How to Overcome Supply Chain Issues with Advanced Technologies

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There’s nothing quite like a supply chain issue to bring a business to its knees.

KFC proved it recently in the UK. Switching to a new supplier left them with a disrupted supply chain, a shortage of food, and lost revenue. But why do things like this still happen in 2018, with so much new technology available?

Below, we’re taking a look at how business can overcome supply chain issues with advanced technology.

Predictive Logistics

The Problem

If any of us are psychic, it’s a vanishing few. That’s why supply chains are at the mercy of our prediction models. That leads to excessive wastage or missed revenue opportunities.

The Solution

Technology makes predictive logistics easier every day. Companies are gathering and analyzing data like never before. That data can predict spending patterns, supply and demand, and even future changes in the market.

Tools for analyzing so-called Big Data are some of the most sophisticated in the tech industry. They’re in demand for everything from supply chain to politics.

Process Automation

The Problem

No matter how efficient your supply chain, it has an inbuilt weakness if it relies on people pressing buttons. Human error can disrupt a supply chain in seconds.

The Solution

An automated supply chain management system takes the uncertainty out of the supply chain. Supply chain logistics offer the perfect environment for process automation, as they’re simple logical chains with the primary variable being the hard facts of supply and demand.

Process automation frees up staff for roles that benefit from human intuition. That means you’re making more effective use of your human resources, filling in the gaps that even advanced technology can’t fill just yet.

Inventory Management

The Problem

Counting stock is a tedious job. Manual counts are subject to miscounts and lost goods. In turn, mistakes lead to over- and under-ordering, leading to additional ordering costs and wasted inventory space.

The Solution

Automated inventory and stock management systems take the margin for error out of the stockroom. Computers can handle tracking, deducting, and reordering of stock to keep the supply chain flowing coherently.

Technologies like RFID can track inventory without the need for extensive human input. They can sync with computer systems to maintain programmed stock levels.

Shipping and Tracking

The Problem

Once a shipment is out of your hands, it might as well be invisible. There’s no telling if your package will ever make it to your customer. In an age of instant information, that leaves customers in the dark.

The Solution

Advanced tracking solutions like GPS can reduce the risk of consignment loss. They can also improve the customer experience by providing live information on the status of their shipment.

This is increasingly important in a world of same-day deliveries. Companies are under intense pressure to deliver the consignment within tight delivery windows while maintaining customer contact along the way. If an issue occurs, customers expect swift responses to their missing delivery.

Erasing Supply Chain Issues

Supply chains represent an excellent chance for technology to change the game. By deploying advanced technology and doing it well, companies can bring never-before-seen levels of efficiency to their supply chain.

Looking for more logistics news? Make sure to follow our blog.

5 Expert Tips for Managing Your Truck Fleet

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Trucks are the lifeblood of the supply chain. Every year, they’re responsible for moving nearly $740 billion worth of shipments all over the country. Some of the largest fleets in the nation are made up of tens of thousands of trucks.

No matter what size your fleet is, you won’t be successful without a great management strategy. You need to be on top of tracking your shipments, keeping your fleet in great condition, all while keeping your customers and employees happy.

Sounds like a lot? Don’t feel overwhelmed! We’ve got five expert truck fleet management tips that are going to help your business thrive!

1. Cut Down On Paperwork With Geofencing

Geofencing is one of the truck fleet management tools you’re going to wonder why you didn’t use it sooner.

A geofence is like a virtual perimeter around an area. By using GPS, it monitors when your truck fleet arrives and leaves a certain location.

By using this technology, you can track when a package is delivered without filling out a lot of paperwork. You can also use it for employees to clock in and out.

2. Be Proactive About Maintenance

A truck being taken off the road due to maintenance. Threats to employee safety. These are just a few of the concerns that can crop up when trying to keep track of fleet truck maintenance.

Should you have to schedule a trip to the mechanic all the time? Not necessarily.

