How Does Supply Chain Tracking Work & What are the Benefits?

January 8, 2024 by Ersan Guenes
Read in 8 Minutes

This article on supply chain tracking first appeared in October 2022 and was updated to reflect new information on real-time supply chain tracking on January 5th, 2024.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed firsthand the intense impact that external factors can have on supply chains and logistics. Supply shortages have impacted industry after industry due to delays and confusion en route, followed by an overstock of products that can’t be sold once they finally arrive.

As a result, many organizational leaders found themselves unable to optimize processes due to a lack of visibility within their operations. Supply chain tracking has become increasingly important as it enables organizations to monitor the movement of goods and materials as they flow from suppliers through production processes to the end customer. To achieve this kind of supply chain visibility,  innovative technologies like Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) are being adopted. 

In this article, we'll discuss why real-time supply chain monitoring is so important, how it's being used across a variety of industries, and what steps you need to take to integrate supply chain tracking RTLS technology into your operations.

Why Is It Important to Monitor the Supply Chain? 

Through supply chain tracking, companies can optimize inventory management, reduce supply bottlenecks, and ensure better traceability of products, which ultimately leads to improved customer satisfaction and a competitive advantage. Additionally, real-time tracking enables faster response times to unforeseen events or problems in the supply chain.

10 Key Benefits of Supply Chain Tracking Systems

1. Enhanced Transparency

Supply chain tracking solutions, like RTLS, provide unparalleled transparency into real-time conditions, locations, and movements of goods. This insight is pivotal for ensuring supply chain safety and efficiency, enabling prompt interventions as needed.

2. Timely Alerts & Proactive Control

Automated alerts, triggered by zone-based control systems (geofences), empower immediate responses to potential issues. This proactive approach allows companies to maintain control and mitigate risks before they escalate.

3. Strategic Planning

Real-time data from RTLS facilitates proactive adjustments in supply chain planning, anticipating bottlenecks, and enabling the timely implementation of corrective measures for seamless operations.

4. Loss Prevention

By enabling real-time monitoring, RTLS effectively prevents losses due to theft or damages during transit. This capability enables swift reactions to incidents, minimizing losses effectively.

5. Global Oversight

A supply chain RTLS offers comprehensive global monitoring capabilities across various transportation modes, ensuring oversight and control regardless of the shipping method.

6. Route Optimization

Visual representations of planned versus actual transport routes empower businesses to identify discrepancies and make timely corrections, optimizing delivery routes for efficiency.

7. Accurate Arrival Estimates

Real-time data enables precise estimations of arrival times, aiding in inventory planning and resource optimization within warehouses.

8. Zone-Based Controls

Geofencing capabilities enable companies to establish zones for specific events, enhancing flexibility and control within supply chain management.

9. Immediate Notifications

Instant notifications and alerts enable rapid responses to irregularities, minimizing disruptions, and ensuring smoother supply chain operations.

10. Tailored Reporting

RTLS-powered supply chain software facilitates the creation of detailed, customer-specific reports, providing in-depth insights into the transportation process and ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction through transparency and accuracy.

Industry-Based Use Cases for Supply Chain Tracking Technology 

Real-Time supply chain monitoring plays a crucial role in various industries and processes, particularly where timely information about the location and condition of goods is of paramount importance. Some of the industries and processes where real-time supply chain tracking is particularly vital include:

  • Automotive Industry: Precise monitoring of the supply chain plays a key role in optimizing production times and avoiding shortages in the delivery of components.
  • Electronics Industry: Real-time monitoring is essential to track the movement of electronic components, minimize supply bottlenecks, and increase production efficiency.
  • Logistics and Transportation: This industry particularly benefits from continuous monitoring to optimize routes, minimize traffic disruptions, and ensure timely delivery.
  • Chemical Industry: Real-time monitoring plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance with regulations for the transport of hazardous materials and preventing accidents.
  • Food and Pharmaceutical Industry: Real-time monitoring is critical to ensure compliance with temperature and storage conditions and to guarantee the quality of perishable products.
  • Retail: Accurate supply chain monitoring is crucial in retail to optimize inventory, minimize delivery times, and enhance customer satisfaction by providing precise delivery time information.
  • Healthcare: In the medical sector, real-time monitoring is indispensable to ensure the delivery of medications, vaccines, and other medical supplies.
  • Fashion Industry: For tracking textiles and end products, real-time monitoring is crucial to optimize inventory, avoid shortages, and shorten delivery times.

How To Track Your Supply Chain 

The supply chain process can be tracked from the supplier, to the manufacturer, and finally the customer through specialized IIoT devices.

Supply chain tracking is achieved by affixing tracking tags to every monitored item, whether individual components, crates, or vehicles. These tags transmit location data to an RTLS platform, where comprehensive information, including location, estimated arrival times, potential delays, and graphical representations, are organized on a user-friendly dashboard. Moreover, this technology extends beyond location tracking, allowing for the real-time monitoring and control of environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, throughout the entire shipment.

Radio Frequency & IIoT Sensors for Precise Supply Chain Tracking

Real-Time Location Systems leverage a combination of cutting-edge RF positioning technologies to deliver precise and reliable tracking and monitoring capabilities. These technologies include:

  • GPS (Global Positioning System): Provides accurate geolocation data, enabling real-time tracking of assets across diverse geographical locations.
  • RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification): Utilizes radio waves to identify and track tagged items, facilitating seamless and automated data capture.
  • Bluetooth: Enables short-range communication between devices, enhancing the connectivity and communication capabilities of the RTLS system.
  • IoT Sensors (Internet of Things): Integrates sensors to collect real-time data on various parameters such as temperature, humidity, and environmental conditions.

Key Steps for Successful Implementation of an RTLS-Based Supply Chain Tracking System

The successful implementation of a supply chain tracking RTLS system requires careful planning and seamless integration, especially into existing Supply Chain Management Systems like SAP. At a high level, the crucial steps include:

  1. Technology Selection: Choose the most suitable technologies that align with the specific requirements and intricacies of the supply chain. Consider factors such as the nature of transported goods, the range needed for tracking, and environmental conditions.
  2. Adaptation to Company Requirements: Tailor the RTLS system to the unique requirements of the company. This involves customizing the system to seamlessly integrate into existing processes and workflows.
  3. Integration into Existing SCM Systems: Ensure a smooth integration of RTLS into existing Supply Chain Management Systems, such as SAP. This integration provides a holistic view of the supply chain by seamlessly embedding real-time data into existing systems.
  4. Employee Training: Ensure that employees are adequately trained to effectively utilize the RTLS technology and maximize its full potential. Training should cover the operation of the technology, interpretation of data, and response protocols.

Continuous Improvement: Establish mechanisms for continuous feedback and improvement. Regularly assess the supply chain performance, gather user feedback, and make necessary adjustments to enhance efficiency and meet evolving business requirements.

Supply Chain Tracking with INTRANAV, an Inpixion Company

Intelligent, digital, and real-time supply chain tracking is the way of the future, and a prerequisite for competitive sustainability in Industry 4.0. The data you gain from IIoT and positioning technology empowers you to make decisions that optimize processes, increase efficiency, and protect your bottom line.

Create an intelligent warehouse and supply chain process with INTRANAV, an Inpixon company. Watch our free on-demand webinar to learn more.

For more information on how IIoT supply chain tracking can improve your operations, contact Inpixon today.

Ersan Guenes is the Senior Vice President (SVP) of Product for IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) at Inpixon.