Grocers embracing IoT to improve supply chain visibility

17 August 2017

More than a third of food and grocery companies are using or trialling Internet of Things (IoT) technology, research has showed.

A survey of 84 businesses, conducted by the research charity IDG, found 37% of businesses in the sector were either trying out the technology or had successfully integrated it into their business.

IoT involves connecting sensors and objects to the internet – for example fridges, vehicles or stock – in order to collect useful, real time data. This can allow businesses to, for example, monitor which stock sells fastest, the exact location of shipments or the temperature of a freezer.

Chris Irish, supply chain insight manager at IDG, said: “[IoT] allows each unique product to be tracked and monitored, opening up the possibility for highly personalised and responsive solutions for consumers while introducing a new level of real time data-sharing for businesses.

“The pace of change and breadth of impact for technology is such that demand is growing for food and grocery supply chains to deliver innovations that offer speed, transparency, connectivity and convenience.”

IDG made a number of predictions about the future of IoT off the back of the results of the survey. 

It predicted IoT would increase end-to-end supply chain visibility, opening up the opportunity for collaboration between firms. Almost half (48%) of respondents placed increasing supply chain visibility as one of their top three expectations for IoT.

The report said IoT could end silos and increase transparency between retailers and manufacturers. Giving manufacturers access to live retail data will reduce the need for active intelligence sharing and sidestep issues of trust. 

Top down forecasting, based on aggregate data, would be replaced by bottom up forecasting using real time information on consumer demand, the report said. IoT would make this forecasting more accurate, potentially pre-empting demand, which could improve supply chain responsiveness.

The use of artificial intelligence in managing supply chains would also be accelerated by IoT, IDG predicted. More automation would be needed to handle the growing number of internet connected devices, while the increase in data would help develop machine learning – a mechanism where computers improve their processes through trial and error and spotting patterns in large data-sets.

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