Using telematics and OEM data, you can predict when maintenance is needed. It can also diagnose the severity of check engine lights.

3. Upgrade Your Navigation Systems

The everyday navigation systems we use in our personal vehicle are good enough to get us where we need to go. Fleet trucks need something much more specific.

Look into a commercial navigation system that has truck-specific routes, safe places for trucks to pull over in case of emergency, and private yard mapping. These are just a few of the things that will make a big difference for your drivers.

4. Use Telematics To Improve Turn Around Time

Telematics is a truck fleet management technique that involves using GPS and sensors to monitor your fleet. Not only will it help on turn around time, it helps you keep an eye on your inventory while in transit.

Telematics shows you what a truck needs while pulling into their next destination so you can have it ready to go. You can use it to time how long a delivery takes. There are tons of telematics applications.

5. To Be The Best, Hire The Best

Your employees are the most important component of your fleet. They are the backbone of your company.

There are two ways you can make sure you hire the best people. Take advantage of targeted digital advertising and make employee satisfaction a cornerstone of your company.

Making Truck Fleet Management Easy!

As you can see, truck fleet management doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are so many tools for you to apply to shorten turnaround time, track your inventory, and help your employees make safe deliveries.

If you want to learn more about how you can use these tracking tools to manage your fleet, contact us today!

Which External Factors Most Commonly Affect Your Supply Chain?

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If you work in logistics, you know that your supply chain is like a machine with many cogs. As efficient as the chain can be when working properly, one wrench thrown into the works can cause massive delays and problems.

Identifying supply chain risks and developing methods to combat them is the best way to avoid disruptions in your daily business. To establish responsible risk management, suppliers must be able to mitigate certain risk factors.

Are you concerned about possible disruptions in your supply chain slowing down your efficiency? Read on to discover potential pitfalls you need to plan for.

Accuracy of Shipments and Delivery Availability

Once you’ve established suppliers, you need to know they can deliver with consistency. Their reliability is key to assessing any supply chain risks they pose.

Sometimes suppliers suffer interruptions in raw materials or parts availability. This can cause an interruption in product flow. Good suppliers partner with reliable suppliers of their own materials.

It is wise to confirm shipment times and frequency, transportation methods, and rerouting standards due to weather. Knowing the supplier’s procedures is crucial to maintaining supply integrity.

Does your supplier ship daily or weekly? Do they use ground or air transport? This information can help you plan for increases in demand and any other needed changes.

Do you know where your product is at all times? Maintaining accurate shipment tracking can keep you on top of any potential issues.

Environmental Risks

These risks are often the hardest to control. The geography of your supply chain can mean dealing with economic, social, and governmental factors. Local laws, threats of terrorism, political changes, and economic flux can all trickle down into your supply flow.

In addition, weather patterns and climate can have a constantly changing impact on your supply availability. While you can’t control the weather, you can invest resources to stay on top of any potential delays.

Business Changes

Much like any business, suppliers can suffer instability through financial or managerial upsets. These hardships can mean supply interruption.

A supplier could be unable to deliver on goods because their business is being sold. Perhaps a financial shortfall makes them unable to produce a product. In the worst cases, these setbacks may mean seeking out a new supplier or negotiating new terms

Facility Risks

The facilities of your suppliers can cause issues if they are ever cited for regulatory violations. If suppliers do not maintain compliance with local rules and laws, their abilities to process shipments may suffer as they work to correct these missteps.

Physical security of their location is also important. Do your partners have appropriate security and storage measures in their facilities? Those without could suffer theft, damage, loss, and more.

A facility that is out of date, in disrepair, or understaffed may not have the capacity to process increases in demand.

Mitigate Your Supply Chain Risks

While external factors create supply chain risks that are outside of your control, a solid plan can help head off any issues before they start.

Working to identify and minimize your greatest risks will keep you from suffering losses when upsets do occur. There are many tools available which can boost your supply chain visibility and help you forecast any possible delays before they happen.

