So You’ve Achieved Supply Chain Visibility. Now What About Safety?

  • October 11, 2019
  • Michael Burdiek
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Digital transformation brings complexity; that’s a given. But nowhere is this more the case than when it’s happening in an organization’s supply chain.

As it is, you’d be hard pressed to find an area of operations more complex than supply chain logistics. If you’re like most companies, that division is increasingly defined by complex third party relationships and just-in-time (JIT) delivery to cut costs. Then fold in the data security and performance challenges of managing a modern, hyper-connected supply chain and the complexities go through the warehouse roof.

The concerns get further magnified wherever safety is involved. It’s one thing, for instance, to suffer financial loss when a shipment of flowers or books is damaged in transit from excessive heat or humidity. It’s quite another when that shipment contains highly volatile pharmaceuticals or perishable food destined for human consumption. I made this comparison, in passing, during a previous post on supply chain visibility. Let’s dig deeper now into the safety picture, and how to keep that picture as bright as possible.

Putting Supply Chain Visibility into Action

The question of safety is essentially a question of what to do with the supply chain visibility we get — the kind I wrote about in that earlier post — when using telematics and connectivity to better understand and manage supply chain assets. To do anything, we must craft a data-driven foundation for action, built on both the right perspective, and the right architectures.

For the right perspective, we need to shift our mindset to one that starts placing as much importance on the contents of the supply chain as the infrastructure. For instance, the majority of telematics in fleet management systems today are still focused more on the vehicles (speed, location, driver behaviors, etc.) than on the contents (temperature, humidity, physical shock, etc.)

Meanwhile, the architectures you’ll need to deliver on this vision must be flexible — able to adjust to changing supply chain contents and conditions. Keeping with our fleet management example, it’s one thing to track information about the same vehicle day in and day out; but it’s far more complex and challenging to track the real-time conditions of the varied, often environmentally sensitive, cargo that may be swapped out of that vehicle by the day, or even the hour.

Unfortunately, adopting the right perspective and architectures is not an either/or prospect: You need to be good at both to achieve a truly advanced, and safe, supply chain.

Leveraging Telematics for Safer Supply Chains

Our goal in supply chain safety is to stand up systems that perform well in environments that are at once highly regulated and highly technical. That’s not easy, and depending on what’s in your supply chain, you may be subject to massive technical challenges amid multiple regulations around food or drug safety, hazardous cargo, customs and other compliance areas.  

To succeed in these environments, we need to leverage smart sensors and advanced data and analytics to keep that supply chain safe. This granular and real-time operational intelligence helps protect sensitive cargo and produce granular documentation to help organizations stay as efficient and compliant as possible.

If the to-do list seems overwhelming, the good news is that some of what’s on that list may already be partially in place — in the form of point solutions that may be operating separately to safeguard, say, humidity; or perhaps temperature, shock and so forth. Throughout, everyone’s goal should be to align these incumbent applications in newly strategic and coordinated ways, and then build on them with further innovation and orchestration. That’s certainly CalAmp’s mission — one that will pay off in the form of a more complete and actionable picture into your supply chain and how to keep it safe.

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