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IoT: The missing item from your holiday wish list

No matter how much or how far in advance companies plan for the holiday rush, the unfortunate reality is that hot products tend to fall victim to high demand, resulting in unstocked shelves, backordered products and disappointed consumers. This is a trend we see year after year, yet recent advancements in IoT innovations should make these problems disappear faster than Santa on Christmas morning.

Modern supply chains using IoT have the power to ensure customer expectations are not only met, but exceeded. The supply chain line of business is the number one industry investing in IoT, according to research from IDC.

When it comes to making these IoT investments, it can be hard to know where to start — which is likely why so many businesses still run into hiccups during periods of high customer demand. Here a few key components that your supply chain needs to survive and thrive this holiday season.

  • Demand sensing and planning to stay ahead of customer demands: Capturing actual usage and demand through IoT-enabled smart products and real-time point-of-sale data can help predict surges in demand to avoid unhappy customers during the holiday season. This, in conjunction with demand planning tools, can offer companies increased transparency, proactively helping them avoid unnecessary warehouse and inventory costs. Today, we are seeing an increasing number of companies realize the need for such technologies to support real-time, end-to-end supply chain visibility and responsiveness.
  • Predictive maintenance to avoid production inefficiencies: Nothing disrupts the ability to deliver on goods and services more than broken machinery. When embedded into supply chains, IoT can eliminate the risk of machine failure by using real-time machine data and sophisticated analytics to determine equipment health. Predicting and preventing failures dramatically improves customer service and saves costs due to improved product uptime, quality and reliability. From increased customer satisfaction made possible by improved product quality and reliability, to the maximization of equipment uptime, predictive maintenance results in cost savings. Predictive maintenance can also be helpful when it comes to the delivery of goods. Take, for example, a truck delivering holiday sweaters that are being delivered to support a seasonal promotion. If that truck breaks down, no matter how far in advance the order is placed, its cargo will be late. Companies that use predictive maintenance, however, will have a leg up when it comes to ensuring stores that they can keep their word on delivery timing.
  • In-transit visibility for an updated supply chain: Supply chains are often complex, as products are handled and transferred between several hands, from manufacturers and suppliers to distribution centers, retailers and, finally, the customer. All of this movement means many opportunities for error and delays. With IoT, data can be collected that provides detailed visibility into the entire transportation process. Digital innovations combining IoT with big data, both structured and unstructured, and analytics make it possible for companies to have a “digital mirror” of their supply network, ensuring that the required components are in place, delays are avoided and promised deliveries are met. These IoT-based technologies can monitor delivery, shipment status and the physical transportation of products to provide a real-time overview of the supply chain. Real-time data goes beyond automating shipping and delivery to predict the time of arrival. With IoT, we can create proactive supply chain processes that preemptively make changes based on current conditions. For example, we can now take the steps to avoid weather patterns and traffic jams so products can arrive on time, or monitor variables that impact the temperature of certain products during transit.

By creating predictive supply networks that use IoT, retailers have the power to meet evolving customer expectations at every turn. By first identifying a few key supply chain elements for investment, companies can manage challenges in an approachable way that improves the experience for their customers. If supply chains can better sustain the holiday rush, chances are that they are prepared to handle demand during the rest of the year.

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