How GIS Mapping Improves Supply Chain Routes

Supply chains have traditionally been very linear, starting with design and ending with delivery. However, supply chains are facing a dilemma. Living in a digital world with instant gratification, supply chains can no longer afford major delays. The rise of the digital supply network is taking place where supply chains are transforming into digital, integrated systems that can better manage risks like natural disasters and other emergencies that require route adjustments. Despite improvements though, 40 percent of manufacturing companies reported disruptions that disrupted their supply chains in 2015.1

So how can supply chains continue to get better at predicting disruptions and optimizing distribution routes to avoid bigger problems? The answer is geographic information systems (GIS).

Technology like GIS maps is helping supply chains mitigate risks through better routing and data visualization. When supply chains have greater visibility, they can streamline distribution and delivery routes, improve costs, and meet customer needs faster.

Let’s look at an example of how disruptions affected the food and beverage industry’s supply chains in 2015.

Blizzard Conditions Disrupt Food and Beverage Distribution Routes

The early parts of 2015 were met with extreme weather from Blizzard Juno that affected states from Massachusetts to California. Heavy snowfall, freezing rain, ice, and hail caused transportation disruptions across the entire United States. Flights were cancelled, roads were shut down, and even ports were closed for short spans of time. This made it difficult for organizations across the food and beverage industry (producers, suppliers, distributors, etc.) to get food products to restaurants and grocery stores who serve consumers every single day.

While supply chains can’t control when extreme weather and natural disasters strike, they can leverage technology to develop plans that help avoid disruptions that can be detrimental to both companies and the customers they serve.

GIS and Data Visualization Help Optimize Transportation Routes

Supply chains have a lot of data to worry about. With the amount of shipments and risks involved, supply chains need to analyze a lot of data and work to find the most efficient ways to mitigate risks, manage inventory, and get products to consumers in a timely fashion.

Being able to visualize a supply chain’s complex datasets makes it easier to spot patterns and get clear visibility into what is happening with shipments and distribution routes. Without technology like GIS, trying to manage inventory, shipment routes, and locations was a slow, manual one. Organizations were slower to react to natural disasters, and emergencies negatively impacted their supply chains because they didn’t have the visibility they needed to make adjustments quickly.

Technology like GIS mapping has helped alleviate some of those concerns by allowing organizations to track shipments in real time, monitor traffic, and quickly react to disruptions like extreme weather by optimizing distribution routes.

Let’s go back to the 2015 blizzard example where food and beverage organizations had to worry about getting their food products to people. These supply chains could use GIS maps to track shipments and trucks and watch how weather patterns were impacting current routes. If roads or highways were shut down, organizations could use their tech to review different routes, determine what the best options were, and redirect the distributor so the products could make it to the restaurant or store as quickly as possible.

GIS mapping has and is continuing to help supply chains better predict when disruptions will strike and gain better visibility into shipments and distribution routes so they can be altered and adjusted when necessary. At the end of the day, it’s all about how quickly and efficiently you can deliver products to end users, and GIS mapping technology is helping supply chains streamline that process.