By Ankush Chatterjee
The period just before Diwali to the New Year is when you see a surge in the sale of products and services across categories. This buoyant consumer demand can put supply chains in a tough spot (running out of inventory, logistical friction, shortage of in-storage space). Here, location technology can help businesses navigate the challenges related to supply chain volatility during the festive season.
1. Managing warehouse: The surge in demand for products can make it difficult to calculate how much temporary storage space might be needed. This is true of small-sized enterprises and start-ups. Location tech such as trackers and indoor positioning infrastructure can help managers chart out floor-by-floor 3D maps of factories where assets are located, as well as ensure capacities are judiciously allocated between departments. Managers can also pinpoint the optimal positioning of these sensors to fit factory employees’ movements. IoT-based sensor tech can enable tracing of product inventory within the warehouse or factory—saving energy and resources used otherwise to trace ‘lost’ inventory.
2. Transforming fleet operations: Seasonal increase and accelerated flux in inventories can test the mettle of fleet services infrastructure and third-party logistics and distribution providers. It’s critical for fleets to operate at peak capacity. Leveraging route planning GPS software can aid planning, efficiency and monitoring of delivery routes that minimise excess mileage, stop-start traffic and doubling back on routes already taken, thus saving fuel. By analysing traffic flows based on live and historical patterns, fleet drivers can avoid congestion hotspots, accidents and construction zones. All this can enhance customer satisfaction scores as well.
3. Supporting customers and optimising business costs: Agreeing upon the right service level agreements (SLAs) with customers and ensuring brand loyalty is critical. But SLAs are dependent on a core metric (location), which can influence the time taken to deliver the orders. Insights from location analytics can help companies to decrease the turnaround time by pinpointing pickup and drop-off points (or loading/unloading centres).
4. Going paperless: A challenge for supply chain managers due to seasonal fluctuations in customer demand is the industry’s heavy reliance on analogue processes like data entry. With Covid-19 and a lot of people working from home, businesses can leverage location-based digital tools to gain transparency into supply chain processes while reducing their carbon footprint. Take the case of the German freight company Dachser—using geo-aware and predictive location analytics and real-time disruption alerts throughout the chain, their client documents can be requested, displayed and executed digitally. They have full access to supply and demand data via a transport and warehouse management system, thereby allowing real savings and a 360-degree ‘factory-to-sale’ visibility.
5. Local expansion: Covid-19 lockdowns have exposed many deficiencies in the global supply chains of big retailers. This has meant newer opportunities for local producers as well as bricks-and-mortar stores to expand to previously unserved areas. Integrating Covid-19 datasets or even external data such as weather, mobility, traffic and satellite data on top of the existing internal data can help map demand and make value-based strategic business decisions.
Supply chain managers must understand the power of ‘where’ that affects demand and supply planning. Incorporating location-aware technologies and analytics provides a new perspective to the supply chain team and network.
The author is head, Product Portfolio Management, Asia Pacific, HERE Technologies.
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