CS Ellis: Four ways to digitise the supply chain

By Matthew Bratherton
Matthew Bratherton, Commercial Manager and logistics specialist at C S Ellis discusses the four ways supply chains can digitalise their operations...

Digitisation can make your organisation's supply chain far more efficient, cost-effective, and, above all, customer driven. While all the while ensuring that your business remains at the very forefront of the evolutions in the industry.


If you think that terms such as IoT, AI and big data are just buzzwords, you'd be wrong to distance them from your supply chain and logistic operations. Once these associated technologies come together, they're capable of creating a digital supply that's more efficient, cheaper and more productive than any supply chain management techniques you've undertaken previously.

Of course, that’s not to say that digitisation has not posed new challenges for many organisations, which have suddenly found themselves in a position where they need to adapt quickly in the face of global trade shifts and changing customer expectations. COVID-19 and Brexit are just two such examples. 

However, significant changes will always create enormous challenges, particularly when an area as vital as the supply chain is concerned. Turning good ideas into real value, without risking the chain's integrity, needs to be thought about very carefully.

To start turning these great ideas into tangible value for the business, you should consider these four options to begin turning your operation digital.

#1: Incorporating Track and Trace Technology

The demand for real-time supply chain updates, particularly in the face of the COVID pandemic, is at an all-time high at the moment. It's not enough for an organisation to know when orders left their premises in the hope that shipments will arrive at their destination in one piece. 

A track and trace system, or a "verified risk management capability", will help your business, partners, relevant authorities, and consumers to manage their deliveries and respond to any risks during the delivery process.

#2: RFID, Bluetooth and 3D Printing

Radio frequency identification (RFID) and Bluetooth tech are now considered the minimum requirements for a business that seeks a more efficient supply chain – these help track inventory movement throughout a warehouse or factory and are beneficial during the picking and packing process.

3D printers can generate the readable sensor tags that are tracked by Bluetooth or RFID technology. By attaching these to inventory you can monitor the location, temperature, and humidity level of a product – this is obviously especially key when it comes to dealing with perishable items. 

When combining these technologies, organisations gain greater visibility over the entire supply chain range, including transportation networks and cargo handling.

#3: Robotics

These days automated robotic solutions working alongside your workforce is no longer consigned to the annuls of a good sci-fi novel. 

With the ever-increasing evolution of robotic solutions in the order fulfilment sector, you may find that your organisation is in an excellent position to integrate automated solutions into the overall operational structure. 

In many scenarios, implementing automation solutions can reduce and improve the division of labour. With less reliance on human intervention in roles that can be completely automated, it means that you can use human experience to improve other areas of your organisation.

#4: Embracing Industry 4.0 Evolutions

Adopting a holistic approach that leverages Industry 4.0 digital technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and in-depth analytics can sharpen the competitive edge within the supply chain.

A modern supply chain can be broken down into siloed stages which incorporate marketing, development, manufacturing and distribution until it finally reaches the end-customer. 

Digitalisation brings down the walls around these seemingly separate entities and creates a completely integrated ecosystem that gives all the players involved a completely transparent picture of what is happening. Therefore, every touchpoint from manufacturing and logistics to suppliers and the consumer will have some notion of the goings-on at every point along the way. 


Companies that will lead the way with advanced supply chains will be those who continue to invest heavily in the digitisation of their organisation in the coming years, according to Forbes

As per the Forbes article, 9% of businesses with the most sophisticated digitisation levels are moving ahead of the pack in terms of reaping the most significant rewards.

So, the question is, can your organisation risk falling further behind?

For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.

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