The Secret to Supply Chain Management with Wireless Scanning and Tracking

supply chain managementDo you use a third-party logistics provider? Third party logistics providers offer outsourced shipping, moving goods from one area to another. You may use one service, such as a transportation provider, or several linked together as your third-party supplier who maintains your entire supply chain. Tracking, managing, and monitoring all third-party logistic service providers is important to your overall business. Without a reliable third-party supplier, you could be waiting for components or goods or wondering what happened to a shipment that was supposed to arrive yesterday.

Tracking third-party logistic suppliers can be tricky, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing how companies are able to monitor their supply chain logistics. The IoT uses chips, embedded in everything from actual equipment to pallets, to track their movement, as well as other important data. Temperature-sensitive materials, for example, can be monitored using IoT chips to ensure that any temperature fluctuations during shipping are within acceptable parameters.

The IoT is changing inventory management, logistics, and the entire manufacturing process. Here’s how barcode scanners can be part of the IoT and provide support for inventory tracking through the supply chain.

Barcode Scanners: Proven Technology Used in New Ways

Asset tracking is one of the biggest trends in the realm of supply chain management. The IoT enables asset tracking through a variety of technologies and devices. Asset tracking isn’t new, of course. Shipping companies have used barcode scanners to track freight along the way. What’s new is how that data is moving from point A to point B.

In the past, barcodes scanners were cumbersome hardware tied to specific technologies. If you had Scanner X, you had to use it with Software X.

Today’s barcode scanners are apps that work on a variety of devices including smartphones and tablets. Transforming your smartphone into a scanner is as easy as downloading and opening the software and using the smartphone camera to scan the barcode. Information relayed from the smartphone through the web reaches your company’s ERP system and warehouse management system, forming a seamless web of data that can be used to track shipments.

Using such scanners, you can track components of your supply chain from starting point to the loading dock. If each piece is scanned along the way into the system, the data found within your system will be up to date. It will keep you informed about the progress of your order. In turn, you can keep the production department updated on when to expect shipments. More importantly, you can alert customers when to expect their orders.

RFID Technology

Another method of tracking objects through the supply chain and warehouse is RFID technology. Active and passive RFID tags are attached to items and relay data automatically. Active tags run on battery power and relay information constantly, while passive tags have an antenna and an embedded microchip and store data for access later.

Companies using RFID technology can track items along the way using the tags. Internet-enabled tracking uses cellular technology and wireless networks to transmit data from your supply chain into your system without people needing to remember to scan barcodes. Bluetooth tags and beacons can be used in warehouses to track items better, especially in smaller, confined areas.

Other Methods of Tracking

Lastly, a new technology called NFC tags, based on RFID technology, also enables manufacturers to track elements in their supply chain. Workers can use their mobile devices to read the tags, thus making devices perform double duty as both barcode scanners and NFC readers if both are used in a warehouse.

Technology has made supply chain management more precise and accurate than ever before. Thanks to barcode scanners, RFID tags, and NFC tags, manufacturers can better manage their supply chain, provide up to the minute data on orders, and relay delivery information to waiting customers.

Scanco

Scanco has been a leader in supply chain automation software since 1989. We offer innovative warehouse solutions with a technology-driven approach. If you’d like to explore better supply chain management through the use of technology, contact Scanco at 1.877.722.6261.