By Lisa Magnuson
Visibility is the foundation for any improvement to your supply chain, as everything from increased agility to supply chain resiliency is dependent upon your ability to see and understand what is happening, in real time, within your organization.
Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more difficult to operate a complex supply chain, when you take into consideration the multi-tiered layers of suppliers that feed into your business. Because supply chain data is fragmented across multiple systems, geographies and business groups, it’s vital to obtain real-time visibility across all tiers in the supply chain. Using yesterday’s data to solve today’s problems just won’t cut it. Companies that can achieve end-to-end, multi-tier supply chain visibility will gain a significant competitive advantage in terms of resiliency, efficiency, responsiveness and customer satisfaction.
What is Visibility and Why is Supply Chain Visibility So Important?
One of the key challenges in supply chain has been the lack of visibility that leads to inaccurate predictions, poor planning, delayed decision making, higher risks and ultimately, loss of business. Supply chain visibility means having access to real-time data from ground truth (sensor data) that you can use to make decisions for your organization.
Resiliency and agility are two critical abilities organizations need to have in their arsenal to overcome supply chain disruptions such as the coronavirus. Resilience is the ability of a business to bounce back from such disruptions, while agility refers to the ability to adjust and correct course quickly. Supply chain visibility solutions enable improved visibility and analytics across supply chains, and it’s this visibility that is the foundation for increased resilience and agility, increased operational efficiency, and improved collaboration with partners and suppliers up and down the supply chain.
Without these high levels of visibility, companies are much more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. When COVID-19 began its fast and furious spread across China, it paralyzed large swaths of the country and forced the shutdown of thousands of manufacturers. The organizations that had real-time visibility into their supply chains had the resilience to course-correct and find manufacturers in other parts of the world to provide them with needed parts and supplies.
How to Achieve Near-Optimal Supply Chain Visibility
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) uses sensors to send digital information directly to machines to automate processes. Intelligent sensors are designed to analyze the data before sending it to the cloud. In the past, cold chain companies were using a variety of siloed data sources to get supply chain information, using manual methods such as hand-held RFID bar code scanners and passive temperature measurements (which don’t tell you when or where a temperature excursion occurred). Now, digital supply networks leverage smart devices, analytics, mobile data and other technologies to deliver actionable insights in areas ranging from inventory management to monitoring real-time status of vaccines, medicines and biologics.
Cloudleaf’s Digital Visibility Platform puts the supply chain pieces together to connect data silos and generate insights from ground truth using intelligent sensor networks, AI/ML and IoT technologies to deliver continuous supply chain visibility and intelligence. The result is that organizations can reduce disruption mitigation time from weeks to mere hours.
One real-world example of using Cloudleaf to capture real-time product flow data is with a global pharmaceutical company that collects and transports over 8 million liters of blood plasma from 82 donor centers to its 5 plasma facilities around the word. The company was losing tens of millions of dollars every year due to plasma sample spoilage, re-testing labor costs, and FDA compliance issues.
Before implementing Cloudleaf’s solution, this global pharmaceutical company was relying on older, manual tracking methods which involved the use of hand-held RFID bar code scanners. RFID technology did not provide them with the timely, accurate data that they needed. As a result, a significant number of plasma samples spoiled due to temperature excursions—when samples are exposed to temperatures outside the recommended storage conditions. Fines and costs for each excursion top $5M each.
The company turned to Cloudleaf to provide a complete system that provides real-time, accurate monitoring of the location, dwell times, condition and movement history of the blood plasma samples. Cloudleaf gave the pharmaceutical 100% visibility into the movement of their blood plasma samples, resulting in over 50x ROI. The company can now track pallet movements with 100% accuracy and achieve 100% compliance with FDA regulations.
Another example involves a large appliance manufacturer that needed better location visibility on thousands of pieces of heavy equipment spread across multiple production plants, to improve inventory tracking and reduce capital asset write-downs. Heavy equipment, such as press machines and welding machines, was dispersed around multiple factories across the U.S. The movement of this equipment was tracked manually and was very inaccurate. The company needed to have an accurate, real-time inventory count of their equipment to improve warehouse efficiencies and reduce millions of dollars of year-end write downs.
The company deployed Cloudleaf to monitor the real-time condition and location of 32,000 pieces of heavy equipment that’s spread across a dozen production plants across the United States. By collecting location and condition data throughout the supply chain—indoors, in the yard and in transit — the company now has a comprehensive digital audit record that tracks capital asset location, condition and context in real time for accurate inventory levels nationwide.
We have seen how COVID-19 has taken a disastrous toll on supply chains. To survive in this new normal, organizations need to learn how to better navigate disruptions, and the first step in any successful digital transformation is achieving greater visibility into supply chains. Those companies who have built a foundation of visibility can push forward with innovative changes that make them more resilient and agile in the face of disruptions. With an intelligent and automated supply chain, everyone benefits – from suppliers to trading partners to end consumers.
To take the next step, read up on these key insights from leading supply chain experts—insights that will help you successfully navigate through this extraordinary wave of unprecedented global supply chain disruption.