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IoT and Supply Chains: How Smart Technology is Helping Overburdened Systems

2020.5.5

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is most often associated with smart home devices and lights you control from your phone. But one of the most important IoT use cases today, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is supply chain. IoT and smart technology can be used to optimize supply chains, making them run smoother, faster, and safer at a time when almost every nation’s shipping and supply chain systems are being put to an incredibly hard test.

Let’s look at the three key ways IoT technology enhances supply chains today and why smart technology is so important for getting all types of essential goods to their sources more efficiently. We’ll also look at some of the challenges associated with using IoT technology and supply chains.

1. IoT and supply chains: storage and manufacturing

The first key way smart technology helps supply chains is in the production and storage of the goods that are being shipped. Now more than ever, production facilities need to operate at peak levels to ensure they are not wasting money on avoidable repairs or inefficient processes.

The sensors used in IoT technology can provide key data on how manufacturing and warehouse operations can be improved and also on how perishable items like produce can be better stored for maximum output and efficiency.

IoT and supply chains: storage and manufacturingIoT and supply chains: storage and manufacturing

IoT technology can also be used to automate product availability alerts for customers and notify retailers of operational delays due to broken machinery, for example. Furthermore, IoT sensors can optimize inventory by monitoring shelf weight to track which items are selling the fastest and when items need to be restocked.

2. IoT and supply chains: logistics

At a time when everyone is stuck at home waiting for essential items such as food and toilet paper, the last thing anyone needs or wants is a delayed delivery.

IoT technology is being used to significantly enhance the entire logistical system for the shipping of goods, allowing goods to arrive safer, faster, and in perfect condition. Sensors can tell manufacturers, retailers, and middlemen where shipping fleets are located, how fast they’re moving (if they’re moving at all), and how the goods themselves are weathering the journey (ie, if they are getting damaged or perishing), and they can do this in real time.

IoT and supply chains: logisticsIoT and supply chains: logistics

IoT sensors can also provide key data on shipping routes, allowing sourcing and operations managers to know exactly where delays are happening and plan more efficient journeys for their goods.

3. IoT and supply chains: data analysis

The last (but certainly not least) area where IoT technology helps supply chains is in data analysis. At every stage and level of the supply chain process—from the ordering of new factory parts to the handling of product recalls or returns—IoT-based technology can be used to provide vital data to manufacturers and operations managers. This data can then be used to fine-tune every aspect of the supply chain, ultimately allowing for a far better system and a much bigger and better ROI.

IoT and supply chains: data analysisIoT and supply chains: data analysis

Challenges Associated with IoT Technology and Supply Chains

Of course, any “new”—although the Internet of Things is not really “new” any longer—technology comes with a fair share of challenges. The Internet of Things, with all the advantages it offers, can also present some difficulties and inconveniences.

First, it’s never easy to get employees up to speed on new systems, especially tech-involved systems that use automation or AI. If the workforce is not used to using tablets, for example, or logging information into devices, getting them to do this consistently and correctly can be very difficult.

The second issue is security. IoT security has become a major topic of discussion worldwide for good reason: it’s not easy to protect data, especially when it’s in the cloud and coming in at increasingly heavy volumes and from increasingly varied and geographically dispersed systems and sources.

The final challenge is connectivity. 5G will help this, but connected systems require quite a lot of bandwidth to work well, especially when they involve communication between sensors and devices that are hundreds of miles apart.

At a time when the safe and efficient delivery of goods is crucial, IoT technology is stepping in to make everything run smoother. Now is the best time ever to “go smart” and invest in a safe IoT ecosystem such as Tuya Smart, which allows manufacturers, brands, and retailers to connect to the Internet of Things quickly, easily, and affordably.

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