The Connected Supply Chain™

The Connected Supply Chain™ is the future of supply chain — not only as we know it, but as we have only just begun to imagine it.  The continual advancement of internet-connected, data-producing sensors in machinery, equipment, and infrastructure has opened a world of possibility for producers and consumers of goods and everyone in between.  Concurrently, advances in computing technology have made the secure tracing of product and material possible through unique digital identifiers.

 

But What Is It?

In engineering terms, The Connected Supply Chain might be called an “always-on”, integrated system of data-based controls that allow real-time visibility, analysis, and management of goods and products, from their source to their end use.  However, the sheer breadth and power of this system means that its definition may change contextually depending on who you are and what it does for you. 

 

But Why Is It Needed NOW:

The growth of machine automation, smart devices, and data-producing sensors in equipment has brought immense promise, especially in an age of high-volume, high-complexity eCommerce, distribution, and fulfillment.  IoT has the potential to create more efficient, cost effective, and reliable warehouse environments that are safer, more comfortable, more secure, and better poised to maximize customer satisfaction.  However, the sheer number, complexity, and output of connected devices has created new challenges as well.

How can companies harmonize each respective data stream, avoid information overload, and identify valuable data?  How do they get different systems with different standards to talk to each other?   How do they set up functional analytics and identify useful patterns?  Even if all this can be accomplished, how do they implement changes, apply controls, and optimize their environments based on that data?

If you have recognized how challenging and promising IoT in the warehouse environment will be for your organization, you may already be looking for the solution.

 

Enter The Connected Warehouse®

The Connected Warehouse® is Tompkins’ reinvention of the warehouse environment for the digital age.  It integrates three key elements people, processes, and automation.  It is built upon SensorThink™, the world’s first IoT and data integration platform designed for the warehouse.  The Connected Warehouse is ultimately about creating the future agile company; a place where people and technology integrate, leading to operations that are responsive, intelligent, cost-effective, and robust. 

 

The Power of SensorThink™

Every piece of digital information generated in the warehouse can be collected, processed, stored, and analyzed; allowing one to manage material handling automation, security, HVAC, lighting, lift trucks, maintenance systems, and more in ways never before possible.  SensorThink’s cloud-based machine learning and cross-platform analytics engine allows you to view and analyze this information within the building or across the distribution network.  For the first time, SensorThink ties all elements of production, performance, and execution into a single platform.

 

Tompkins WES Integration

The Tompkins Warehouse Execution System (WES) is the first system designed to capitalize on IoT in the warehouse.  Now integrated with the SensorThink platform, it makes orchestration of The Connected Warehouse possible.  Tompkins WES can access information from IoT and non-IoT enabled devices, machines and sensors, as well as other software solutions.  This unique interaction with a warehouse’s digital landscape allows Tompkins WES to manage operational tasks and material handling automation in an unprecedented fashion, while providing a seamless view of process, data, and performance.  The combination of Tompkins WES and SensorThink provides distribution center operators with visibility and capabilities that until now were simply unavailable.

 

An Expert Consulting Team

In a nutshell, The Connected Supply Chain begins with The Connected Warehouse, the next-generation environment for storage, material handling, manufacturing, distribution, and fulfilment.  The Connected Warehouse is to The Connected Supply Chain what a cell is to the body, the essential building block.  Without this elemental “smart environment”, organizations will not only have limited participation in a fast-approaching future of connected supply chains, they may be left behind altogether. 

By emphasizing thought leadership and technical innovation in the supply chain industry, Tompkins has identified and developed a practical roadmap to this exciting future.  Through our consulting services, we can help you develop a comprehensive connected supply chain strategy, so you can be ready to implement the systems required.  With our IoT product development, we are supporting both the long-term strategic readiness of our clients for The Connected Supply Chain, as well as their infrastructural transition to this new level of smart, data-driven operational efficiency. 

We invite you to learn more about our services including Supply Chain Technology Strategy Development and our IoT software platform that is making the building blocks of The Connected Supply Chain a reality today.