If you’re looking for logistical solutions that will keep you ahead of the curve, try ODYN today. Our analytics platform can help you maintain the integrity of your shipments and optimize your shipment tracking for maximum visibility from end to end.

The ELD Mandate: Is it Good or Bad for Business?

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Are you not a happy trucker due to the new ELD mandate sweeping the industry?

If so, you’re not alone. A new satisfaction survey gathered by trucking authority Coretex concludes that most distance truckers struggle with the electronic logging device mandate implemented in late 2017.

Here’s an overview of the mandate and how it benefits both truckers and fleets, as well as how it curbs their flexibility.

The ELD Mandate: What Is It?

On December 16, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a mandate for commercial long-distance vehicles. This new ELD regulation states that commercial vehicles must be fitted with an electronic logging device in order to accurately track a driver’s time on the road.

The mandate is supposed to reinforce the hours of service limit. Currently, drivers can’t log more than 14 consecutive hours of driving.

Under this rule, most affected vehicles had to implement the requirements by December 18, 2017. Certain vehicles were given a two-year extension if they had an automatic onboard recording device installed. Furthermore, vehicles whose engines predate the year 2000 are exempt altogether because their engines can’t link to an AOBRD or an ELD.

What Truckers Fear

Though the new electronic device mandate makes logging less of a hassle and helps drivers stay productive, many are afraid of its implications. ELD’s log everything and cannot be edited. This can cause strain between a trucker and his freight company, for instance.

Also, ELD’s are very expensive to install. While the FMCSA implemented this mandate, the government won’t carry that cost.

The Difference Between ELD’s and AOBRD’s

Both electronic logging devices and automatic onboard recording devices are installed into a commercial vehicle. They both rely on connectivity through the vehicles’ engine. also, they both log the vehicle’s activity, but the similarities end there.

Automatic onboard recorders are much less sophisticated. they don’t display specific logging information; they just give a general overview of the truck’s distance driven. they can also be controlled by the driver and edited.

ELD’s are much more thorough in what they display. These computers can function as shipment tracking devices as well as trucking data logs. they cannot be altered by the driver in any way.

The drivers whose vehicles were exempt due to outdated engines still have to log their data. They can choose to write paper logs or use mobile software via phones and tablets to stand in as ELD’s. The paper logging was largely discredited by the industry. It can be tampered with when fleet managers or drivers are scrambling to complete loads on time or make more money per load.

The Benefits Of ELD For Business

The resistance to the ELD rule is due to unwanted expenses and confusion about the guidelines. Both truckers and freight companies are not sure what the mandate means for them. Once this confusion is clarified, the benefits of the system are obvious:

  • Less time spent on logging data means more time to drive.
  • A universal rule for all commercial vehicles means fewer issues with compliance.
  • Companies can easily track their trucks and provide accurate shipping to their customers.

Aside from the above business benefits, the mandate will achieve it’s main purpose: keeping consecutive driving hours in check. this should contribute to fewer commercial trucking accidents, resulting in a win for companies and truckers alike.

Are You Tracking Your Fleet?

Do you feel more confident about the ELD mandate and how it affects your trucking business? Ultimately, you can benefit from the new ELD regulations and increase the productivity of your fleet. Learn more about fleet tracking and other trucking regulation standards by contacting us or browsing previous blog posts.

What is Supply Chain Visibility? Part 1: Operational Visibility

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What “visibility” truly is has plagued the supply chain industry for decades — and while it’s something that the industry talks about a lot (even though nobody really seems to understand what it is) our definition of “visibility” has pretty much devolved to Justice Stewart’s infamous “I’ll know it when I see it.”

That being said, it’s much easier to talk about the operational, financial, and strategic aspects of visibility in the supply chain. So that’s exactly what we’ll do. In this post, the first of our three-part series on Supply Chain Visibility, we’ll focus on the operational aspects of visibility in the supply chain.

