Vitally, most supply chains were able to keep going. While there was a lot of panic buying, most of the items purchased only seemed in short supply because of widespread hoarding. They were never at risk of running out; toilet rolls aren’t worth importing, so frozen international trade wasn’t a cause of much consternation.
But there’s a difference between surviving and thriving, and the endurance of supply chains doesn’t attest to their economy or efficiency. Regardless of how you look at things, it’s clear that this is a time for suppliers to streamline their supply chains, leaving them better equipped to accommodate peaks or troughs in demand. So how can this be done?
Implement IoT technology
The IoT (Internet of Things) is technology that makes it possible to significantly improve supply chains that have been in operation for years or even decades. The development of miniature chips that can connect at distance through mobile data has opened up a new world of opportunity for supply companies.
Everything from a shipping container to a small product can be tagged and tracked for the entirety of its journey. This provides incredible amounts of data that can be used to identify holdups and gauge profitability.
Use smarter route planning
Despite all the advancements made through GPS tracking, there are still ways to improve route planning. Traffic is a big factor, and if shipping companies can become more willing to share tracking data (much of which will need to be available eventually for driverless vehicles to reach the mainstream) then it’ll become significantly easier to plan trips that cover the least distance.
As well as improving speed, this will boost economy, something that fleet-owning companies currently pursue through business fuel cards from sites like iCompario and driver tracking through telematics from companies like TrakM8. With clear routes planned, progress can be made more smoothly and easily, lowering costs across the board.
Automate lifting and carrying
While automation has already been implemented in various ways throughout supply chains, there are still many points at which human labor is key. And while that’s not a bad thing for some roles, it’s far from ideal when it comes to lifting and carrying. In addition to making a company more vulnerable to the effects of illness, it causes problems that can lead to injury.
Advancements in the field of automated lifting systems slowly filter into mainstream use, and this is the ideal time for any supply companies that have avoided this kind of automation to get on board. It can be expensive to invest in robotics, but when there’s a pandemic making it markedly more complicated to have people working in groups, it’s worth it.
Improve equipment maintenance
It isn’t just getting better equipment that’ll help supply companies; it’s also being better at maintaining that equipment, something that’s chiefly achieved through the support of software (and some hardware) that can automatically carry out proactive preventative maintenance on a large scale.
In addition to extending the operational lifespan of vital equipment, this can reduce the likelihood of unexpected part failure causing work to grind to a halt. Prevention is preferable to a cure, after all. It will take more regular work to monitor equipment, and there won’t always be changes to note, but it’ll be worth it due to the issues it avoids.
Owing largely to advancements in technology, it’s possible to achieve remarkable improvements in supply chain efficiency, even when you’re dealing with well-oiled operations. Deploying IoT tracking and using it to full effect is the key. The more information you can gather, the more effectively you can plan and predict.