For more information on how The Connected Supply Chain can benefit you, consider it from the perspective of different industries.

 

Industries

Click each industry to expand for more details

  • Producers and Raw Material Providers

    In the current system, producers frequently lose sight of materials once they are delivered to customers.  With The Connected Sup­­ply Chain, producers, growers, and material providers can enable powerful traceability technology for unique items, lots, or quantities from day one, allowing for a strategic response to how and where raw materials are handled, processed, and consumed.  The traceability would also create greater accountability, help mitigate risk, and improve quality control, and even help producers better manage the dynamics of trade and position their materials in their respective markets.   

     

  • Manufacturers

    Enabled by real-time feedback from both their supplier and distributor data, Manufacturers will gain unprecedented levels of efficiency. They will be able to quickly adjust operations based on fluctuations in supply and demand, as well as create better inventory management and scheduling around seasonal products.  They will also be able to view and respond to complex patterns in data to vastly improve quality control and reduce operating expenses.  The ability to leverage new datasets associated with raw materials and manufacturing processes could even help companies demonstrate the value and distinctiveness of their products, in addition to providing powerful tools for developing highly-accurate operating cost projections.

     

  • Distributors

    Distributors will be able to take control of their Network and DC/FC Designs, planning them not only with information from existing records and limited future projections, but by overlaying these with rich data sets that push the horizon of supply chain visibility out further than ever before.  It would theoretically be possible to design and operate a dynamically optimized distribution network that integrates up-to-the-minute data related to production, manufacturing, consumption, demographics, sales, labor, transportation, commodity prices, energy prices, and even weather events!  Such a “smart network” would seek to optimize itself based on business objectives, alerting managers to act on algorithmically-discovered opportunities for streamlining, energy savings, inventory rebalancing, facility maintenance, and more.

     

  • Retailers and eCommerce Businesses

    In addition to streamlining operations in ways discussed above, Retailers will reap extraordinary benefits in terms of their ability to improve service and their overall customer experience.  Depending on the product or solution in question, they will be able to tailor a shopping experience to the specific needs of a given consumer, using data that matters to them.  Does your customer care about the material and/or regional sources used in the making of their product?  Lead times?  Freshness?  Sustainability?  Price?  Delivery, pick-up, and payment options?  The Connected Supply Chain will give retailers unprecedented power to improve CX and engage consumers in areas they care about, even granting levels of convenience and 2-way control to end users that were impossible in times past.  Moreover, they’ll be able to do so efficiently, with data that is instantly linked across multiple retail channels and the many “touch-points” of the retail experience, including digital, brick & mortar, social media, and advertising.

     

  • Consumers of All Types

    The “consumer-beneficiaries” of The Connected Supply Chain include not only traditional buyers among the public, but the agents of B2B transactions as well, working at all points in the supply chain.  Informed purchasing will take on a fully new meaning, when, for example, a buyer understands in precise terms how energy inputs affected the price of an industrial product, or the distance that each raw ingredient of a sandwich has traveled to the point of its sale.  Consumers will be able to make purposeful choices based on quality or end use of a product, and critically, provide rapid feedback to other points of the supply chain, allowing for informed improvements in efficiency and quality where there was before only guesswork. 

    The bottom line, for consumers and all supply chain actors discussed above, is a promise of unprecedented supply chain efficiency and responsiveness.   It will be a world where “supply and demand” are far less like obscure market forces, and a lot more like perfectly matched like dance partners; clearly visible while they move, generate, and selling goods with athleticism.

     

  • Government Researchers, Economists, and Policy Makers

    This brief overview of the benefits of The Connected Supply Chain would be incomplete without some mention the power of supply chain data to create new knowledge.  With the ability to analyze rich data sets related to the supply and demand, we may develop better, more insightful economic policies, as well as strategies to improve employment, reduce poverty, and better leverage the comparative advantages of global trade.

Additional Resources

Introduction to Digital Technology in the Warehouse.

MORE INFO: https://www.sensorthink.com/

About the Author
Tompkins International Staff
Tompkins International Staff