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High demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic has distributors seeking rapid adjustments, real-time ‘visibility’ to keep goods moving.

Technology designed to streamline supply chains in a prepandemic world is helping businesses cope with coronavirus-driven upheaval, from providing help adjusting to volatile swings in demand to tracking delivery of critical supplies.

So-called visibility technology, for example, which uses sensors to track the location of trucks or the temperature of high-value goods, has “become a necessity” amid pandemic-driven lockdowns, demand spikes and supply disruptions, said Bart De Muynck, a vice president of research at Gartner Inc.

“When stores are running out of product, when hospitals are running out of essential products, you need to know where that product is,” said Mr. De Muynck, who leads the research firm’s transportation technology coverage.

Companies that already had that technology in place are relying more heavily on those tools to use data on cargo volumes and how long trucks spend at the loading dock for predictive analytics, he said. “You’re seeing an acceleration of a lot of that technology. The next phase is more about scenario planning.”

Other freight technology providers such as FourKites Inc. also are expanding beyond tracking to streamline processes such as truck appointments for picking up or dropping off loads, and rolling out instant-messaging tools to centralize communications between carriers and warehouses.

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