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Supply chain communication strategies for successful management

Author: Becky Gutte

Whether they make cars, consumer goods, electronics or aerospace materials, manufacturers can't succeed without an efficient, well-coordinated supply chain. As businesses continue to expand their operations, the volume of logistics and data to sort through increases exponentially. To properly manage their operations, manufacturers can choose to employ one of several supply chain communication strategies to manage their data. For example, by  combining a 5G solution with ultra low latency, mobile edge computing (MEC) and artificial intelligence (AI), manufacturers may be able to analyze supply chain data in near real time to identify efficiencies that could, in turn, inform larger business decisions.

The supply chain waterfall effect

Supply chains are like calibrated machines—gaps or obstacles at any point can create harmful waterfall effects, leading to downtime and other problems down the road. Issues with transportation delays, inferior storage conditions, theft and disorganization can weaken an organization. If a carrier is late with a shipment, for instance, the receiving facility may not accept the load until the next day, setting off a string of delays and added costs that impact the rest of the supply chain and, ultimately, the end customer. If storage conditions are subpar, the end customer may receive a product that is damaged or unsafe. These issues can be debilitating in highly competitive markets.

To boost efficiency, manage costs and surpass customer expectations, manufacturers need end-to-end visibility into product conditions while in transit and within facilities, and supply chain communications strategies that keep operations running smoothly. Clear communication is critical to ensure every link in the supply chain is optimized, adapts to changes and functions as part of a larger whole. Today, advances in communication technology are affecting the supply chain by conveying higher volumes of data throughout a supply chain in real time. Supply chain communications strategies, coupled with Verizon's 5G Edge, could improve predictability and responsiveness, giving manufacturers tools and insights to improve their bottom line and customer experiences. 

Supply chain solutions

As defined by ETSI, MEC combines networking and computing at the network's edge to optimize performance for ultra-low latency and high-bandwidth services. By powering AI and augmented reality (AR) technologies, 5G and MEC could provide manufacturers with a force multiplier for innovation. This could help improve supply chain efficiency by providing end-to-end logistic controls in near real time.

With AI-powered supply chain solutions, manufacturers could accurately forecast inventory arrival times by tracking items, pallets and vehicles equipped with sensors faster than before. These could provide alert, updates and data through an enterprise resource planning system for greater insight into bottlenecks, as well as trace faulty items back to their origin, investigate the fault's cause and dispatch replacements for delayed or damaged goods. Communicating throughout the supply chain with this degree of accuracy and speed is an unprecedented opportunity for manufacturers. 

The 5G MEC advantage

Manufacturers that upgrade and implement AI to help parse supply chain data could see key benefits to their supply chains. AI and AR technology could enable manufacturers to optimize product movement throughout the delivery chain and provide visibility into location and ETA, potentially allowing manufacturers to know exactly what's happening where and make decisions accordingly. They can diagnose and treat communication-related inefficiencies throughout the supply chain. By aligning production and delivery schedules, manufacturers could minimize production downtime and optimize just-in-time manufacturing and staff resourcing. 5G and MEC have the potential to boost efficiency and reduce human error by automating ordering and identifying faults in near real time.

Improvements to labor efficiency could be another key benefit. AI supply chain solutions could minimize turnaround time of loading and unloading trucks, and enable accurate incoming delivery ETA reporting. It also could provide manufacturers with the capacity to monitor and control storage environments across the delivery chain to ensure items' safety and integrity and to consolidate and streamline delivery and distribution processes. These benefits could increase transparency and build trust with partners and vendors.

By improving supply chain communication strategies, reducing inefficiencies, optimizing resources, identifying issues in real time and increasing transparency, upgrading to a 5G MEC solution with AI could have clear cost benefits. Supply chains are growing in complexity, cost and scale. Investing in technology that improves supply chain communication and collaboration could fuel growth and become a competitive differentiator.

Learn more about MEC and manufacturing logistics and how they can help improve your operations.