How IoT will transform the future of the supply chain
Behind every successful enterprise, there is Supply Chain Management.
The aforementioned statement is purposely twisted from its original form to emphasise how supply chain management, or SCM, can make or break a business.
SCM, as we all know, is the management of providing the right product, at the right time, at the right place and at the right cost to the consumer. This continued process of goods and services has its own set of challenges like delays in transportation, sluggishly monitoring of cargoes, and errors in operations, theft, and some handful more.
No matter how big or small a business is, all those problematic factors can ultimately put profits at risk and increase cost pressure. This is especially in the case of perishables – according to an [email protected] article, a full 30% of all perishable produce never make it all the way from the farm to the table. This kind of food wastage can easily be averted today by means of effective supply chain tracking tools and the power of logistics 4.0, which leverages edge computing and (Internet of Things) IoT to provide real-time automated, sense-and-respond feedback systems.
Note: Since we are discussing perishables as an example, we will further maintain our focus on how IoT is actually transforming the entire food supply chain and discuss its impact on five levels, namely farming, production and warehouse management, food safety, logistics and consumer-based applications.
Farmers are using drones to gather data on crop growth, monitoring weather patterns, and a controlled usage of water and energy on the field. They are also using predictive analytics to understand the quality of the soil and air, expenditures on labour and equipment in order to make informed decisions.
Production and warehouse management
Sensors are employed by food manufacturing companies to strengthen quality control, monitoring worker productivity, streamlining production by leveraging real-time analytics, tracking and refilling inventory, and analysing labour costs.
In the future, machines with predictive maintenance capabilities could repair their malfunctions automatically, even before something goes wrong. It is believed that such future IoT applications could possibly do away with people from the production equation.
Food contamination and wastage has always been a concern in the logistics arena. In order to keep these problems at bay, incorporating network-connected temperature and humidity sensors in the warehouse allows first-hand monitoring of food containers, trucks, and trigger alerts, which prevents damage or replacement of bad products way before they reach the consumers.
Shippers can also diagnose problems like identifying the origins of contamination and then quickly restoring them with the help of such devices. Moreover, newer applications help shippers comply with FSMA requirements, pre-loaded HACCP checklists, inspection reminders, and automated reporting.
IoT is undoubtedly assisting companies change their approach of handling SCM.
For instance, bringing unprecedented visibility in the process by integrating advanced RFID trackers to monitor and control temperature, tracking product location with the help of GPS, enhancing routes by analysing data from weather patterns, keeping a check on driving and traffic conditions in real-time, automate shipping and delivery processes, etc.
By collecting this data, shippers are able to reckon performance in the serving areas, understand consumer behaviour, and make decisions to reduce deadhead miles in truck fleets.
In-store barcodes and QR scanners are already being used by consumers to retrieve product information and other details that influence their buying decisions. Consumers are also using scan-and-go applications on their smartphones to scan barcodes of food products in their shopping carts. A final bill of their shopping automatically charges their credit/debit cards as they exit the store, without having to bother about waiting in the checkout queue.
Interestingly, there are also those consumers who never travel to grocery stores because they are using IoE-enabled refrigerators and smart pantries that allow them to automatically order items.
In 2017, Florida-based food supply chain start-up Verigo had introduced a new IoT quality analysis platform to improve freshness and reduce wastage of fresh produce in transit. 
Oregon-based brewing company Rouge Ales has employed advanced supply chain tracking tools and management to gather data on temperature and humidity on its shipments at every stage between the company’s hop yard and the brewery. 
Italian pasta company Barilla uses smart labels on their product packaging to give consumers full visibility into their supply chain. 
IoT seems to be an ever-expanding world, presenting with unlimited opportunities for organisations to augment their competitive advantage via linking sensors, advanced analytics, embedded intelligence, and human expertise.
In the future, supply chains joining the IoT club will distinguish themselves from those who are still agnostic and behind the evolving race.