Tuesday, February 25, 2014

M2M Technology Allows Remote Management in Supply Chain

The report Top Ten Supply Chain Technology Trends, produced by Intermec Technologies, offers us interesting insights and comprehensive case studies regarding to the latest technology developments and trends in supply chain. The top ten supply chain technology includes comprehensive connectivity, voice and GPS communication integrated into rugged Computers, speech recognition, digital imaging, portable printing, RFID, RTLS…etc. While they may sounds familiar or even ordinary to you, the applications of these technologies are in fact bringing substantial improvements to the current supply chain systems.  Some modifications on the common technologies with a creative mind have benefited the supply chain and its customers, as well as increased efficiency and achieved cost-savings in supply chain systems.

One of the new trends in supply chain is the concept of remote management, which means the manager is able to access to up-to-date information of its supply chain and monitor the performance from a far off place in the real-time situation. Machine-to-Machine (also abbreviated as M2M) is a popular and widely used technology in today’s supply chain. M2M allows remote machines and sensors collecting and sending data to a central point for analysis, either by humans or computers so that there is less human intervention and therefore less costly. The difference between traditional communication technology and M2M is that M2M uses existing networks, such as internet, sensors and personalize computers, which gives us more accurate and real-time data.  

You may wonder how M2M works. M2M is a mixture of three technologies – wireless sensors, internet, and personal computers. For example, an environmental engineer needs to monitor the quality of water to make sure the environmental engineers. He may find that Data from the treatment plant will give information about the water's condition as it enters the process. For instance, the engineer places sensors around/near place that are sensitive to contaminates in the raw waters. Those sensors can tell a lot of information to engineers, such as oil appearing in the water. The engineer is able to monitor and analyze the problem and respond to it immediately.

M2M significantly improves the accuracy of data collections and communications between machines.  One unique M2M adaptation in supply chain is that its ability to configure, monitor and troubleshoot bar code readers and printers, RFID equipment, ruggedized computers and other industrial data collection and communication equipment. M2M is able to achieve this by monitoring the configurations and software updates of the machines to ensure its technology consistency, accessibility and compatibility to a wide range of machine which M2M can easily “talk” to, and optimizing RFID readers for their immediate environment by changing power output and making other tuning adjustments. M2M is able to “talk” to a variety of devices and machines, allowing more effective and efficient communications between machines and providing advantages such as a real-time environment for the supply chain manager.

Enhancing technology communication benefits many parts in the supply chain system, such as logistics and warehouses.  For instance, the manager and the truck driver can exchange information regarding the status of the orders, road conditions and time management through M2M technology. With a higher visibility of information and timely supports from the manager, the truck driver is able to achieve quicker delivery and higher efficiency. The adaptation of M2M doubtlessly has made supply chain system more integrated and more flexible to respond to changes in reality, as well as able to meet the changing attitudes of the customers about their needs. A question that we can think about is how to incorporate customers into the M2M network where customer can also exchange information freely with the supply chain.  

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