Transforming Retail Supply Chain Management

Retail Supply Chain

May 1, 2018

Much has been discussed in recent months about IoT and how it is disrupting our lives. Connected devices are making their way into our homes, enhancing our leisure time, and providing us with new functionality for the things we use every day – think self-driving cars, virtual personal assistants that connect to our favorite shopping sites, and so on.

With today’s trend toward transparency in business processes, it won’t be long before we can track every ingredient of the food we eat to its source or get to know the people who sew our garments. IoT plays a big part in facilitating these trends, as it tracks processes and collects data through every stage, from factory floor or farm to store shelves and beyond.

IoT is disrupting supply chain management in retail

“The Amazon effect” has caused many retailers, both large and small, to reconsider their logistics and supply chain management. To meet vendor and consumer expectations, they are having to find ways to compete, which means implementing new efficiencies that allow them better visibility into their supply chains. With improved efficiency and greater transparency, it is possible to see where processes are stalling, bottlenecking, or breaking down altogether.

At the store level, IoT keeps the retail supply chain moving with smart shelves, which monitor inventory and initiate orders or store transfers to ensure availability and enhanced inventory management.

In terms of logistics and transportation, key aspects of these processes are tracked by IoT, delivering real-time insights to leadership so timely decisions can be made. Doing business with global distributors presents complications of its own, but today, more than ever, the uncertain landscape of global politics complicates logistics. Having complete transparency through every stage is essential to meeting expectations.

Transparency in the supply chain

Retailers are leveraging IoT to help them do more than fill shelves and track shipments.

In a broad sense, IoT is a network of connected devices that can communicate with each other in real-time. Leveraged along with machine learning, AI, and data science, it even has the potential to identify upticks in customer demand that will, for example, trigger an increase in production at the factory level.

IoT can support efficient inventory management, providing visibility into:

  • Raw materials needed to produce products
  • Logistics involved in obtaining raw materials
  • Manufacturing capacity
  • Production flow monitoring
  • Information relating to finished products
  • Volume of orders
  • Inventory levels
  • Fleet availability
  • Shipping routes and carriers
  • Delivery information
  • Shipping errors and anomalies

The availability of this high level of detail drives profitability while reducing damage, reducing waste, and improving customer service. Such data visibility also enables better planning and forecasting and helps to establish a framework for transparency through connection to a traceable process.

The future of retail supply chain management: IoT and blockchain

As the technology progresses, blockchain will eventually be widely implemented, completing the transparency loop by writing IoT supply chain data to an accessible, unalterable platform from which the world’s business will be managed. As blockchain is still in a nascent phase, a gradual integration is likely, but in the coming years we will see it move into the mainstream in much the same way as omnichannel has in recent times.

If you would like to learn more about how IoT can transform your retail supply chain management efforts, schedule a call today.

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