Jul 2, 2020

IBM launches IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower

Supply Chain
Sean Galea-Pace
3 min
IBM has confirmed the launch of IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower to empower how companies manage inventory and create resilient supply chains.
IBM has confirmed the launch of IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower to empower how companies manage inventory and create resilient supply chains...

Many organisations lack the end-to-end inventory visibility and intelligence needed to effectively predict disruptions, optimise decision-making and mitigate the business impact. IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower is equipped with AI and designed to provide insights to inventory wherever it is, identify and recognise the impact of external events to predict disruptions and take action based on playbook recommendations to mitigate the upstream and downstream effects. This can allow for a faster response to market changes and the delivery of better customer experiences. IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower is a component of the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite, which includes applications for supplier, order and inventory management, providing connectivity to an extensive ecosystem of customers, suppliers and partners through one of the market’s leading multi-enterprise business networks, the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Network.

Now more than ever before, inventory challenges are at the forefront of every industry. Supply chain Inventory Control Towers is purpose-built to be used by organisations to obtain near real-time insights with anticipated use cases such as:

  • In grocery stores to expand inventory visibility to see beyond warehouses, including in-store locations and supply in-transit, and keep shelves stocked.
  • In hospitals to offer visibility into supply and demand gaps for critical items at PAR locations, such as critical lifesaving equipment and supplies, making them available at the right place and time.
  • In automotive to get visibility into aftermarket service parts by SKU, and stocking locations across ERP and other systems, to help ensure critical parts are in stock to meet customer expectations.

The purpose-built Sterling Inventory Control Tower can allow organisations to see, predict and more effectively act on inventory to better predict disruptions, improve resiliency, manage exceptions and respond to unplanned events. The capabilities include:

  • See Inventory Across the Supply Chain. Correlate data across silos and disparate systems to provide a single inventory view, while quickly detecting internal and external events that could impact inventory. By establishing end-to-end visibility throughout the entire supply chain all the way from raw material availability and supplier order to the “last mile” of customer delivery, businesses can track days of supply by product to customise safety stock reserves by location and reallocate inventory across locations and channels.
  • Predict and Assess Disruptions. Help businesses by connecting data between a wide array of internal and external sources. Smart-alerts can help quickly detect the most relevant and impactful events so disruptions can be predicted sooner, while data drill down enabled by natural language queries helps to understand and assess the supply chain impact. This can allow businesses to adapt to growing market and customer complexity and meet customer commitments with accurate inventory information and insights.
  • Act to Mitigate Potentially Disruptive Events. Allow businesses to better collaborate across the supply chain to quickly respond to unplanned events. The solution’s AI-powered virtual Resolution Rooms can provide a collaboration space that can help teams quickly convene and identify the root causes of supply chain disruptions and develop the right solutions. Additionally, Digital Playbooks provide guidance on best practices and preserving organisational knowledge to help speed issue resolution over time, while natural language capabilities provide immediate answers to questions, driving greater productivity for a wide range of users.

“The past few months have shown us that what was once considered ‘good enough’ inventory management may no longer be sufficient. Even as businesses strive to reopen and emerge smarter, inventory remains dynamic because supply, demand and transportation capacity are in flux,” said Jeanette Barlow, VP of Offering Management, IBM Sterling. “As a result, some businesses may be losing sales, aggravating customers by over promising, losing margins due to markdowns and expedited shipping charges, carrying excess safety stock, all while limiting their ability to enter new sales channels. Enterprises should embrace advanced technologies such as AI to more effectively act on their inventory across all channels in near real-time, which can help mitigate fluctuations in demand and supply disruptions in order to create smarter, innovative and resilient supply chains.”

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Jun 23, 2021

Japan Seeks to Revive Stalled Semiconductor Industry

Elise Leise
3 min
As international supply chains falter, the Japanese government intends to incentivise foreign chipmakers to build localised foundries

Post-pandemic, Japan has seen the consequences of relying solely on foreign imports for its semiconductors. Over 64.2% of its chips are usually imported from South Korea and Taiwan, leaving the country dependent on its neighbours. Industries from auto manufacturers to consumer electronics firms wait for chips, to no avail. But now, the Japanese government looks likely to put real funding behind its semiconductor industry, with top officials emphasising their support.


Domestic supply chains have never been more important. Rather than remain tied to international shipping routes during shortages and delays, governments are doing everything in their power to develop local lines of supply. But the question remains: can Japan pull it off? 


How Will Japan Pay For It? 

Herein lies our first issue. Japan’s debt has rapidly increased over the past few years, and the semiconductor industry will need roughly a trillion yen—US$9bn—in this fiscal year alone. This cost, however, pales in comparison to what Japan could lose if it fails to keep up with Europe and the US. Both nations have launched aggressive funding measures to revive their local semiconductor industries. And if Japan refuses to invest due to its debt, it could slow down progress in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to autonomous driving. 


According to Tetsuro Higashi, the former president of Tokyo Electron and Japan’s top government advisor in semiconductor strategy, ‘If we miss this opportunity now, there may not be another one’. Yet one advanced wafer fabrication factory can cost more than US$10bn, and any money poured into the industry will go fast. That’s why Japan, rather than invest trillions and trillions in failing domestic firms, is considering a second option. 


What Do They Plan To Do? 

Japan now intends to look abroad and convince overseas chip foundries to come to its shores. Its past failures mostly centred on trying to merge domestic firms that were already going through tough times. ‘This sort of made-in-Japan self-reliance approach hasn’t worked out well’, said Kazumi Nishikawa, a director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s IT division. ‘This time the goal is to offer a strong incentive for an overseas logic foundry to come to Japan’. 


As follows, Japan will now reach out to industry partners and leaders in other countries, including the industry heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), to build Japanese bases. According to the South China Morning Post, the heart of Japan’s mission is a US$337.2mn research and development project in Tsukuba that will involve TSMC and more than 20 Japanese firms. ‘I think we need to cooperate with our overseas counterparts’, said Akira Amari, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. ‘[And] TSMC is the world’s top logic chipmaker’. 

Indeed, if that’s Japan’s strategy, the future looks bright. TSMC recently set up a venture near Tokyo to research energy-efficient 3D chips with several Japanese partners. And in the future, the multinational chipmaker may consider expanding its Japanese operations—that is, if government incentives pave the path forward.

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