Posts categorized as 'General News'

3D Printing Changes the Supply Chain

  • by Joe Cannata
  • Published

3d printing of a handI recently took a trip to my local big box electronics store, and saw a 3D printer on display. I asked what they were printing, and the response was “plastic components”, which were being sold in the store. The salesperson was busy, so I did not have the chance to find out exactly what those plastic components were, but I thought, wow, they can make parts for sale right there in the store. Retail is changing for sure. I then decided to do a little more checking on 3D printers when I got home. I learned about biofabrication, a recently created word that means the convergence between technology and medicine, to print items to be used in the human body. Living cells are used as the “printer ink”. Visions of the Terminator came to mind. I also discovered, from an article the Guardian that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first 3D printed drug, called Spritam (levetiracetam). It controls seizures coming from epilepsy. The drug manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill. This means the pill dissolves more quickly with liquid, making it much easier for the patient to swallow higher doses.

3D printing has gone from a novelty to a serious industry, a predicted $16 billion industry by 2018 according to Canalys as stated in another article from the Guardian. Basically, it has become mobile. It has become additive manufacturing. An article in my local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had this interesting quote, “From aerospace to health care to consumer products to toys to medical devices, furniture … what I think you’re going to see is an explosion of use.”

A startup local Atlanta-based 3D printing company, CloudDDM, is looking to make an impact. Traditional manufacturing requires the creation of dies or molds that can cost thousands of dollars to create a prototype. 3D printing only requires a digital file with the design of an object, and the specialized “ink”. This also introduces a whole new issue to supply chain and the manufacturing process–protection of intellectual property (IP), in the form of the digital files being sent to 3D printers. Just as important as the prototype itself, is the thought and research behind the design. Printers can be a vast source of digital information based on the memory they possess. This creates a potential security issue.

Atlanta is home to many Fortune 500 companies like Coca Cola, Home Depot and UPS. UPS has already thought about how 3D printing could affect its core business, which involves moving materials in the supply chain. They installed a 3D printer at a local high-profile store, which will be able to perform on-demand services. Their rationale was, if businesses can produce parts easily on-site, instead of off-shore or elsewhere domestically, that could impact the UPS global market for shipping and logistics and cut into revenue. To get ahead of the curve, UPS invested in the aforementioned CloudDDM. The two companies have jointly opened a facility near the UPS air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, with more than 100 industrial 3D printers. They can take an order in the afternoon for a 3D printed item and ship it overnight for arrival the next day.

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How Will Self-Driving Trucks Impact the Logistics Field


self driving truck could change logistics fieldThis guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management.

From discussing 3D printing to workplace automation, we at Argentus are always trying to stay on top of technological developments that will impact Supply Chain and its related disciplines. Because Supply Chain is intimately tied up with both technological progress (both in terms of software and hard goods / transportation technology), as well as increasing globalization, it’s a fast-evolving field. It’s part of what makes it exciting for professionals working in the field, who can expect their skills to grow and evolve in the coming years as the technology behind the Supply Chain field itself does.

One emerging technology that’s been getting a lot of hype in the past few years is the self-driving car. In 2011, Google announced that this technology that had been envisioned and imagined for the better part of the 20th century was within its grasp, as a result of increasing sophistication of computer navigation, GPS technology, and camera technology. Apple has pledged to jump into the game, targeting 2019 as its shipping date for its own self-driving car. Since this technology seems closer than ever, analysts have picked up speculation about the implications of driverless cars in terms of their impact on automotive safety, liability, as well as on the job prospects for the massive workforce of truck drivers (which consists of 3.5 million individuals in the U.S. alone).

Which has led us to wonder: what will be the impact of driverless cars and trucks on the Logistics field in general? It’s speculated that this technology might lower the demand for truck drivers – but for logistics planners and service providers (3PLs), are there opportunities for Supply Chain efficiency and strategic advantages?

