Loggers are an essential part of any data-driven approach to supply chain management, or SCM. Goods that require condition monitoring, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and precision electronics, need active data logging to ensure they arrive in optimal condition.
Manufacturing is a key part of any industry's supply chain, and manufacturers are dependent on savvy, agile, proactive supply chain management practices in order to maintain steady incoming flows of raw materials and outgoing flows of processed goods. Data logging is often thought of as strictly a logistics function, but many organizations use it to address common manufacturing issues.
Here are four common issues that manufacturers face and how data loggers solve them.
Increased Supply Chain Management Costs
SCM is an integral aspect of all manufacturing processes. According to research conducted by Visa, millennials and Gen Z account for over 40% of total retail spending in the United States. It's no secret that these customers demand instant access to products and have high expectations of the companies they shop from.
As a result, manufacturers have begun using sophisticated technology that helps them create efficient manufacturing and shipping workflows. While this has resulted in increased SCM costs, systems based on data logger technology often more than repay the investment in them.
For instance, condition-monitoring data loggers can generate alerts to relevant personnel that allow them to mitigate damage to goods. These loggers also allow companies to avoid manual data entry regarding inventory quantifiables. Data loggers can monitor a wide variety of conditions.
Everything from light, shock, temperature, and humidity is tracked. Teams can set condition-related thresholds that ensure products are always in optimal shape.
Customers Demanding Transparent Fulfillment
As shopping habits change, manufacturers have to take increased consumer demands into account when creating their products. A good example of this is the increased demand for sustainability in production. Everything from fashion to food has come under consumers' scanners, and companies that cannot prove sustainability are unlikely to win consumer favor.
Data loggers help manufacturers establish and prove an immutable production trail. Aside from logging condition-related data, companies can also gain visibility into the locations of raw materials and the progress of each component through their assembly or production processes.
A good example of this is the way clothing manufacturer Patagonia highlights the origins of all raw materials that go into manufacturing their apparel. Food manufacturers use audit trails generated by condition-related data to prove the sustainable origins of their produce.
These data are especially relevant when it comes to consuming fish and meat products. Thanks to the foundation provided by data loggers, manufacturers can achieve the degree of transparency their consumers demand.
Reacting to Unpredictable Demand
Consumers purchase goods in cycles, and every manufacturer has to take this into account. The more complex the manufacturing process is, the greater is the disruption caused by unpredictable demand. Unexpected surges of demand can damage a brand's reputation since it lends an impression that the company doesn't care about its consumers.
Aside from demand, consumer habits have changed thanks to the advent of online shopping. For instance, a survey conducted by Swedish research firm Klarna in 2018 found that 37% of shoppers preferred ordering multiple sizes, trying them on at home, and returning the ones they didn't prefer. Such behavior is different from the intuitive habit of buying just the size one thinks would fit them.
As a result of these behavioral changes and unpredictable demand, inventory management has become increasingly challenging. Companies spend a lot of resources on SCM software that can help them plan optimal inventory levels and predict surges in demand.
Central to these processes is the data logger. Data logging helps companies trust their existing inventory levels better because of the strict condition-related thresholds they have in place. By ensuring that a greater portion of their inventory is in optimal condition, production lines experience reduced stress.
A knock-on effect of such tracking is better vendor relationships, since the whole supply chain experiences less disruption. Any unpredictability in demand that does occur can be mitigated quickly thanks to the firm foundation that manufacturers have via reliable in-house inventory.
The Complexity of Global Operations
The world has become a smaller place, and most companies have international operations these days. Consumers all around the world have become accustomed to fast fulfillment, and this puts pressure on the average manufacturer to manage an increasingly complex supply chain.
While manufacturing goods efficiently is great, these goods are useless unless they reach consumers on time. In the case of perishable goods, efficient delivery, all the way to the last mile, is even more critical. Data loggers are an important part of a larger web of technology that ensures goods always arrive in optimal conditions.
Manufacturers with savvy data science teams can feed condition-related data into analytics platforms that help companies monitor the status of their delivery routes, yielding insights that can influence business strategies and optimize operations. For instance, a route that is reliable in summer might not be so in winter. Geopolitical changes disrupt supply chains, as do import regulations.
The shortest route isn't always the best in global logistics, and audit trails created by data loggers help uncover the most efficient method of getting goods from A to B.
An Integral Part of a Complex Web
Supply chains are complex these days. The delivery of a fully manufactured good to a consumer relies on many actors in the supply chain.
Data loggers might be a humble instrument, but they provide the building blocks upon which analytics and other sophisticated platforms are built. In essence, they drive modern supply chains, and consumers are better off because of them.