 

Operational Visibility in the Supply Chain

Where is my shipment? When will it arrive? Is it being handled properly? Is it in good condition? Is my carrier doing as promised? Will I be notified if an abnormal event occurs? How do I know the information I’m receiving is accurate and timely? If you’ve dealt with logistics in any way shape or form, you’ve probably had to ask these questions. And frankly, in order to have visibility into the areas you can’t control, the best option is to affix a tracking device onto your shipments.

There are many different options for devices to track your shipments including RFID, WiFi, Bluetooth, Cellular, and Satellite devices. Let’s take a deeper dive into each tracking solution.

RFID tag

RFID

RFID tags are cheap, about $0.25 or less, but the RFID reading infrastructure can be prohibitively expensive. Ever facility that you try to wire up will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. The facilities that you do wire up must be under your control, which is a contributing factor as to why the technology never really took off, even after Walmart mandated it.

Satellite

Satellite on the other hand costs hundreds of dollars per device, and there’s also a monthly satellite fee on top of that. It’s a great way to track shipments but it’s only economically feasible for high value goods that you need to see all the time. This is why it’s taken off in reefer tracking.

 

 

Cellular

Cellular tracking is somewhere in the middle between RFID and satellite. It’s still a little expensive, around $50-$100 per device (sometimes more), and you also have to pay a monthly cellular fee – just like you do for your cell phone.

Bluetooth + WiFi

Bluetooth and WiFi devices are the emerging tech in shipment tracking. Bluetooth is relatively low cost, at around $10 per device. However, it still requires some infrastructure, think of the Tile devices that some people use to find their car keys or tv remote. The infrastructure required isn’t too expensive but it still requires additional manpower (which ends up adding a lot of cost — we’ve even seen people walk around with BLE scanners).

WiFi on the other hand costs even less, potentially as little as $5 per device, and may not require any additional infrastructure. We’re a little biased, considering that we’ve built our whole company around this, but we’re all about saving you money. And when you don’t have to spend anything on infrastructure, that helps.

IoT Alternatives

There are also some built in tracking solutions to trucks (ELD/GPS-enabled telematics), airplanes (ADS-B/ACARS), and ships (AIS). These solutions will allow you to track the shipping mechanism’s location but environmental and tampering data doesn’t usually exist for those devices. There are various data aggregators that will give you access to the data, for a fee.

 

 

Every option has benefits as well as downfalls and each company must decide for themselves which is the best and if the unit economics make sense.

 

What next?

Once you have decided on a device to track and relay information about your shipments, you need to decide what kind of additional information is important to you. There are all sorts of sensors out there that can be included in the tracking devices. Sensors can track temperature, humidity, acceleration, vibration, shock, etc. There’s even a sensor on the market to help determine if the container you are shipping goods in overseas has been opened or tampered with during transport.

There are many ways you can apply the knowledge you are gaining from the data once you start capturing it (although we highly recommend you decide on a use case before choosing an asset tracking provider).

Example use cases

1) Inventory optimization/synchronization

Once you are tracking a statistically significant number of your shipments you can start optimizing your inventory. You can answer questions like “Where in my supply chain do I have the longest dwell times?” and “Are certain distribution centers performing better?” When you see where inventory is being built up in your supply network and how long it is sitting at each node, you can then determine if you have enough inventory in your end to end supply network to satisfy demand for a specific period of time. This allows you to hold off on manufacturing additional unnecessary inventory, therefore reducing waste and loss.

As a manufacturer, seeing into the retail supply chain and your raw materials supply chain is incredibly valuable as it allows for synchronization from where the raw materials were sourced to the final point of retail. As you build up inventory, you can see how your retailers are consuming it so you end up building up just the right amount. A truly synchronized supply chain has enough inventory to keep high levels of customer service (low out-of-stock) while keeping low levels of in-transit inventory. You’ll be able to determine when raw materials will arrive at your manufacturing center and reduce the risk of disruption due to delays. Synchronization leads to low leads times, which in turn decreases working capital costs and increases efficiency. Being able to trace end-to-end allows for this.

