers and other equipment before they escalate, thus preventing costly equipment failures and repairs. This can also help reduce loss and theft by providing visibility of assets no matter where they go, reducing search times and promoting efficiency.

Moreover, IoT-driven supply chain management ensures optimal stock levels, minimizing waste and eliminating stockouts. By leveraging IoT sensors and tags for asset tracking, fleet managers gain unparalleled visibility into the movement of both assets and cargo throughout every stage of the supply chain. This increased visibility leads to an increased understanding of the supply chain process, its strengths, its weaknesses, and how it can be improved for greater efficiency in the future.

Maintain Compliance with Regulatory Standards

Supply chain management enabled with condition monitoring capabilities is crucial for meeting regulatory requirements and industry standards by providing detailed documentation and real-time monitoring of temperature conditions throughout the cold supply chain. This process involves accurately recording temperature data to demonstrate strict adherence to regulations governing the storage and transportation of temperature-sensitive products.

Supply chain management systems serve to automatically generate comprehensive reports that include temperature logs, any deviations from specified ranges, and documentation of corrective actions. These reports are essential during regulatory inspections and audits. By having an IoT solution in place that generates these reports for you, you save time while still demonstrating dedication to product integrity and safety. Moreover, this functionality of supply chain management enables companies to identify potential compliance risks proactively and implement preventive measures, minimizing the chances of non-compliance issues in the first place. This helps protect you from fines, penalties, and other legal repercussions, while ensuring the health and safety of the end user.

Improve Product Quality and Process Transparency

As previously indicated, effective supply chain management plays a pivotal role in a number of integral logistics processes. This includes the process of ensuring product quality, which needs to be monitored throughout the transportation process to reduce the chance of damaged goods ending up on shelves. By ensuring the integrity of products throughout the transportation phase, companies can significantly enhance customer satisfaction. This reduces the need for costly returns or replacements and fosters a strong brand reputation, encouraging customer loyalty.

Supply chain management systems can also be used to enhance customer satisfaction by offering personalized experiences, faster response times, and accurate delivery updates. Having a transparent process that is tailored to what your customers need to know helps instill trust in your company’s process and helps keep customers informed if anything ever goes wrong. This open communication can often help alleviate the frustration of delays and disruptions, as it assures the customer that you are aware of the problem and actively taking steps to address it. This level of transparency and efficiency not only benefits end consumers but also empowers business customers, such as manufacturing plants or retail stores, to make more informed decisions.

Make Data-based Operational Decisions

Perhaps the greatest benefit of supply chain management software is how it offers fleet managers valuable insights through historical data analysis and real-time tracking to reveal usage patterns, delivery frequencies, and peak demand periods. This understanding allows managers to proactively adjust fleet capacity, ensuring readiness to handle anticipated surges without overextending resources during slower periods. This data can be used to enable dynamic route planning based on forecasted demand, continuously optimizing delivery schedules as demand patterns shift. This minimizes transit times and enhances resource utilization. Strategic trailer deployment aims to reduce idle time and fuel consumption while maximizing operational efficiency.

In times of unforeseen demand spikes, an effective supply chain monitoring system can provide real-time visibility into the location and status of every asset. This enables quick mobilization of resources to meet unexpected surges, whether through redirecting trailers or adjusting delivery schedules on the fly. This responsiveness ensures customer satisfaction remains paramount. This degree of demand forecasting, when facilitated by accurate supply chain management data records, equips fleet managers with the foresight and adaptability needed to navigate the dynamic nature of operations proactively instead of reactively.

How Supply Chain Management Technology is Changing

With this understanding of where supply chain management technology was in the past, where it is now, and how people are currently using it, we can derive the future of these solutions with consideration to current technology trends. These futures are already being pursued, but they are not yet fully realized; it’s important to remain apprised of these changes so that your company can stay ahead of the curve with the latest supply chain innovations.

AI Integrations Make Data-based Decisions for You

AI has been a hot topic across industries for several years now, generally regarded as the future of technology in more ways than one. Supply chain management systems will increasingly take advantage of AI initiatives to expand the functionality of the data that they gather. Data is, after all, the foundational element of AI predictability and effectiveness, and it is the direct product of supply chain management and other asset tracking technologies. Since the data is already being collected and used to make decisions, it makes sense to integrate AI into these existing processes to leverage that data for more automated decision-making.

However, this added AI functionality is still a ways off for most companies, largely because it’s most effective when a strong basis of data is already formed. Instead, more and more companies are investing in location tracking and other data-collecting process visibility systems in order to ensure they have the data they need to facilitate AI functionality sooner rather than later. This means that more companies are implementing supply chain management technology in accordance with the promise of future AI capabilities, capabilities that IoT providers are already finding ways to provide and looking to continue improving upon in the future.

A Focus on Enhanced Predictive Analytics

Although predictive analytics are already a key function provided by supply chain management technologies, these systems are being improved with the intention of providing enhanced predictive capabilities. More and more companies are taking the time to learn about and utilize the predictive capabilities of their systems. It certainly helps that technological advancements have made it easier to collect and store the operational data used to fuel these predictive analytics. These innovations enable companies to access automated, real-time predictive insights without the need for manual input, allowing them to inform maintenance schedules and arrival and departure times without actually needing to sit down and figure it out on their own.

To make it clear: predictive analytics already exist as a function of supply chain management systems. However, more companies are starting to take greater interest in using these capabilities as they begin to trust and see the greater value in the solutions that they are using. This is leading to IoT providers beginning to put more time and innovation into improving these functionalities since the interest is now there and prospective customers are starting to seek out solutions with the intention of taking advantage of these capabilities from day one. Since customer demand often informs innovation efforts, we can expect to see more improvements upon this functionality in the near future.

Combining Technologies to Provide Added Functionality

As a necessity, most supply chain management systems take advantage of one or two key technologies. This provides focus for their provider, allowing them to spend their time and resources improving the capabilities provided by their chosen technologies. As a result, many early supply chain management systems – and indeed, many systems today – have one or two key strengths that lend themselves to specific, specialized use cases. However, we are seeing more and more of these solutions expanding into new technologies and new applications. This multi-functionality will likely be the norm of these solutions in the future.

By providing a single system that is equipped to address multiple use cases effectively, IoT providers can save their customers time and money. All of the data collected at every stage for every functionality can be centralized on a single system without any extra input from the user. Additionally, they’ll only need to spend money on one solution that provides the same functionality of a number of more specialized systems while still retaining the strong capabilities. This is also easier for IoT providers as they move into improving their existing solutions instead of designing and selling multiple solutions at once. As a result of this focus, innovation will continue at a more rapid pace.

AirFinder Everywhere for Supply Chain Management

Discover the versatility of our AirFinder Everywhere solution – an advanced asset tracking system designed to offer comprehensive visibility throughout your entire supply chain journey. Whether your focus is on tracking trailers, cargo, equipment, or a blend of assets, our cutting-edge solution delivers precise, real-time location data at a competitive price point. Seamlessly integrating with your existing telematics system, AirFinder Everywhere ensures a smooth and efficient tracking experience. Book a demo with our experts today to explore how our solution can guide you into the future of supply chain management technology.

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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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