Rethinking the Supply Chain

Staying Connected in Times of Uncertainty

Connected Technologies and Supply Chain Visibility

In their report on the future of supply chains, BSR’s Tara Norton and Meghan Ryan talked about supply chains becoming “hypertransparent” as product teams, suppliers, and customers use increasingly sophisticated technologies to create and share information about supply chain performance. A great example of this hyper-transparency can be found in the work that Pfizer did to increase visibility in its supply chain.

To give you a sense of the supply chain complexity that a company like Pfizer has to master, consider that they operate in 175 companies and support a product line featuring over 24,000 SKUs.

As part of their Highly Orchestrated Supply Network initiative, undertaken to address this complexity, Pfizer launched an “End-to-End In-Transit Visibility” project. The project included a hackathon to come up with a solution that would provide visibility to stakeholders by aggregating and displaying relevant data from multiple sources around the world. The result was the “TrackIt” app, which currently tracks the shipment of over 15,000 SKUs. Utilizing data from Pfizer and its supply chain partners, the app allows customers to access timely and accurate information on where things are from “end to end.”

Connected Technologies

For apps like TrackIt, IoT devices are important sources of data. With sensors on everything from containers and trucks to pallets and individual packages, IoT already facilitates global tracking of assets from point of origin to the final destination. What’s more, the visibility that IoT devices provide can feed right into supply chain automation. For example, a smart warehouse or factory can detect when inventory is low and automatically place an order to have parts restocked. More importantly, IoT-enabled assets can alert service providers of impending parts failure, allowing for rapid, preventive maintenance. At the same time, this type of data can feed future product development by providing insight into real-world performance.