May 17, 2020

What does Industry 4.0 mean for the supply chain network?

Supply Chain
Industry 4.0
Scott Fawcett, Divisional Mana...
4 min
What does Industry 4.0 mean for the supply chain network?
The Industry 4.0 revolution is well and truly underway and is redefining traditional manufacturing processes once and for all. The manufacturing industr...

The Industry 4.0 revolution is well and truly underway and is redefining traditional manufacturing processes once and for all. The manufacturing industry is moving towards a more digitised, automated, agile and, ultimately, efficient operation and there is no better example of this than in the supply chain network. In today’s world, the supply chain is a multi-faceted ecosystem linking product development, manufacturing and distribution networks into one fully transparent and digitised system. With multiple streams to take into account, by bringing their supply chain online manufacturers have been able to reap the benefits of a fully automated and integrated supply chain from the very beginning.

Transparency is key

Given the number of suppliers often feeding into the supply chain ecosystem, it is fundamental that the network is transparent. A lack of clarity can mean that links and relationships can break down and disrupt the efficiency of the process. Complete transparency enables businesses to not only respond to problems in real time but also to anticipate them and react to them ahead of time. A proactive response will ultimately mean that businesses can stay ahead of the competition, predicting any potential issues and safeguarding the manufacturing process should conditions change. This will enable businesses to respond to customer’s demands more efficiency and quickly.

Unsurprisingly, there is no ‘quick fix’ to transitioning an entire supply chain towards a more connected and highly efficient model. Building this kind of ecosystem will require integrated planning and execution systems, logistics visibility, autonomous logistics, smart procurement and warehousing, spare parts managements and advanced analytics. However, manufacturers must not be deterred by the challenges both logistically and financially and must be reassured by the immediate improvements in efficiency reaped by their companies.

Building an ecosystem

According to a recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) on the rise of Industry 4.0, a third of companies surveyed have already started to digitise their supply chains and 72% of respondents that hadn’t expected to do so in the next five years. Crucially, companies with highly digitised supply chains and operations can expect annual efficiency gains of 4.1%, while boosting revenue by 2.6% a year.

With so many layers involved in the supply chain ecosystem, a transparent and digitised network will bridge the gap between supply and demand. Every facet of the supply chain network will support a fully visible feedback system, reporting on the needs and challenges of the ecosystem. Any changes or developments, from a sudden increase in customer demand to a breakdown of a key manufacturing system, can be signalled at any point and will travel immediately throughout the network allowing the appropriate adaptations to be made, some of which will be entirely autonomous.

Essentra Components has begun the transition to a fully integrated, connected and digitised supply chain network through the use of TW Pick and Pack and warehouse management software. This £150,000 investment was implemented directly to drive efficiency in pick and delivery accuracy enabling employees to have better access to warehouse activity data and management information. Further to this development, Essentra Components is planning to introduce improved location management to reduce the delta between available and picked product and accurately track stock.

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Boosting agility of the entire chain

Through the installation of a digitised and fully integrated supply chain network, companies are able to respond to customer demands more effectively and efficiently, ultimately improving productivity. In order to do so, supply chain visibility relies on the effective and streamlined implementation of a “track and trace” (T&T) system. Two years ago, Essentra Components launched the S099 demand planning platform in EMEA and will shortly be launching this system in the Americas. This is an aggregated global demand plan for allvendors, providing transparency across the entire business, improved response to the customer and ultimately a more efficient and dynamic manufacturing footprint.

Another added benefit of this streamlined supply chain ecosystem is the reduced downtime of machines, improving efficiency but also reducing losses. Only five years ago, Essentra Components had 300 machines producing 1.5 million mouldings a day at the Kidlington site. Today, there are 120 machines producing 3.7 million components a day. Results like this reinforce the necessity of long term investments in the manufacturing processes, which will pay dividends to the company once successfully implemented for many years to come.

Time is of the essence

Above all, the main aim of the digital supply chain is to open up the network and provide visibility for everyone involved. Businesses can respond in real time, ultimately improving the experience both for the manufacturers and the customers. Supply chains are extremely complex and multi-faceted so this digitisation will be no easy feat. With different companies implementing the digital supply chain at varying speeds and levels, manufacturers who want to compete on a global scale and secure the longevity of their business must start implementing these changes now.

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Jun 11, 2021

NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience

NTTDATA
supplychain
Supplychainriskmanagement
Procurement
6 min
Joey Dean, Managing Director of healthcare consulting at NTT DATA Services, shares remodelling strategies for more resilient supply chains

Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.

The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.

A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach

“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.

“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.

But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?

“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.

Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes

So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry

“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality. 

“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”

Evolving Procurement Models 

From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view. 

“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.

“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”

“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”

But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?

“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.

The Challenges

These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.

On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”

He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”

As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”

 

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