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El Niño May Have Your Supply Chain Partying Like It’s 1997


El Niño phenomenonIt’s not often that a weather phenomenon becomes part of the pop culture zeitgeist. But that’s exactly what happened in the late 1990s, when El Niño became a household name—and even a character played by Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live.

El Niño is a blanket term for the effects of an unusual warming of water in the Pacific Ocean that occurs once or twice a decade. A massive El Niño occurred in 1997-1998, unleashing record rains in California, deadly tornados in Florida, and a brutal drought in Indonesia, thus landing the term firmly on the radar (no pun intended) of millions of people around the globe.

With its whimsical name, El Niño became a punchline—the cause of anything and everything that might be going wrong (hence that Chris Farley sketch on SNL). But El Niño was no joke then. And it still isn’t, despite the headline of this post. That liberal paraphrasing of a classic Prince song refers to particularly strong El Niño conditions predicted by the National Weather Service for winter 2015-2016—the likes of which haven’t been seen since 1998.

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Where Are All the Women? Gender Gap in Manufacturing

  • by Alexa Cheater
  • Published

women in manufacturing jobTake a look around. How many women are currently working at your company? A recent report by the APICS Supply Chain Council shows if you’re in the manufacturing business, probably not very many. Their latest report, Minding the Manufacturing Gender Gap: How manufacturers can get their fair share of talented women, produced in conjunction with the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, explores why manufacturing is struggling when it comes to narrowing the gender gap.

It’s based on a survey of more than 600 female professionals who predominately work in the manufacturing industry, highlighting their personal perspectives on how companies can do a better job of recruiting, retaining and advancing women. With the industry expected to see a worker shortfall topping two million in the next decade, the gender gap has finally become a critical issue for many.

Women currently represent nearly half of the total U.S. labor pool (and are expected to overtake men any day now), but when it comes to manufacturing, they make up less than a third of the workforce. So what exactly is going on?

“Make way for women not because it’s good manners… do it because it’s good business and could help drive improvements to the bottom line.”

Taken from the report, the above quote isn’t just a nice saying—it’s fact. The report notes hiring more women leads to improved public perception, strengthened corporate social responsibility reputation, and investor perception – all of which can help a company meet and exceed shareholder expectations. What’s more, companies with a higher number of women on the board or in top management positions frequently experience better financial performance, including higher returns on equity, higher valuations, and higher payout ratios.

Other benefits of hiring women outlined include increased innovation, improved engagement levels, and enhanced team performance and collective intelligence. Since there’s obviously no good reason for manufacturing not to want to see an increase in women in the workforce, the real question is, what needs to happen to make that a reality?

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Technology and the Supply Chain: What Does the Future Hold?

  • by Alexa Cheater
  • Published

A robot as a depiction of future technologyMeet the Jetsons! Like any well-rounded child of the 80s, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. Admittedly the futuristic family sitcom The Jetsons, which actually first aired in the 60s, wasn’t top of my list like He-Man or Captain Planet, but there was something fascinating about the whimsical and almost unimaginable gadgets and gizmos they featured. Smartwatches, drones, jetpacks, robot housekeepers, a food replicator and even a flying car that could transform into a briefcase.

Decades later and a sizable amount of that technology has hit the mainstream market (can anyone say Apple Watch?) with others about to break through. So what does my nostalgic look back at my childhood have to do with the future of supply chains? Apparently everything.

A recent report, ‘Technological Tipping Points’ by the World Economic Forum (WEF), takes a look into a crystal ball, examining the timing and impact of 21 ‘tipping points,’ which they describe as “moments when a specific technological shift hits mainstream society.” A staggering number of those points are things straight out of the futuristic cartoons and early sci-fi series I loved growing up.

Wearable devices, 3D printing, implantable technology, connected homes, automated workforces, driverless cars and smart cities are all on the list. And all of them, once they reach critical mass in the marketplace, will have a staggering impact on the future of supply chain.

