The supply chain havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic has left an indelible mark on the minds (and businesses) of manufacturers, wholesalers, dealers and retailers. Lockdowns and restrictions hindered manufacturing and shipping, resulting in shortages in pharmaceuticals, electronics, food items and raw materials in just about every industry.\n\nA McKinsey study on the impact of this extended disruption found something very interesting: while 75% of companies surveyed faced problems with their supplier base, production and distribution, 85% said they struggled with \u201cinsufficient digital technologies\u201d in the supply chain.\n\nThe solution? Nine out of 10 leaders in the survey said they planned to focus on digitization of the supply chain to improve its resilience. Specifically, they\u2019re looking at these areas:\n\nIn the never-ending hunt for maximum efficiency and cost savings, supply chain digitization correlates closely with smart manufacturing processes. And it has quite some catching up to do \u2013 the smart manufacturing industry is set to grow from $250 billion in 2021 to $658 billion in 2029.\n\nDriving this parallel growth in smart manufacturing and supply chain technology are a handful of technologies:\n\nLet\u2019s see how all these technologies come together to fast-track supply chain innovations, improve product distribution and shipping, and help businesses set and meet customer expectations.\n\nComplex infrastructure not needed\n\nExpensive hardware for tracking systems is one of the biggest deterrents to the adoption of supply chain analytics. Further, the tools and devices available on the market are proprietary and prone to vendor lock-in. Setting them up is a byzantine, time-consuming process.\n\nThat is changing with the introduction of inexpensive IoT-based data loggers that can be attached to shipments. These instruments measure a variety of environmental factors such as temperature, tilt angle, shock, humidity and so on to ensure quality of goods in transit. Data loggers connect to centralized data management systems and transfer their readings, enabling efficient recording, analysis and decision-making. It also eliminates the need for expensive radio frequency transponders, receivers and signal towers \u2013 you don\u2019t need to install any gateways or other special tools to use them.\n\nFor instance, data logging company Logmore has come up with data logging devices with QR tags attached to the sensors. This allows you to send updated condition data to a cloud-based server or database from any point along the supply chain simply by scanning a QR code with your smartphone.\n\nUsing such devices, you can instantly set up secure, automated logging and monitoring for thousands of products from a centralized ERP or supply chain management system. This also applies to companies that haven\u2019t used supply chain logging before.\n\n\u201cThe greatest benefit comes from the quality and volume of data,\u201d said Niko Polvinen, CEO of Logmore. \u201cFor example, every shipment of perishable goods is required to have temperature monitoring, but the less expensive the solutions are, the more sensors one shipment can have. This takes the sensors closer to the actual goods and improves the quality and adds to the total amount of data, which ultimately enables everyone in the supply chain to make better decisions, so waste is reduced and processes are optimized.\u201d\n\nThat brings us to the value of timely data and analytics.\n\nDemocratization of data\n\nTraditional supply chain analytics and decision-making focused on risk avoidance and control. Today, the easy and real-time availability of data from loggers and other devices encourages \u201copportunity thinking\u201d \u2013 manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retailers can all plan further ahead, capitalize on opportunities in their chunk of the chain and even take calculated risks to increase revenue.\n\nThe more data you have, the more costs you save. Some obvious advantages that supply chain analytics brings to the table are:\n\nAll this is possible only when companies are able to use the data generated by the monitoring system. Traditional monitoring devices kept their data closed in proprietary databases, locking up companies to their systems in the name of security. Ultimately, businesses didn\u2019t have the ability to analyze this data, gain insights or build apps around the outputs.\n\nNow, however, the IIoT-enabled data logging devices bundled with APIs that help you analyze, repurpose, reformat and channel supply chain data into business intelligence systems such as ERPs and CRMs to optimize operations better. For example, you could integrate dynamic condition data from a logger with QR codes on product labels (which contain pre-set information about the product) and let customer systems process and cross-reference this integrated data using the logger\u2019s API. The result is extensive tracking and planning capability down to a single specific item.\n\nSupply chain data often helps an organization increase transparency and cooperation in multiple, if not all, departments.\n\nThe future of the supply chain is IoT-driven\n\nSome industries still smugly operate with the belief that they don\u2019t \u201cneed\u201d monitoring along their supply chain. They see it as an additional expense. But they could benefit immensely from logistics tracking and transparency if they\u2019re assured of the payoff (companies selling fragile electronics or brands plagued by fakes and copies come to mind). Digitization of the supply chain \u2013 with both hardware and software \u2013 is the way forward for them.\n\nSpeed and reliability have always been and will continue to be the driving factors of the supply chain for the foreseeable future. The next few months will be critical for companies that bank on data to improve their supply chains. They have a never-before opportunity to build on the momentum and insights gained as a result of COVID-related disruptions by adopting newer technology and systems. The ones that fail to adapt to changing realities will likely be left behind by more agile competitors.