What is Driving the Need for Connected Supply Chain Solutions?

Online shopping and new safety regulations are creating challenges and opportunities.

Changing consumer behaviors and new federal safety mandates are putting strains on retail and supply chain operations, according to a panel of industry experts at the inaugural Connected Symposium hosted by Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions (SPS).


The panel, which comprised Maribeth Coleman, Ph.D., director of the Interactive Media Technology Center at Georgia Tech; Kevin Haugh, ‎chief strategy and product officer at Omnitracs; and Jason Burrell, global retail leader for Honeywell SPS, spoke at Honeywell’s customer and partner thought leadership conference in Charlotte, N.C.


Moderated by Hari Thiruvengada, director of strategic design for the Honeywell User Experience group, the panel of thought leaders examined how e-commerce, the demands for faster delivery and the need to comply with new rules were putting pressure on retailers, trucking firms and logistics service providers.


A Better Shopping Experience in Retail Stores


As consumers are increasingly buying products online, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers must evolve in order to compete with e-commerce giants, according to Burrell.


However, shopping in real-world stores remains important to consumers and retailers, as evidenced by the fact that companies like Amazon are investing in physical storefronts.


“We’re social animals. We like to go into a store environment – look in stores, touch, feel, see what is happening,” said Burrell.

This is changing the in-store shopping experience and creating both challenges and opportunities for retailers.


“We’re seeing a change in what shoppers are looking for when they enter into a store. They’re looking for a more personalized experience,” said Burrell. “Retailers are asking, ‘How can we interact more with our customers?’”


One solution that Honeywell has developed is its new Connected Retail software offering, which allows retailers to monitor and improve the performance of their store associates by guiding them through their various workflows. It lets store associates efficiently perform tasks, such as fulfilling online orders, while also directly interacting with customers to help them find items, according to Burrell. This enables the workers to provide a better level of customer service to shoppers in the store.


Dr. Coleman examined the significant role that wearable, worker-focused technology could play in addressing many of the supply chain challenges of today.


“The opportunity I see for wearable computing is that it is a possible interface to these very complex IoT systems that is personalized to me and can adapt based on where I am, what I’m doing and what I need,” said Dr. Coleman.


Safety and Compliance in the Logistics Industry


While consumers are buying more online, they also want their purchase shipped as fast possible.


“This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of disruption,” said Haugh of Omnitracs, a leading provider of software solutions to the transportation and logistics industry. “A lot of this is driven by demands by customers to receive products and goods faster and on-demand.”


In addition to consumer shopping, the panel also looked at the impact that complying with a new U.S. federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will have on trucking companies.


These new rules, which go into effect in December, are a set of explicit restrictions on how long drivers of trucks traveling more than 100 miles can operate their vehicles, according to Haugh. These safety measures are intended to prevent a driver from driving excessive hours, getting sleepy and potentially causing an accident.


One important solution to these challenges, the panelists pointed out, is investing in connected solutions to capture and analyze data throughout the supply chain.


“One of the big trends in transportation and logistics is how do you take data, connectivity and these smarter, more cognitive applications… to help companies make smarter decisions at all levels,” said Haugh.


While logistics providers are now able to capture more data about their operations, they are faced with a new risk of potentially being overwhelmed by all of this new information, Haugh pointed out.


“In general, what we see is companies looking to leverage data in new ways,” said Haugh. “Now it is becoming a needle-in-the-haystack. How do you find that actionable data among all that information?”


As companies look for solutions, Dr. Coleman pointed out that they must design tools and systems focused on the worker. They need to be considering “all of the different sorts of innovation and research that is needed to figure out all of these tough problems, and this ranges from … human-factors psychology … to application design and user experience,” she said.


The Honeywell SPS Connected Symposium brought together industry experts and business leaders to discuss the industry trends impacting retail, supply chain and worker safety and examine opportunities to deploy the Internet of Things to address these challenges.


Click here to view the panel discussion and question-and-answer session.