In spite of major disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are always striving toward attaining a sustainable business environment, right from inception to the successful execution of an idea. An article in The Conversation says, “Track and Trace is the key.” Be it the growing problem of tracking end-to-end supply chain networks of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits or monitoring whereabouts of delivery personnel moving around our neighborhoods via supply chain analytics to ensure safe delivery of essentials—real-time monitoring, visibility, and traceability, as well as holistic logistics and supply chain management are the keys to ensuring stability during these times.
As their supply chain strategies and smart logistics face complete disruption, most firms have received a harsh reality check. Most of these disruptions have resulted due to over-dependence on a handful of geographical locations in a given supply chain network, for sourcing. As firms slowly decentralize their supply chains, they will need to have a strong digital framework as part of their supply chain strategies for better logistics and supply chain management in their value chains. Seamlessly combining analytics with an IoT-led track-and-trace solution can help turn predicament into possibilities for organizations that are currently grappling with the pandemic.
As stringent restrictions on the movement of people and packages are imposed, it is becoming extremely difficult to meet the ETA (estimated time of arrival) of essentials, especially for critical supplies such as medical kits for healthcare workers. Social distancing is the need of the hour and, therefore, paper-based signatures and handovers are adding to the hassle for approvals.
Real-time tracking and monitoring of shipments to help shipment carriers avoid COVID-19 hotspots and deliver consignments, with minimal deviation from expected delivery times, can be the key to successfully outsmarting the pandemic. Government-owned track-and-trace applications can be integrated with existing smart solutions to recommend an optimized route to drivers. As an added feature, blockchain-led custody management throughout the journey of the shipment would ensure “COVID-19 safe” delivery of the shipments. This can become the bedrock for a forward-looking and sustainable idea that can help reimagine a stronger, safer world post COVID-19.
A smart logistics solution like this can enable an organization to look through the intricacies involved in the supply chain journey of their products. As scientists and researchers across the world strive to deliver a breakthrough vaccine, an important part of the journey toward cure would be the assurance of delivering these vaccines in the right conditions, at the right places, and at the right times. As the entire process remains under strict surveillance and regulatory compliance purview, it would need constant monitoring and transparency. Real-time monitoring of cold chain logistics service providers carrying these vaccines to the designated places can very well address this issue.
A crucial area where Sales and Operations teams are facing hindrance is the effective management of their inventory. News around hoarding of essentials at supermarkets are trending at the top globally, and there is no doubt that retail stores, suppliers, and distributors have struggled increasingly to meet the unprecedented demand. On the other hand, supply chain analytics professionals have struggled to find a tool with the right prediction model that can help them unlock optimal inventory levels. IoT-driven solutions can help firms handle their inventory with more accuracy, alert them about the expiry of their stock with minimal effort, and minimize manual intervention. An optimized inventory at one location would help minimize wastage of inventory at the other locations to maintain a safe CSL (cycle service level).
The story of track-and-trace being the key doesn’t end here. Places such as hospitals and clinical labs, where healthcare workers are constantly handling kits being used on COVID-19-positive patients, are making them more vulnerable to the virus. We can also consider tracking the whereabouts of assets from COVID-19-affected premises to isolate or sanitize these assets before their next cycle of use. Additionally, the immense benefit that professionals working from home have realized, courtesy the robust IT asset management of various organizations, can create entirely new challenges that need attention. With the current model being remote workplaces for most organizations, having greater visibility on the enterprise’s end user computing asset inventory would immensely reduce the worries of the IT admins.
It is important at this point to ensure that resources are sent to the right location at the right time because of the variability in the spread of the virus. Tracking resource usage (especially of the critical ones, such as emergency medical kits) would help understand when and where to allocate these to realize maximum socio-enterprise benefits. IoT can help achieve this by monitoring and informing the status of the tools (used/unused), location-based usage details, and route them to appropriate locations. With a similar approach, FMCG firms can track consumption of items at temporary fulfilment centers and route them to the right delivery points to achieve maximum availability.
While there is no match to the immense effort that healthcare workers are putting in to rescue the world, it is time for us to give back to the society in every possible way. A smart track-and-trace solution that begins by setting up an immensely powerful value chain network that is adaptable, responsive, and driven by next-gen technologies and real-time supply chain analytics, can very well deliver the added edge as we strive to emerge stronger from the pandemic.