The WEF report focuses on five shifts that will directly influence supply chain. Let’s take a look at each, starting with the notion of a more prominent share economy.

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Is Your Supply Chain a Growth Engine?

  • by Alexa Cheater
  • Published

We recently had the chance to sit down with Gary Hanifan, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, to discuss all things supply chain. And one of the biggest topics coming out of that discussion was how you can determine if your supply chain is a growth engine.

One big red flag it might not be? Your supply chain is still linear. According to Hanifan, networks are the wave of the future. Companies need to be heading in a direction that allows for the concept of a digital supply chain network, with an emphasis on growth and efficiency.

On the road to achieving that requires a few stops along the way. Hanifan says the first is ensuring you have end-to-end visibility. Stop two requires moving from a reactive supply chain to a proactive one. Once you’ve accomplished those two things, you can get the network aspect going – meaning you end up with visibility not only into your supplier’s network, but their suppliers’ networks as well.

But in order for your supply chain to really become a growth engine, one more thing is needed. Speed. Hanifan says speed is the currency of the future. To him that means realizing ways to take advantage of finite opportunities in the marketplace, including introducing a new product or growing a service.

Hanifan does caution against just slapping on a so-called ‘digital band aid.’ That is, overlaying digital processes on top of traditional practices without leveraging the new digital technology fully. It’s a pitfall he’s seen hinder supply chain growth at many companies.

Want to hear more of what Hanifan has to say about supply chain growth? Check out the complete interview.

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Top Four Most Vital S&OP Technology Capabilities

  • by Lori Smith
  • Published

Abstract Image of Business People's Silhouettes in a MeetingIn a previous post, I discussed the sometimes surprising technology choices some organizations are making to manage their S&OP process. Now I’d like to take a look at the Top 4 technology capabilities you need in order to achieve a successful sales and operations planning process:

#1: A single application with deep data

We know that successful S&OP must be fed by solid and complete information from across the extended supply chain and supported by robust advanced planning analytics. Only when you have that all in one place can you achieve broad and deep visibility, fast and accurate analysis, and effective and continuous alignment.

From one system, you should be able to:

  • Integrate data from every division, location, department, product family, legacy system, and supply chain partner
  • Administer both demand and supply planning
  • Centralize, track, and test assumptions of the plan
  • View data at multiple hierarchies at any time to support the specific analysis you need to do
  • Make changes at the volume level that will automatically ripple down to the mix level, and vice versa
  • Translate between units, dollars, and other units of measure
  • Evaluate different scenarios simultaneously, and against multiple operational and financial metrics

Managing S&OP from a single application enables companies to better balance tradeoffs and most effectively align volume and mix, as well as Operations and Finance.

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Four Keys to S&OP Effectiveness (continued)

  • by Lori Smith
  • Published

Buiness person reviews S&OP documentsIn my previous blog post, I compared a pilot flying from New York to LA at night without any modern navigation systems or instruments, to supply chain teams trying to effectively manage their organizations without a proper S&OP process. Obviously, the likelihood of either arriving at their intended destination in an effective and timely manner is quite slim.

Successful sales and operations planning provides a navigation system to help determine where you are going, where you have been, when you are off course, and how to get back on course. To be effective, S&OP must:

  • Bring together demand and supply planning (often referred to as East-West integration)
  • Bring together Finance and Operations (North-South integration).
  • Tie volume and mix plans together
  • Facilitate S&OP on-demand, not only on-schedule

I covered the first two bullets in my last post, so let’s discuss the other two here.


Key #3 Tying together volume and mix plans

One of the stumbling blocks of traditional S&OP is that volume-only plans often end up being infeasible when disaggregated to the mix level. The challenge is to translate the aggregate, volume-level plans to a SKU or mix-level operational plan and then test the feasibility of the plans before committing to them. Otherwise, the S&OP plan will lose credibility within the organization.

The second challenge is to keep the plan feasible.

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