Written by: Shirley Strachan, GM, IoT Device Experience, APAC Region at Microsoft

Supply chain and fleet management is a complex process that benefits from enhanced visibility, but in general, most supply chain visibility only comes from critical points in the process. This limits the real-time insights businesses can collect, which can increase the risks of waste, shipping delays and even theft. In order to mitigate these risks, many businesses are adopting IoT solutions, which can provide end-to-end visibility into the supply chain and fleet.

Whether it’s tracking the usage of raw materials in the production process or gaining a better understanding of how long it takes for a finished product to make it to consumers, smarter supply chains can yield benefits for a variety of businesses. By installing smart sensors onto production lines, containers, and transportation, businesses can create a single source of information that is uploaded to the cloud for easy access.  

Learn more about how implementing IoT in your supply chain could help your business by checking out this Microsoft IoT in Action webinar: How IoT is Driving Smart and Efficient Supply Chain for Enhanced Business Operations.

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Increase business efficiencies

One way IoT can improve a supply chain is by helping businesses find ways to increase the speed of overall operation. The increased visibility IoT solutions provide can reveal slow-downs and less effective processes that a business might not even be aware they had.

For example, in preparation for the 2019 holiday season, Microsoft implemented a supply chain visibility solution powered by Microsoft Azure IoT Central in the deployment of the Xbox and Microsoft Surface products. As holidays bring an increase in shipping demands, Microsoft was able to pilot the new solutions—and the impact was noticeable. Employees were able to reduce slow-downs by pinpointing specific areas that could be improved and enacting swift changes. Furthermore, the cloud technology made updating systems much easier. Rather than managing each machine individually, users were able to send updates simultaneously, saving time and energy.

IoT solutions can also be applied to fleets, providing vital visibility that can help businesses manage their vehicles. One Microsoft Partner, Accenture, hosts their fleet solutions on Microsoft Azure cloud, and has been able to gain insights on not only operations, but individual vehicles and drivers as well. Businesses utilizing this service can better track their fleet and provide solutions over the cloud—solving problems that might be happening miles away.

Increase sustainability in supply chains

Using IoT in supply chains can also help reveal if resources are being used effectively. Waste can be common across industries—from resources being mismanaged to products spoiling due to improper storage, which can be common in the pharmaceutical industry. That said, even industries with products that don’t expire can face potential waste from resources or utilities.

Increased visibility in the supply chain can be vital for reducing waste from end to end. For example, troubles with fleet vehicles can be caught early, reducing improper wear on machines and increasing the overall lifecycle so businesses can reduce how often they replace vehicles. An IoT enabled supply chain can also help pinpoint where goods might be spoiling—for example, by measuring heat and humidity levels along different parts of the chain. Furthermore, with IoT swift changes can be enacted to ensure more products make it into the hands of consumers as areas can be updated over the cloud. And IoT, coupled with AI and machine learning, can help businesses keep track of demand so inventories don’t run low.

Secure systems from physical to digital level

Not only can IoT save businesses time, money and resources along the supply chain, IoT solutions can also provide additional security elements to the system. On a physical level, fleets equipped with IoT solutions can be enabled with security systems that help monitor vehicle theft and track vehicle speeds and locations.

When Microsoft was developing an IoT enabled system for the Xbox supply chain, security was a crucial part of the design from the start. This security came on a physical level, with Microsoft working to secure items in transit to reduce loss and theft of valuable products, as well as a digital level, by providing a system that allowed for different levels of software access—a vital component for a global supply chain.

Learn how Microsoft and Avanade can help make your supply chain better connected

Listen to industry experts from Microsoft and our partner Avanade, see more in depth use cases, and learn how IoT can help evolve your business’ supply chain and fleet at the upcoming webinar: How IoT is Driving Smart and Efficient Supply Chain for Enhanced Business Operations on June 18, 2020 at 1:00 PM (SGT).

At this event, Shirley Strachan, GM of IoT Device Experience at Microsoft, will be joined by Avanade experts, Joanna Reijgersberg-Siew, Sr. Director for Intelligent Industry Solutions and Larry Ye, Director, AI and Data Science Lead for APAC & LATAM, as they discuss ways Avanade and Microsoft have helped improve IoT supply chain solutions.

When it comes to supply chains, Avanade has experience working with companies across a variety of industries, from pharmaceuticals to transportation. With help from Microsoft technologies, Avanade is able to help provide customers with increased visibility in their supply chains, tracking everything from the global position of a product down to the tilt angle of a transport ship or the humidity level of a room.

Discover more about how IoT solutions can be utilized in other aspects of business by exploring the IoT in Action webinar series.

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