Global supply chain executives have long struggled to gain visibility across suppliers—and to translate that visibility into action. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified that challenge. For example, some vaccines must be shipped and stored at extremely low temperatures, prompting companies to seek new cold chain monitoring solutions.
As lockdowns and travel restrictions continue to disrupt supply chains around the world, companies are scrambling to find solutions that allow them to deal with interruptions before they cause problems. IoT sensors and data management platforms hold great promise but can be difficult—and time-consuming—to build and integrate. To yield the most value, companies need solutions that are simple to deploy and can integrate easily with existing systems and data streams.
D.W. Morgan Company and its technology subsidiary ChronosCloud make these solutions a reality. Morgan has long been a leader in transforming supply chain efficiency with better data. Its all-in-one automation platform ChronosCloud, paired with Intel® Connected Logistics Platform (ICLP), provide a flexible solution for companies that need better supply chain visibility and control. The solution gathers data from IoT/ICLP sensors, carrier sites, APIs, and a mobile app, allowing managers to build a clear picture of their supply chains.
Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of the automation platform is its ability to give companies a comprehensive understanding of their supply chains, with partner updates, documents, photos, and IoT device data all in one place. That can be an overwhelming amount of data, but it’s easily customized to the needs of different professionals on a team.
While it may be a struggle just to integrate data, ChronosCloud achieves this as a baseline and then focuses on solving real-world problems. The solution proactively manages exceptions and potential issues—accelerating the supply chain by coordinating partner actions, speeding revenue recognition, and reducing insurance costs and claims.
The solution gathers data from IoT sensors, carrier sites, APIs, and a mobile app, allowing managers to build a clear picture of their supply chains.
IoT Sensors Track Goods Along the Way
Companies have different needs when it comes to supply chain visibility. Some want to monitor the entire route of a product’s transit from Singapore to New York, for example. Others may choose to focus on one portion of that journey, such as the last few miles from the airport to the warehouse. Because supply chain managers need different information, automation platforms must allow users to request personalized dashboards based on particular data sets.
The solution also includes automation features, making it easy for supply chain professionals to manage by exception—creating alerts that notify them of a potential issue so it can be addressed quickly. For example, a user could ask to be notified of any order that has not seen an update for 48 hours.
“Having access to real-time alerts allows supply chain managers to be proactive in addressing problems,” says John Hoyt, managing director at D.W. Morgan Company. They can also use the solution to communicate across their supplier base, sending automatic notifications to key people about pertinent events in real time.
Using ICLP sensors, managers can track changes in shipping conditions along the route, such as tilt, light, and temperature. “You can take corrective action right away if a shipment is damaged rather than finding out after it’s traveled halfway around the world,” says Hoyt. And this type of data helps paint a clear picture for insurance claims.
Supply chain managers look for solutions that can integrate easily with other business systems, such as ERPs, and require minimal coding efforts to adapt. For example, ChronosCloud users can choose to access data through the solution’s system and dashboards—or import the information to their applications and systems. “Because it was created by supply chain professionals, our solution is built to be flexible in the right places,” says Hoyt. “We can tailor it to meet our customers’ needs.”
Cold Chain Technologies in Action
How does a supply chain automation platform work? First, a company must decide which type of IoT sensors it will attach to pallets or shipping containers. While individual IoT devices that detect conditions such as light and temperature are often expensive, ICLP uses a general communication gateway paired with low-cost tags that are attached to shipping pieces. “The tags are all independently monitored and fed through the gateway device,” says Hoyt. “This arrangement is a unique and cost-effective alternative that gathers the same data.”
The company must then decide which other data streams will flow into the platform. That additional data might come from business systems, directly from carrier sites, or through a mobile app. For example, the ChronosTouch app allows truck drivers to enter information from their smartphones, including GPS data and other reports. Users can also add photos of shipments en route. If a box has been damaged or mishandled, it can be documented with a picture and added to the platform.
Once data is flowing into the platform, supply chain managers create dashboards and set tolerance levels to manage automation and alerts. For example, if food suppliers are shipping ice cream, they need to make sure temperatures do not rise above 35 degrees in the shipping containers. They can set the tolerance level to the needed range and will receive an alert if the temperature climbs above the threshold.
“It’s a single source of truth for everyone,” says David A. Morgan, sales and marketing manager at D.W. Morgan Company. “Users can hit ‘follow’ and receive only the alerts that apply to them.”
Platforms such as ChronosCloud that integrate easily with other data streams make the adoption process very swift. “One customer had us integrate five different partner interactions between mobile, IoT, and connected tracking with carriers from a manufacturer in Malaysia to a final destination in California,” Hoyt says. “It was set up and ready to go in less than two weeks.”
Maximize Efficiency, Minimize Loss
Amid a pandemic, an effective supply chain with the potential to get life-saving materials where they’re needed and on schedule is paramount. And with improved visibility, companies are better equipped to monitor shipping conditions and anticipate problems like spoilage, damage, and delays—and deal with them in proactive ways that minimize loss.