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Digitization of supply chain and logistics is imperative in improving efficiencies, reducing costs and providing end-to-end visibility of operations. Businesses should have the ability to reflect on and react to what occurs in real-world supply chain, for example, tracking the condition or location of goods; analysing sensor or real-time traffic data to spot trends; and subsequently triggering appropriate changes.

The challenge most businesses face, is where to start.

Connected Vehicles

The connected vehicle is the backbone of the digital supply chain. Much of the supporting software for transportation management requires information provided by telematics. Telematics simply means a method of monitoring and managing fleets with GPS tracking; advanced vehicle data capture and connected third-party solutions.

Open Platforms

A key factor for the integration of telematics is an open platform. Open platform refers to data which you own and have unfiltered access to. There is no lock-in. You have the ability to access your data whenever you like, however you like, and share that data with whomever you like. Open platforms enable collaboration. They lay the foundation for informed decision-making and business efficiency.

Open platforms allow you to integrate with key systems in your supply chain and business such as a Transportation Management System (TMS). A TMS acts as an accounting, dispatch, and operations hub for transportation companies, helping managers track and optimize a wide number of activities such as: load and freight planning, dispatching, customer service, payables, billing, and customer orders. It is also extremely beneficial to combine vehicle maintenance and telematics. Tracking vehicle maintenance is important for any type of fleet. Maintenance can be scheduled at time intervals or set to occur after a certain number of miles have been driven (meter-based). Records of maintenance are verified and kept as a history of service and help determine a vehicle’s resale value.

To get the maximum benefit from your system, you need to have open access to your data. This entails an application programming interface (API) that is freely available and enables you to allow other vendors to access your telematics data.

Big Data

Data is an invaluable resource and should be used to make better decisions. For example, if an IoT feed reveals that a refrigerated shipment has gone out of threshold, a planning and analytics platform would determine if the shipment will go bad, and scenario-based planning logic could figure out where an alternate shipment could be sent from. These tools would work in the background as conditions change, rather than having to wait for human planners to conduct a formal planning process.

Benchmarking

Combining the general concept of benchmarking with IoT is game-changing. Feeding real-time data from a network of IoT devices, around the world, into a big data system can generate powerful analytical insights into fuel productivity, efficiency, and safety.

The key advantages of benchmarking with IoT include access to detailed data, in real-time, with the ability to combine and analyse data from multiple devices or sensors simultaneously.

Blockchain

As per its name, blockchain is exactly that, a chain of blocks that cannot be broken. Like an interlocked chain, each piece is connected to the one in front of and behind it — and cannot be reordered. It is fixed exactly where it is, in the timeline of events i.e. the order in which each block of the chain was created.

Imagine a business transaction. Each step within a business transaction is like a block that happens in sequence. Starting from the details and signing of the contract, to the completion of the delivery and payment. This chain, its parts and their exact order from start to finish, can be viewed by parties related to the transaction in a private ledger that is stored across the network.

Consider a shared ledger that is always true. What that means is that the blockchain and additions made to it, is saved and replicated on every computer on the network. This means no person can erase or alter information after the fact. Everyone has the exact, real-time copy. No administrative password can ever change this information, regardless of the person’s authority in a company or the role they played in the transaction. Every added block is mutually agreed upon by all parties.

As part of the overall supply chain network, trucking companies could be vastly affected by blockchain technology. Blockchain in trucking could increase speed, transparency and security in a number of processes, such as:

  • Connecting shippers to carriers
  • Ordering
  • Tracking freight
  • Payment transactions
  • Customs clearance

Quick Pay and Smart Contracts

Quick pay means that once goods are delivered and the driver leaves the dock, the contract has been completed and the carrier, as well as any other parties involved, can be paid immediately. There is no discrepancy or waiting time for verification between what the driver reported and what happened at the dock. It can all be independently validated via the electronic logging device (ELD) and even weight sensors, for example, as the driver leaves with an empty trailer. In effect, the latter becomes a smart contract. Once the pre-determined and programmed conditions are met, the payment is transferred.

Looking Forward

In the near future, we will see a more autonomous, self-orchestrating supply chain. For example, drones shortening the process between ordering and possessing a product. Same-day delivery becomes same-hour delivery. 50 percent of all fleets will have some level of autonomy between being semi-autonomous to reaching full autonomy. Transport volumes in warehouses will be reduced by 50 percent; and warehouse sizes will be reduced by 30 percent, with smaller spokes closer to consumers as opposed to large, central hubs in city outskirts.

Value-added services such as “trade facilitation,” will no longer exist as blockchain enables all payments upon approval for letters of credit, and issues port payments upon custody changes. Supply chain becomes unbundled from “end to end” and “point A to point B,” as business models shift from integration to aggregation.

Some of the technologies and applications mentioned already exist, others are not yet widely used, but this will change in the next five to ten years as digitization is implemented. Companies embracing digitization will have a huge advantage in improving efficiencies, exploring new business models and revenue streams in the digital supply chain.

Author: Romeo McKayCEO – Gerber Tech

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