The Internet of Things is escalating at a furious pace and soon there will be more than 26 billion devices of all shapes and sizes connected to the internet. This also means companies face more complexities than ever before. From textile looms to shipping pallets, store shelves and more, everything in the supply chain will eventually sync automatically to optimize operations.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve, the role of mobility and how the supply chain is impacted by IoT changes. From our perspective at the centre of the mobile ecosystem, we are able to provide adaptable best practices that can be customized to meet unique business requirements. In doing so, we can ensure that businesses are embracing the IoT and mobility is playing a role in supply chain management and logistics.

Embrace the IoT

Today’s companies are faced with many priorities. They need to get their products to market fast, maintain accurate inventory levels throughout the supply chain and keep costs low, among other things. Therefore, it’s important that the global supply chain is optimized to achieve these goals, but the increasing complexity makes achieving optimization a moving target.

With today’s technologies and the growth in IoT, setting up the infrastructure and establishing mobility in the warehouse is far simpler as almost any device can be connected to the internet. That means it’s much more practical for organizations to set up and take advantage of IoT devices, especially for those with several smaller warehouses. In addition, supply chain tasks such as planning, procurement, supplier management and logistics are better addressed by data-driven intelligent systems. With these advances, it’s also expected that the deployment of IoT technologies will help improve customer service, revenue growth, profitability, sustainability, security and risk mitigation.

Allow for Visibility

The recent growth in mobile technology has driven the ability to track products in real-time at every point in the supply chain. This allows for fast activation when a product is ready for the end-user, but in order to do so, supply chains need to leverage reports and data feeds for viewing products at every stage and use those cumulatively to maximize efficiencies in the supply chain.

But as supply chains become more and more sophisticated and vital to companies, their interlinked global nature makes them more vulnerable to risk. Supply chain management will continue to become more important to companies’ success, but supply chain risk events will have an even more profound effect on companies and can be more costly. Therefore it’s important to utilize mobility in the supply chain to deal with issues and maintain a visible supply chain.

Companies that can’t manage a visible and accountable supply chain put their overall success at risk. Incidents such as the recent recalls with Japanese auto supplier Takata demonstrate the importance of tracking all parts and components, along with the consequences that can occur when a visible supply chain management platform doesn’t exist.

Make Way for the Warehouse of the Future

Consumers are seeking customization in products and services and they want products that are tailored to their individual lifestyles and preferences now more than ever. But the shift in mindset and advancements in mobile technologies require organizations to adapt their supply chain processes to handle the fast-paced, ever-changing needs of consumers. From a supply chain perspective this is challenging, but companies who fail to meet consumers’ expectations are at risk of losing loyal customers.

Fortunately, the warehouse of the future has the flexibility to shift with changing conditions. But, forecasting for new technologies and the rapidly expanding Internet of Things category can be difficult. For instance, increased sales can be a good problem to have, but not all third-party logistics providers are structured to accommodate increases in demand. When faced with this situation, companies should take advantage of mobile technology that allows for real-time visibility, and ensure their supply chains are linked geographically to allow for significant improvements in speed to market. Companies also should develop custom engineering for packaging and modify the shipping process to decrease costs, and also use automated solutions to improve quality and reduce cost.

Be Flexible and Agile

Consumers also are shopping online more than ever, and they expect competitive pricing, in-stock merchandise and fast delivery – all at the same time. Furthermore, since retailers must manage hundreds of thousands of locations, and carry thousands of items at each location, conditions like out-of-stock, outdated product and inventory shrinkage are common. As a result, it’s becoming more common for retailers to rely on supply chain partners to become the system of record for inventory. For instance, companies can send their data to a third-party logistics provider or link their point-of-sale (POS) system with a provider to offer an up-to-date, holistic view of what’s immediately available on store shelves. This helps to satisfy consumers’ desire for immediate access to information, but it also requires retailers to be able to deliver an intuitive experience in stores and online.

Some verticals are already successfully building a new retail model using a flexible supply chain to address this new consumer demand. However, there is potential for consumer electronics retailers and other verticals to address these challenges. For instance, today’s consumers have an expectation that they will have immediate access to the product, and it will be available for next-day shipping. In order to meet that demand, the supply chain has to be flexible and agile – a distinct feature of supply chains utilizing mobility.

Technological innovations and a hyper connected world have made a significant influence on supply chain management and logistics and, as a result, businesses must embrace the IoT and mobility given its impact on the overall supply chain process.

Bashar Nejdawi is a 31-year veteran of the telecommunication and mobility industry, He is executive vice president of Ingram Micro and president of Ingram Micro Mobility North America, which handles one in three mobile devices in the U.S. He is one of the foremost leaders on the subjects of mobile industry innovation and growth, enterprise mobility and the connected world.

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