04 Mar 2024

Optimise the bearing supply chain with IoT

Chris Johnson looks at how the Internet of Things (IoT) can enable a stronger, more resilient bearing supply chain.

In 2020, stock management issues were estimated to cost UK manufacturers £66bn because of disruption caused by the pandemic. Consequently, the quest to improve efficiency, cut waste and enhance supply chain operations is one that suppliers know all too well.

Abundant data growth, the rise of revolutionary technologies and advancements in IT systems have the real potential to deliver improved efficiency for suppliers. Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and digital twins are being used to automate processes and gain deeper, more relevant insights.

The goal of IoT in supply chain management is to improve visibility and agility through greater connectivity. However, according to Reuters, during the height of the pandemic 41% of procurement leaders found their supplier data inadequate, and 26% found it mostly or completely inadequate. A year later, 72% of procurement leaders are concerned that their supplier intelligence has still not improved. So how can IoT help suppliers find a solution?

Supply chain resiliency and communication

IoT devices can enable visibility across an entire supply chain in real-time. This reduces the potential risk associated with having a global supply chain. A bearing’s journey can span multiple geographical regions and goods may be required to travel vast distances. IoT devices are an effective method to not only track and authenticate goods, but to monitor the storage conditions of products to enhance quality management throughout the supply chain.

For example, sensor enabled freight can use sensor devices to detect current shipment location and environmental variables such as temperature, light exposure and humidity, then wirelessly communicate these variables to the shipper. Crucially, the necessary adjustments can then be made to ensure product quality or adjust onward travel.

Sharing information effectively between different stakeholders in a supply chain is key to ensuring efficiency and reducing risk. Thanks to IoT, the communication process between suppliers and buyers can be streamlined now more than ever. Having access to data allows sales managers to give accurate supply estimates and timelines when potential or existing buyers make enquiries.

Maintenance and aftermarket support

Supply chain optimisation doesn’t end with a sale. On the contrary, supply chain management extends to aftermarket services. Generally, following a bearing sale, buyers are instructed to provide prompt feedback to suppliers when they encounter problems.

In the past, bearing buyers may have relied on customer service departments and call centres to solve their queries, but with IoT connectivity the component failure can be communicated automatically to the supplier so that remedial action can be taken. Before taking appropriate maintenance actions, a comprehensive evaluation of the bearing can be performed, which can save costs in resources and labour.

Supply chains have faced unprecedented challenges in the past eighteen months. Thankfully, new technologies are emerging that can offer solutions. IoT can provide increased visibility across your supply chain, allowing for the monitoring of the condition of bearings while in transit and enhancing a supplier’s ability to provide maintenance and aftersales support.

Chris Johnson, managing director at miniature bearings specialist SMB Bearings