The future of business lies in the visible value chain

Today, rapidly changing technology trends have rendered the
world flat and made the business landscape, particularly in Australia, more
complex and competitive than ever before.

With the endless array of customer choices, fierce
competitors, pervasive use of the internet, and a complex global economy,
manufacturers need to focus on finding ways to sustain and grow their business.

Companies today are expected to find ways to do more with
fewer resources, such as responding swiftly and efficiently to unexpected
changes to their supply chain.

The logistics & retail sector is becoming increasingly
customer-centric, with expectation of free and same day delivery and 24 hour
stock and price updates becoming the norm.

More businesses are moving online, requiring better
back-stock managements, and a more globalised market means that local
manufacturers are now competing with overseas business.

While technology presents new opportunities and challenges,
manufacturers are still encountering more familiar problems such as
efficiencies in supply chain.

It is becoming imperative that local manufacturers and
retailers need to become more agile and responsive to the needs of customers
and global demands – this means creating a more visible supply chain, from
warehouse to points of sales.

Creating a visible value chain

Fortunately, there is now a whole gamut of technologies that
make it possible for businesses to monitor in real time, where goods may be
transported from one point to another seamlessly, without needing constant
involvement from employees.

IoT (Internet of Things) solutions are considered to be
smart, interconnected devices that provide more visibility into an
organisation’s supply chain through sensors that are able to communicate and
report on the various events taking place across the supply chain – in the
warehouse, on distribution channels, and even at the point of sale.

These solutions help to convert the physical assets and
inventories into the digital information that enable companies to know the
location, condition, timing, and accuracy of the events occurring throughout
the value chain in almost real-time.

This also enables new and more efficient business models to
be created that are far more efficient in delivering greater returns to

The proliferation of mobile devices like smartphones and
tablets make accessing the digital data generated by IoT solutions very easy from
anywhere across the world.

This allows decision makers to instantly react when a crisis
hits the company, by giving them specific insights to identify and solve the

The data can further be used to fuel innovation by showing
new ways to operate more efficiently and improve on existing customer service.

Having visibility over one’s supply chain can produce the
following benefits:

Asset tracking
With asset tracking capabilities, not only will suppliers know where their
products are in real time, they will also be able to know what condition their
products are in. It will enable them to move their products, particularly
perishable goods, through the supply chain quickly and efficiently. This will
result in these goods reaching the points of sale destinations in time while
retaining their freshness. RFID tagging can ensure accurate record keeping of
assets and eliminate the hidden costs associated with searching for lost or
misplaced products.

Targeted product
– When an enterprise does not have clear visibility over which
batches of their products are defective, they will be forced to recall their
entire line, resulting in high operational cost and loss of revenue. With RFID
tracking, companies can easily narrow down the affected batches, trace their
sources, and do a lean, targeted recall with minimum disruption, revenue loss,
and cost.

– RFID tagging ensures employees do not have to spend
unnecessary time and effort in manually storing and retrieving records and data
repeatedly. With a one-time manual input, information related to a specific
RFID tagged product can be computerised and easily available on request. This
enables employees to focus more on tasks that generate value for their

Reducing operational cost and wastage in the retail back end

With greater Internet connectivity across households and the
emergence of dedicated online retail stores, many manufacturers are setting up
digital shops to supplement their bricks-and-mortar stores on the ground.

Among the challenges manufacturers are facing as a result of
this is to bridge their online presence with traditional bricks-and-mortar
stores through cross-channel selling and ensuring a coordinated approach to

IoT solutions like barcode labelling and RFID tagging help
retail companies better manage their back end processes in several ways.

By tagging products with RFID labels and barcodes before
they leave the warehouse, manufacturers can track the time taken and the routes
of their final destination from a centralised location. If there are any
unexpected delays or hold-ups in the delivery of shipment, manufacturers are
able to notify their front end stores – whether online or bricks-and-mortars –
in advance.

Additionally, by tracking the movements of their goods from
the warehouse, manufacturers can reduce their number of late orders as well as
orders delivered to the wrong destination.

IoT solutions also help manufacturers to better manage their
resources allocated to logistics – in terms of number of warehouses used to
house assets, delivery trucks to deliver them to retail outlets, and reducing
the amount of labour dedicated to non-value added jobs like manual stock

This adds to a retailer’s competitiveness on the ground and
against emerging online stores.

Better visibility of the supply chain means that
manufacturers can save time and money and can plan more effectively for the future.

Mike Pitt is the
regional manager at Zebra Technologies ANZ

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