The supply chain is playing host to emerging logistics technologies and modern marvels of an industrialized society. We’ve discussed how robotics are becoming more prevalent throughout the industry, and we’ve looked at how the transportation management system is providing unparalleled insight into the everyday actions of today’s shippers and logistics providers. However, we haven’t discussed what is empowering all of these amazing technologies.
Machines that can communicate are great, but they lack value if we cannot glean insight from products through technologies. Products are not necessarily built to provide us with information. As a result, we need a way to increase the machine-to-machine connectivity from products to other connected devices. To improve this connectivity, the use of radio frequency identification (RFID), automatic identification and data capture (AIDC), and Internet of Things (IoT) come into play.
Every advancement in history has centered on competition. By definition, competition encourages companies to try to do better than their competitors. Therefore, consumers benefit from lower prices, new technologies and products are developed, and the push toward the global economy grows stronger. Competition is undoubtedly one of the prime factors in the increasing use of these connected, communicative logistics technologies in technology.
Society has reached a breaking point in environmental awareness, and governments around the globe are taking stances on every industry’s negative and positive operations. Carriers and fleets that do not employ an electronic logging device (ELD) within their fleets face fines and penalties, and major carriers must reduce the number of miles driven to keep carbon emissions low. This does not even account for the hundreds of watchdog groups that have grown on social media. As a result, logistics providers and shipping enterprises must find a way to increase the accountability and compliance within their operation.
Where would a shipper be without customers? It would not exist. Consumers purchase products and customers pay for shipping. Even when a manufacturer offers free shipping, it is practically passed along to the consumer as a discount or an increase on a not commonly purchased product. Ultimately, a shipper who operates in the mindset that consumers are never paying for shipping is extraordinarily likely to suffer setbacks.
The growth of omni-channel sales and e-commerce is making more products available to more consumers at an infinitely larger number of locations. As a result, shippers and manufacturers need to get more product out without necessarily increasing their existing drivers, fleets, and workers. As a result, shippers are trying to make all current processes as efficient as possible.
The advantages of using RFID-, AIDC-, and IoT- based technologies seem fairly simple. Each of these logistics technologies provides a benefit that meets the demands of its respective driving forces. However, these technologies are poised to give benefits throughout the industry in several other ways as well.
An organization that knows as much information as possible about its current resources and assets is better poised to use this information and pass it along to consumers, government agencies, and executive-level leaders. Better visibility is about making everyone knows what is going on. According to Ralph Lieberthal of Inbound Logisitics, end-to-end visibility streamlines the supply chain by detecting, and resolving problems. After all, how can an organization report decreased emissions in factories and fleets if the organization does not even know how many miles were driven. That’s only half the story.
Products need to speak for where they were, why they were there, and how much time is left in their life expectancy. As explained by Ken Moir of Manufacturing and Logisitics IT, this is an especially important concept in the perishable supply chain, which includes foods, plants, pharmaceuticals, and other products that have a given shelf life.
When an organization falls out of compliance with regulatory agencies, the shipper or logistics provider could face stiff penalties, fines, and incarceration. In the global economy, the risk becomes even greater. An organization must comply with US standards and take a step further to meet all compliance measures for all countries. For example, RFID logistics technologies are being used to ensure proper asset tracking, asserts Motorola. As a result, the need for compliance has become larger than ever, and these connected technologies enable an organization to have real-time insight into what can be changed to ensure compliance.
Customers do not want old, expired products. Customers want cheaper shipping, if not free entirely. Customers want everything, and it is up to shippers to ensure customers get what they want. The use of RFID, AIDC, and the IoT allows customers to know where their products are in transit. When a provider saves money through increased efficiency, the savings can be passed along to consumers.
Look back to our discussion about the use of drones and robots in the logistics industry. Modern robotics are rapidly becoming able to automatically detect information about a product or shipment, but the robot has no way of knowing exactly what is inside the shipment box without opening it. This implies the direct need for intensive labeling or otherwise identifying information about a shipment for use by drones or other types of robotics.
According to the Supply Chain Digest Editorial Staff, AIDC-and RFID-enabling efforts, especially labeling technologies, are at the heart of the push toward automated delivery and use of robots in the logistics and shipping industry. As a result, drones can ensure the proper package is delivered on time, connected items can automatically generate notifications to consumers and shippers, and the entire process can grow more accurate. This further strengthens the benefit of customer service.
The cost of RFID, AIDC, and IoT-based logistics technologies is much lower today. Throughout the industry, these technologies are eradicating the old, outdated, and “green-screen” systems of the past. They are bringing an entirely new generation of workers and fresh minds into the industry. By understanding the use of these technologies and how they benefit the industry, today’s shippers and logistics providers are positioned to grow their operations without necessarily requiring massive investments to increase workers, fleets, and processes, which goes back to improving the speed and accuracy of each order, every time, and however it’s moving.
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