The world is entering the era of Supply Chain 4.0. It is set to create faster, more flexible operations that can cater to the on-demand economy and enable manufacturers and distributors to operate with greater effectiveness, efficiency, and safety. The supply chain and logistics sector in India is one of the largest and best-connected in the world. However, surrounded with various challenges, the country is currently ranked 44th in global logistics performance. It is imperative for the Indian manufacturing and logistics sector to integrate technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to upscale manufacturing and distribution operations.
Supply Chain 4.0 will ultimately result in the formation of “smart factories” that bring together the power of enterprise-wide connectivity, real-time analytics, and automation to track and optimize every process, asset and resource with end-to-end accuracy. The key is to invest in the right technologies to gain a competitive edge and take advantage of future growth opportunities.
A New Age of Real-Time Control and Transparency
The traditional lifecycle of a supply chain has proved to be fragile and unpredictable with the gradual increase in customer expectations. With the logistics and supply chain market in India expected to touch $307 billion by the end of 2021, digital transformation is imperative to achieve real-time transparency and performance management from the first mile through the last.
Integrating radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and readers is one of the key technology evolutions that can help automate inventory processes, streamline workflows, and speed up production lines. RFID solutions can also complement and integrate with modernly redesigned machine vision solutions to increase process accuracy and reliability.
Increased Visibility Across the Supply Chain
For the supply chain to work well, accuracy and unparalleled real-time visibility are required throughout the network. RFID tags update the traditional 2D barcode for enhanced track and track, inventory management, quality control and reporting capabilities while integrating with other advanced solutions like machine vision and predictive analytics to improve – even automate – decision making and workflows. Today, RFID technology has become increasingly effective and affordable to deploy in the warehouse and logistics environment, and that has resulted in its wider adoption among small, medium and large enterprises.
RFID Tracking from the Individual Item to Pallet Level
The manufacturing plant is particularly well suited for passive RFID readers as materials generally follow a fixed path through a facility. New wide area advanced RFID antennas can expand the scanning range for real-time location tracking of every asset in the warehouse.
With RFID tags, production managers can make sure materials are correctly sequenced, so the right components hit the line at precisely the right time. Increased visibility both empowers organizations to detect errors and prevent problems before they occur, avoiding potential quality control issues that could damage a company’s reputation.
The Supply Chain 4.0 Ecosystem
The supply chain transformation extends beyond just one or a few industries. Much of the same supply chain technology can be applied in categories from automotive and apparel to pharmaceutical and grocery, extending from the manufacturing plant and warehouse to transportation and ultimately the final point of distribution, such as retail and healthcare facilities.
RFID solutions help grocers, quick-service restaurants, food suppliers and even hospitals dramatically increase inventory visibility, lower costs, and reduce waste. RFID also increases traceability in the pharmaceutical supply chain and integrates with temperature monitoring solutions to deliver more detailed information.
Navigating the Complex Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) Phenomenon
While RFID solutions are highly effective across industries, the apparel, accessories, and footwear sectors are some of the best examples of the successful implementation of tagging all the way to the point of consumption. RFID is particularly useful in these categories due to the complex SKU phenomenon that factors in the item style, color, and size.
In these categories—specifically, the retail store environment—RFID tagging pays dividends in inventory management, the automatic verification of orders and fulfillment, and managing reverse logistics, which is a particular pain point due to apparel retailers’ high rate of returns.
The Path to Supply Chain Success
Manufacturing operations are complex, and every supply chain is different. Each company has its own goals and unique technology needs. Strong, active leadership is required to guide the organization through the digital transformation process. Realistically, implementing these technologies cuts across traditional divisions within a company, requiring the cooperation of teams including IT, operations, cybersecurity, and beyond. It also necessitates the highly honed skills of senior leaders who can align different constituents within the organization to work together and change how things are done.
The article has been written by Mark Wheeler, Director of Supply Chain Solutions, Zebra Technologies