2020 was a particularly high-stress year for supply chains. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations and brought new hazards and health risks that companies had to consider. As businesses head into 2021, the need for change is clear.

Thankfully, today’s technology provides a way forward. Smart tech has proved itself throughout the pandemic and will continue to make supply chains safer in 2021. Here are five specific ways that will happen.


1. Wearable sensors

Wearables have been one of the most popular smart tech solutions amid the pandemic. Many companies have adopted wearable proximity sensors that beep whenever employees get too close. These systems have reduced workplace COVID exposure by as much as 95% in some facilities.

COVID-19 will continue to be an issue for warehouse workers in 2021, so these sensors will likely see increased adoption. Apart from the pandemic, this technology can alert employees of incoming trucks, forklifts or other hazards. By raising situational awareness, wearables will keep warehouse workers safe from numerous dangers.


2. Real-time road updates

Fleet management software has become standard among logistics companies, largely for its efficiency advantages. As 2021 goes on, more businesses will realize its potential for safety, as well. Smart technology in trucks and control centers will enable real-time updates about potential hazards.

Modern smart tech is fast enough to gather and send information in real-time. Supply chains can see incoming weather changes or traffic accidents and inform drivers before they encounter them. Embracing this technology will improve efficiency and keep drivers safe.


3. Improving fleet communication

Communication is crucial for safety, but communicating with drivers hasn’t always been a straightforward task. With modern smart technology, that’s no longer a worry. Supply chains can use fleet messaging programs to contact and direct drivers without relying on spotty, less clear radio.

Instant messaging solutions include standard form messages as well as customizable ones, streamlining communication. That way, logistics companies can ensure they alert drivers of any incoming changes as soon as possible. In addition, voice services allow drivers to read and respond to messages without taking their eyes off the road.


4. In-depth safety analytics

Many supply chains already use data analytics to improve their efficiency. After the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, more will use these processes for safety. IoT systems can gather data that AI programs then analyze to produce insights on improving facility safety.

In the warehouse, sensors can gather data on areas of high traffic. Analytics can then suggest how to reorganize to ensure social distancing in those places. Beyond COVID-19, using analytics engines to highlight health and safety concerns can help prevent future events and accidents.


5. Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is already becoming more popular, mostly because it saves money. According to Deloitte, it reduces maintenance costs by 25% on average. Even if companies only adopt this tech-driven approach for monetary reasons, it will improve safety.

Predictive maintenance uses IoT sensors to continuously monitor equipment performance, highlighting potential issues as early as possible. As a result, it keeps equipment in top condition, avoiding dangerous malfunctions. Truck drivers won’t face as many risks from breakdowns, and warehouse workers can avoid hazards from malfunctioning machinery.


Smart technology will make the supply chain safer

The initial selling point of much smart technology is that it makes operations more profitable. If 2020 has proved anything, it’s that these devices are also helpful safety resources. As more supply chains adopt them, their safety will improve.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for better health and safety measures for supply chain workers. Smart technology may not be a cure, but it gives companies a clear path forward in this area.