Supply chain congestion. Rampant inflation and rising costs. Shipping delays. Labor shortages. We certainly face a lot of challenges at the outset of 2022. Doing things the same old way may not be enough in this new environment. It’s time to get real.
The problems the business world is currently experiencing underscore the need for supply chain players to accelerate their digital transformations. Solid data will be needed to resolve many of the issues with our broken supply chains. Real-time information allows us to be proactive, rather than reactive. With the delays we already face, we can’t add further delays while humans stop to identify and research problems before they can respond.
Proper real-time information combined with business intelligence can “anticipate” problems and alert users before these problems occur. Rules can be set so that when a particular situation arises, a predetermined solution can be immediately set in motion, saving valuable time and utilizing available resources to their fullest.
Real-time information also allows you to mitigate risk. With proper visibility, users can deploy assets and optimize scheduling to spread risk so that bottlenecks in a particular area or operation can swiftly be cleared before crippling damage is done.
Another benefit of good data is the ability to model and map operations. Digital twins rely on accurate data to run models and predict system behavior. A digital twin can incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence to make assumptions about future events, while offering alternative actions based on conditional rules.
Of course, real-time information is only as good as the data acquired. Companies should examine how they collect data. Sadly, many organizations still rely on paper and spreadsheets to track their inventories. Both are highly inefficient and prone to error. Bar-code scanners, RFID (radio-frequency identification), voice-directed systems, vision systems, pick-to-light systems, and robotics are just a few of the many technologies that can be good sources of data.
On the transportation side, real-time locating systems can track vehicles and the cargo they carry while in transit on roads and rails. The new infrastructure bill will add to the value of these technologies by funding the expansion of internet and cell service along lonely stretches of highway. Satellite-based systems are also available for those areas where cell service remains spotty.
Of course, the overall goal of real-time technologies is to enhance operations in ways that improve customer service. In this age when customers have high delivery expectations, being able to deliver on-time is crucial. Keeping customers informed of order and delivery status in real time is no longer the competitive differentiator it once was; today, it’s simply the table stakes required to remain in the game.