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Strategies and Technologies to Build Sustainable Supply Chains

In my last blog, I discussed the various aspects of building sustainable supply chains in the modern world. From cost-efficiency to building strong investor relations, a sustainable supply chain leads to various benefits for any business. This is the reason why many leading organizations across the globe are proactively implementing sustainable methodologies.

Sustainable supply chains need a thorough, it’s common to find incomplete strategies that don’t include modern technologies.

Strategies to Build Sustainable Supply Chains

Increasing the Asset Life

Asset maintenance is one of the most effective strategies for building sustainable supply chains. Proper analysis of assets and reduction in their number through condition-based maintenance can lead to long-term benefits. It is a method involving assessments of equipment performance with the help of sensor devices to carry out inspections and schedule tests. This methodology helps in determining the most cost-efficient time to perform maintenance.

Moreover, proper asset maintenance helps maintain inventories optimally by decreasing unnecessary space utilization. Companies need to focus on extending the lifecycle of assets by eliminating the performance issues resulting in early replacements.

Fuel-Efficiency

Fossil fuels are expensive and limited; besides, they are among the most significant contributors to greenhouse effects. As a result, many organizations are designing ways to become fuel efficient by reducing fuel consumption or replacing it with green fuels. Here are ways through which fuel efficiency can be achieved,

  • Route optimization: This method involves the use of AI and Machine Learning to find out the best possible routes to avoid time-consuming delays while transporting material
  • Decreased use of chemical lubricants and finding green alternatives
  • Maximum utilization of recyclable material

Demand Forecasting

Tech-empowered demand forecasting can significantly decrease supply chain errors. Supply chains impact the environment, making demand forecasting more crucial than ever. The technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, can enhance demand forecasting. These technologies leverage real-time data from multiple sources and generate reliable forecasts, which can benefit both the company and the environment.

Technologies to Establish Sustainable Supply Chains

Strategies require modern technology to become practical solutions. Here are some leading technologies that can be utilized to incorporate sustainability within supply chains.

Sensor Devices

Sensors are everywhere. They’re in our homes and workplaces, our shopping centers and hospitals. They’re embedded in smart phones and an integral part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The advent of IoT has radically transformed asset management: remote asset tracking, automated asset workflows, and predictive asset maintenance are just some of the ways in which IoT is revolutionizing asset management.

IoT and Big Data systems for asset management engage a wide range of technologies like GPS, beacons, sensors, and meters as well as data analytics, visualization, and management tools.

Sensors offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Remote monitoring of critical equipment condition factors: sensors are designed to closely monitor specific condition indicators, such as temperature, vibration and more ­— which we will examine below.
  • Real-time monitoring and communication: sensors provide “always-on,” constant equipment monitoring, tracking the ongoing status of machines and communicating this information to alert systems and internal data centers.
  • Ease of implementation: a sensor implementation doesn’t mean a costly overhaul of the shop floor. Sensors can be purchased, installed, and scaled relatively inexpensively, even on your legacy equipment.

Sensors provide:

  • Early detection: sensors pick up on performance aberrations that simply can’t be detected through manual spot checks and personnel monitoring. By detecting the underpinnings of potential issues in real-time, sensors can alert maintenance teams of the need to investigate to prevent a machine failure before it happens.
  • Increased safety: sensors use cloud-based software allowing data to be monitored and accessed from anywhere. This feature allows the alerts to be addressed immediately while maintaining worker safety on the plant floor.
  • Condition-based monitoring: as opposed to the standard preventive maintenance pre- and post-operation checks, sensors provide real-time condition-based monitoring that tracks and transmits the performance of the machine, allowing for more timely and effective maintenance.

Data reporting and dashboarding solutions are the final aspects of an IoT-based asset management system. The data gets turned into customized reports ready to be shared, enabling the company to take better business decisions and improve operations.

Artificial Intelligence

The incorporation of AI within the supply chain can streamline various processes. AI uses real-time data to detect patterns and gaps across the supply chain. It consists of algorithms and technologies that can eliminate time-consuming and routine tasks, thereby improving human performance.

AI can generate accurate demand forecasts by gathering data from multiple reliable sources. This leads to benefits like optimum inventory and accurate shipping. Moreover, AI can empower the transport workers, as it can analyze the routes and suggest the best time-efficient routes leading the lesser environmental impact.

Lastly, AI can be used for driver behavior analysis through devices installed in vehicles. This will decrease the idling incident, which leads to fuel wastage, and help companies reduce the carbon imprint left by their vehicles.

Warehouse Robotics

Automating the warehouse not only reduces the operating costs but also promotes productivity within. Warehouse robotics leaves a lesser carbon footprint than a traditionally operated warehouse. One of the striking benefits of an automated warehouse is waste reduction due to following reasons,

  • Controlled pallet handling minimizing damage to the products
  • Lesser plastic wrap than the same is required for the pallets handled manually
  • Reduction in errors leading to lowered wastage and energy consumption

Electric Vehicles

Electricity is comparatively cleaner than traditional gasoline, meaning its carbon footprint is significantly low. They may not be practical for long-distance transport. However, in denser cities, electric bikes are used for deliveries as green alternatives.

Furthermore, battery-powered semi-trucks and special hydrogen fuel cells may also help transform the face of the transportation industry.

Blockchain Technology

This technology allows all participants within a supply chain record information about their actions in a single unchangeable record, which is chronologically organized. Blockchain provides traceability, and thus it improves operational efficiencies. All supply chain participants have access to information regarding each other’s actions. Hence, it helps businesses become more responsible for material sourcing, shipments, processing, and distribution. Blockchain technology helps companies to drastically save time spent in exchanging documents and paper.

3D Printing

With this technology, businesses can maintain virtual inventories and manufacture goods according to demand. Businesses can become more sustainable, as with 3D print, they can avoid the cost and energy spent on shipping and packaging unnecessary items. As soon as the 3D printers will be able to create more diversified parts in term of materials and feasibility this technology will become a game changer for the sustainability.

Sustainability as a Holistic Approach

Supply chains lead a significant impact on our environment. Fortunately, businesses are adopting creative strategies to reduce the carbon footprint left by their activities. However, our planet needs more; we need to adopt sustainability as a good practice and a holistic approach. We can integrate several technologies and strategies within operations to get the desired results.

As far as technologies go, they lead to marvelous effects when in the right hand. The technologies I discussed in this blog hold great potential to bring economic and environmental sustainability. We just need to begin!