Confession: I still doubt the backup camera in my car. It's not a high-end self-driving vehicle, it's just a standard-issue mid-range backup camera that turns a small line red when close. Despite this innovation, I still trust my flawed depth perception while turned around looking through the rear window more than this technology designed to improve my visibility.
As of May 2018, NHTSA requires rearview video systems (RVS) on all new vehicles, indicating the technology is being more widely adopted. In contrast, when it comes to blind spot detection (BSD) systems, which warn drivers with an audio or visual warning if there are vehicles in adjacent lanes, the same governing body "has not set performance specifications for this feature, but NHTSA recognizes BSD as a promising technology," signaling the technology has not yet reached a maturity level to be incorporated into safety standards.
Supply chain professionals are faced with similar issues today when considering which visibility technology to integrate into their operations. The potential gains are greater resiliency and efficiency, but the risks, as is the case with most new technology adoptions, can be failed projects and overspending.
Visibility when managing a supply chain is just as critical as it is when driving a vehicle. Traditional supply chain visibility uses event milestones like “confirmed on board,” “customs cleared,” or “estimated time of arrival,” that are ubiquitous and reliable when coming from a trusted source. A more recent advent in visibility comes from sensors that use the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide updates in real-time.
Let us go back to our analogy and compare rearview mirrors versus backup cameras when car buyers are considering technology options:
Rearview Video Systems
Only point of failure is the impact
No blind spots
Better contrast, color, and resolution
Low light visibility
Rear automatic braking
Similarly, when supply chain professionals consider new technology, comparing event-based and sensor-based visibility is not as simple as "Which is better," but rather which is more effective when evaluating comparative strengths. Here is an example list comparing event milestones and sensor data in the supply chain:
Human-generated updates can include context
Machine-generated updates not subject to human error
Flexibility to capture an activity such as customs declaration
Flexibility to provide visibility regardless of cargo handler
Disparate systems can be integrated for lower latency
Control of data without IT integration costs
The current state of sensor-based and event-based visibility in supply chains is much like that of visibility options in vehicles today. Using both together yields the most accurate, efficient, and safe results because each brings their strengths as well as mitigate the risks of the other method.
Consider now the blind spots that might exist in your current supply chain if your logistics provider does not provide a high level of data integrity or you're not taking advantage of sensor technology available today. In the meantime, I'll continue on my journey to trust vehicle sensors, but I’ll still be checking my rearview mirror.