2) Loss (time + shrinkage)

When considering loss, keep in mind that loss can be anything from lost or stolen goods, lost time, and wasted working capital. By tracking your shipments you will be able to determine exactly where the black holes in your supply network are, determine if goods are being lost or stolen, and see where you are losing time.

There are enormous implications for food safety when tracking perishable shipments. Remember that big romaine lettuce e-coli outbreak and recall? That all could have been prevented if it was easier to determine exactly where the unsafe lettuce originated. Now let’s look at other perishables like refrigerated steaks. Often the high temperate threshold will only make the food unsafe if the environment has that temperature for a certain period of time. The current solution of temperature tape, which will show the highest temperature reached, does not show for how long the environment was at the temperature. Using an asset tracker or temperature logger will allow you to prevent throwing out pallets of steak when they are in fact, safe. On the other hand, say the temperature did reach unsafe temperatures for an extended period time. Within a pallet there are many cases of steak. You will be able to determine if all the cases need to be destroyed, or if just the outer cases are unsafe and the inner cases never reached the unsafe temperature because they were insulated from the heat by the outer cases.

3) Customer service

It’s incredibly frustrating to hear that your customers received damaged product, and that eventually increases your insurance costs. By tracking shipments you will be able to see exactly where damage occurred whether it’s because the environment was too hot, too humid, or your shipment was jostled and experienced a high level of shock. You can also show carriers precisely where damage or out of bounds (bounds that you previously specified) events occurred, if your carriers are performing as promised, and which carriers, trade lanes, warehouses etc. pose the highest risk to your shipments.

You can increase the efficiency of your operations (and increase customer service level) by utilizing predictive ETA’s. Now it will be easy to ensure slot availability for trucks, manage delays before they become problematic, and ultimately keep your customers happy by giving them insight into when their shipments are arriving.

4) Quality control

The last use case I will leave you with today is quality control. Being able to monitor the environment of a shipment throughout it’s lifecycle allows you not to remove it from the supply chain for testing. If you can remove a day of checks, that’s one less day that inventory is on your books. Some companies that provide asset tracking devices will allow you to set alerts for anomalous or out of bounds events, so you know exactly when and where each shipment had some sort of a problem.

 

Takeaways

The most important thing to take away from this blog post is that if you can measure it, you can manage it. Being able to measure your supply chain and it’s performance will help you make better decisions and allocate funds and resources in the best ways possible.

If you want to see how ODYN can help increase your operational visibility, we’ve recently reduced our Quickstart package to just $499 — get started today! Or if you want to get in touch with our sales team, schedule a meeting here or contact us on our contact page.

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing: 4 Ways Machine Learning is Changing the Industry

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Artificial intelligence is set to change the manufacturing industry. Did you know that 800 million workers could be laid off in the next 12 years?

By 2030, industry experts believe that half of all jobs will be automatable. Artificial intelligence will optimize processes and make manufacturers more productive.

Read on for a greater understanding of the role of artificial intelligence in manufacturing. Explore 4 ways in which machine learning is changing the manufacturing industry for the better.

1. Improvements in Predictive Maintenance

Unscheduled maintenance is a cost driver on the assembly floor. Productivity also suffers when equipment is down and manufacturing cannot proceed.

To combat this negative trend, manufacturers are enlisting the support of machine learning. One method is to use analytical tools to improve predictive maintenance. This way, costly repairs can be stopped before they happen.

Currently, only 28% of manufacturing companies employ predictive maintenance through these means. Over the next 5 five years, that number is expected to climb by 10 percentage points.

2. Supply Chain Forecasting

Supply chain errors are costly in the manufacturing world. When the product is unavailable, the company loses sales as a result.

Here is where machine learning comes into play. For starters, artificial intelligence is leveraging external parts data to improve demand forecasting. This ensures the company has the parts quantity needed to meet sales demand.

