Robots and voice technology provide insight into the ‘dairy of the future’
Supply chain and mobility specialist Rocket Consulting is working as a strategic SAP partner on an award-winning Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) system. Installed at Arla Foods UK’s dairy in Aylesbury, the EWM is fundamental to the technological innovation and is able to combine efficient operation while reducing environmental impact.
Arla’s dairy in Aylesbury is the largest fresh milk factory in the world, and processes and packages the equivalent of 1.5 million bottles of milk a day. The EWM implementation, which covers the dispatch element of the operation, won the 2015 SAP Quality Award for Innovation and the 2015 Best Factory Award for Innovation.
Rocket Consulting was selected by Arla for its knowledge, expertise and experience across four key business and technical levels: supply chain and mobile (a skillset that Rocket has since expanded to include Internet of Things); SAP technology; food and beverage industry; and Arla’s business and business process.
Rocket’s EWM implementation handles the milk bottles as they arrive in the cold store from Arla’s high speed processing facility before they are distributed to customers. Specific Rocket activities consist of introducing operational technology such as the control system interface for the 90 Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), or ‘robots’, that move the milk in trolleys around the warehouse.
In addition, and critical to the project, Rocket was responsible for ensuring that all the constituent and complex EWM technologies communicated correctly to ensure the smooth operation of the warehouse.
In line with Rocket’s transformation methodology, the project uses standard (SAP) EWM software wherever possible in order to build a global roadmap that enables faster delivery of future roll-outs and minimises the risk for future upgrades. Enhancements and bespoke functionality were added by Rocket as required.
Colin Fearon, senior solution consultant for warehouse and distribution at Arla, explained: “Our system needed to fit our businesses, rather than Arla having to adapt its business to fit the solution. Rocket was instrumental in making that happen. The consultants understand SAP and EWM technology inside-out but, more than that, they know how we work, what we need to achieve and why. They then explore all avenues to get us to the desired end-point.”
Lewis Marston, CEO at Rocket Consulting, commented: “Our strategy is to work with customers to help them operate, innovate and differentiate faster and more effectively as a result of digital transformation. Arla understands the need to create and maintain competitive advantage by continually being one step ahead, with the result that it is innovative and open to change.”
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.