How Using IOT Technology Can Enhance the Supply Chain

Editorial Comment: One year ago, Professor Faith Lamprey composed an essay for our blog entitled “How EDI Helped Santa Deliver Presents This Christmas.” With this essay, she continues her exploration of emerging technologies with a discussion of Advanced Vehicle Technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Obtaining an understanding of IOT, and being able to differentiate between how sensory devices are used in consumer and industrial applications, are considered essential skills for students and business professionals.

The Transportation Industry is undergoing changes due to Advanced Vehicle Technology.  This involves using “connected trucks” that are equipped with IOT “smart” devices. These devices contain sensors that use wireless technology to talk to each other. The IOT devices on the trucks are monitoring things like temperature, location and speed and can produce data that can be used to drive predictive analytics for companies.  The data from these IOT devices gives companies the ability to make significant improvements in their supply chain. The supply chain encompasses all of the processes involved in product manufacture from raw materials through production and distribution of the finished product, until it reaches the consumer. These IOT devices can provide data to both the receiving and shipping processes.

One area where these IOT devices can be used to provide essential information is to monitor the storage temperature of food while it is being transported to provide clear cold chain tracking and accountability.  This can give proof of clear custody and control of the product if questions surround the quality of it.  Much of this data is now being required in the food industry so having a carrier being able to electronically transmit it to the receiver of the goods as the delivery is made would add to the completeness and accuracy of the data required for food transportation.

The IOT devices can also provide data to know where a delivery is at any point in time so companies can schedule staff to receive and distribute the delivery when it arrives.  This can provide better visibility of the status of goods ordered and gives companies real time visibility to when the goods will arrive.

This does not have to apply just to trucks.  All forms of transportation (planes, trains, ships) can use IOT technology to communicate shipment data.  With the frequency of extreme weather patterns across the country, real-time updating of expected delivery information would be very beneficial to keep the supply chain functioning more effectively.

Integrating the data “connected” carriers can provide into the supply chain enhances the entire process and provides for more efficiency and greater visibility for both the senders and receivers of goods.  There are currently electronic documents that senders transmit to receivers with details of what is being delivered and how it is packaged.  Being able to add a “when” dimension to that document is a logical next step given the technology available today. Our challenge as accountants is to ensure the data coming from these IOT devices is accurate and complete and provides an audit trail back to the source transactions. Accountants need to be part of the team that designs how and where this data is captured and integrated into the data base.

Professor Faith Lamprey