Improved supply chain forecasting yields optimized inventory levels. Machine learning in the supply chain arena is producing impressive results.

Experts predict that machine learning will cut supply chain forecasting errors. Lost sales will be reduced as well.

3. Optimized In-Transit Inventory

Artificial intelligence is taking other factors into consideration like weather patterns and other transportation disruptions. For example, a nasty storm can delay parts flow.

Machine learning comes into play by optimizing the supply network. There are many operational dynamics at play that affect your company’s inventory like plane or truck movement.

To address this, companies are leveraging machine learning. Multiple public and proprietary datasets are accessed for live updates.

Companies are using the data to adjust transportation routes and avoid potential delays. The achieved objective is the optimization of in-transit inventory.

4. Optimizing the Production Process

A sure-fire way to reduce costs and improve the bottom line is optimizing the production process. By reducing labor hours and assembly time, your company can achieve this.

Machine learning involves the use of algorithms to determine the best combination of equipment during the production process. Another area of consideration is the equipment’s load level.

Using machine learning, equipment operators receive live data on how the level loads affect the production schedule. This data allows floor managers to make the best decisions in the name of productivity.

Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing – Wrapping It Up

Clearly, artificial intelligence has the capacity to revolutionize the manufacturing process. Companies are using machine learning to optimize in-transit inventory and production processes.

The goal is to improve productivity and reduce operating costs. If you want to learn more about artificial intelligence in manufacturing (and rest of the supply chain), contact us to see how we can help.

IoT and the Supply Chain: What You Need to Know

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The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is drastically transforming the way in which we as human beings interact.

What exactly is it? It’s a system of computing devices across the globe that nowadays are linked to the internet, which makes it easy for them to share and collect data.

The IoT will impact just about every industry across the globe. Supply chain management is one area, though, that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as self-driving vehicles and drones have.

So, how exactly will the IoT optimize supply chains?

Here’s a rundown on the IoT and the supply chain in 2018.

IoT and the Supply Chain: The Tracking of Assets

Managing supply chain goods has traditionally involved bar codes and tracking numbers. But the IoT is quickly changing this.

Global positioning system and radio-frequency identification sensors can easily track products. In fact, a manufacturer can utilize such sensors to obtain granular data such as an item’s storage temperature.

Other data you can get from these sensors include how long items spend in cargo or how long they sit on store shelves.

All of these pieces of information can help your company to boost your product forecasting, quality control, and on-time delivery capabilities.

Inventory and Forecasting

Let’s take a deeper dive into the IoT and forecasting.

An IoT sensor can offer a more precise inventory than a human being can by himself or herself.

For example, companies can use WiFi robots for the purpose of scanning their products’ quick response codes to triage and track their orders.

With a single button click, you can keep excellent track of your inventory (this includes the supplies available in stock). As a result, you won’t have to worry about missing a deadline ever again.

Plus, the data you collect may prove helpful for finding trends with the goal of making your manufacturing schedules more efficient.

Fleets That Are Connected

With a growing supply chain, it is critical that you make sure that all of your carriers stay connected.

These carriers may range from shipping containers to vans and the delivery trucks of your suppliers.

Why is this so important? Because the data you can gather from having connected fleets is like pure gold.

Just as municipalities are utilizing such data to reach emergency scenes or address traffic issues more quickly, you can use your data to get higher-quality products to your customers faster.

Vendor Relationships

Another benefit of tapping into the IoT is that the data you gather can help you to easily pinpoint subpar relationships with vendors.

Research shows that the majority of your service’s or product’s value comes from your suppliers. This means you need to be more cognizant of the way in which your vendors handle the supplies they send to you. You also need to know how they handle your products after they have been made.

The better your goods are, the stronger your customer relationships will be. And this great for retaining your customers long term.

How We Can Help

We take pride in our ability to help companies to better track their shipments and optimize their supply chains worldwide.

Contact us to find out more about what you can expect from IoT and the supply chain this year and beyond.