Posts categorized as 'Supply chain management'

Is Hyperloop the Next Great Supply Chain Technology?

MelissaClow
  • by Melissa Clow
  • Published

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management.

hyperloopcargoWe’re always trying to stay on top of Supply Chain developments at Argentus. And this sometimes takes us into looking at the emerging technologies that are poised to have a significant impact on the function. We’ve talked about 3D printing, self-driving cars, automation and other 21st-century developments that could transform the way that products are brought to market – as well as the job descriptions and career paths of the Supply Chain professionals who manage that process.

Discussions of emerging technologies in the Supply Chain might be a bit far afield from the world of talent that we deal with as a recruitment firm, but they’re not as far away as you might think: the last decade’s emerging technologies (eCommerce and big data analytics) have already completely upended the skillset required by Supply Chain professionals, and changed the function from a talent standpoint into something very different than it used to be. So it doesn’t hurt to see what’s on the horizon.

Enter Hyperloop.

Hyperloop is a theoretical transportation technology, a long-awaited “fifth avenue” of transportation that uses vacuum tubes and linear induction motors to shuttle pressurized air capsules along a track, using a lack of friction to achieve speeds as high as 700 mph (approx. 1126km / h). The proposed first route between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cut travel times from 4 hours to 35 minutes. The idea sounds straight out of science fiction – like many of the other large-scale projects proposed and championed by its inventor, Elon Musk. But last week, Hyperloop had its first prototype test on an open track – and the test was successful – taking the idea from the realm of science fiction into actual possibility.

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The internet of (supply chain) things

JohnWesterveld

IOT Supply ChainLightbulbs that change colors from a command on your phone and turn on when you enter the room, thermostats that can figure out when you are in the house and adjust accordingly, refrigerators that e-mail you when you are out of milk, garage doors that let you know when they are open, doors that can be unlocked from your phone even when you are across the country, cars that drive themselves, tags you can put on your keys so you will never lose them again. These are all examples of the internet of things. Some of these examples are fluff and likely won’t pan out, others may be real game changers.

Being a bit of a techie nerd, I’ve been following the Internet of Things (IoT) evolution on the consumer device market for a while, but I honestly haven’t given much thought to how the IoT will impact supply chain. This morning, I happened upon a video presentation from MPI and Rockwell Automation titled A deeper dive into the industrial internet of things on the Industry Week website. The video was a report out and analysis of a survey that MPI had done on Internet of Things in the supply chain. There were lots of interesting facts and figures in the report, but one fact that stood out to me was this.

In a 2014 study, 46% of manufacturing executives didn’t know what the internet of things was. A logical extension of this is that they also wouldn’t know how IoT could impact the supply chain. Maybe it’s time to understand how IoT will interact with and ultimately change the Supply Chain.

So what is the Internet of things? The source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, describes the Internet of things as:

“…the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data”

For consumer devices, we’ve seen examples of this at work for a number of years. More and more devices are getting internet connections and are either sending or receiving data. But what about supply chain?

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Supply Chain Is at Its Best When You Can’t See It

JonathanMatthews

supply chain sightPlaying hockey the other night, there was a particularly boisterous individual on my bench. One of my teammates made the comment that essentially boiled down to, “they should be seen and not heard,” which started me thinking, strangely enough, about supply chain. When a supply chain is working at its best, the general population doesn’t see it and often has no concept of the complexities behind it. They’ll walk into the local department store, fill their carts with paper towel, clothes and cookies never taking a moment to ponder the supply logistics required to get those products into their cart.

They’ll of course see the transport trucks rolling down the road as they pass by, knowing their trailers are full of cargo, but they’ll never bother to think about how that order is triggered, the decisions involved with how much quantity to order, or the complexities (such as expiry dates) of getting that order to their local store. To our local consumer, supply chain is simply out of sight and out of mind; for all intents and purposes, it is invisible.

This is, of course, all thanks to supply chain managers working diligently to keep supply chain issues out of the news, but despite their best efforts, supply chain problems do happen. And unfortunately, when they do, it is spread throughout water cooler conversations, and if it is big enough, it’s on the news. For example, to look at an issue so painfully familiar with most, the absolute chaos of December Christmas shopping. Postal services get absolutely assaulted with packages, taxing them to the limit.

Moving a package from point A to B is simple enough… compared to other supply chain companies, such as a pharma company that needs to accurately forecast demand for a new drug which can be extremely expensive, manufacturing the product, and in some cases, worrying about expiration.

The Christmas rush, however, brings the supply chain process to the front of every consumer’s mind. Supply chain problems will be front and center of conversations with news media covering the whole spectacle. Delays here, even by a day, could mean a missed present on Christmas, which, to that 3-year old, means Christmas is ruined for the year.

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Leveraging Technology to Enable People

AlexaCheater

TechnologyPeople are the heart of your company and one of your company’s most valuable assets. That’s why practically every company strives to provide great compensation, benefits, offer new age work spaces, and cultivate engaging and fun cultures. All of this is needed just to keep up in the supply chain talent war. But one other key factor I’ve heard in talking with customers is providing the right tools for the job.

Give a quality tool to the right worker and they’ll create a masterpiece. It can be both that simple and that complex. Finding that tool, which in supply chain means technology, can be a daunting task. Balancing operating costs, and customer service metrics is no easy feat. But with the right supply chain technology, you can deliver breakthrough results. Processes that took days or even weeks can be effectively and efficiently accomplished in hours or minutes. Imagine higher customer satisfaction at lower costs. It’s about finding the best way to connect data, processes and people.

So how can you leverage supply chain technology to enable your team to achieve success? By ensuring whatever solution you deploy has a key set of capabilities designed to make it easier for you to work smarter, not harder.

Sense and Respond

Today’s supply chains are global, complex, and constantly shifting. Forecasts are often wrong. Knowing sooner when an event occurs, and the risks associated with any potential fallout, means less chaos. You and your team will be able to respond faster to change if you can rapidly make informed risk decisions based on scenario analysis and collaboration—two key features that should be requirements when evaluating any supply chain software solution.

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt 9: Thorough Down to the Last Detail

JonathanLofton

Design for the Supply Chain Can you believe we’re rapidly approaching the end of this series (Design for the Supply Chain) already!?! This week we’re talking about the meticulousness of the supply chain management solution.

Principle #8: Good design “Is thorough down to the last detail”

“Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

My first reaction to this was to say something about Apple and Steve Jobs (A Story About Steve Jobs And Attention To Detail), but I figured you’ve probably already heard those stories before. So I started reflecting instead on how best to pay attention to detail. “Nothing left to chance” means to me there’s a clear checklist of things that are carefully considered when establishing (or refining) the supply chain. This checklist would ensure the attention to detail goes beyond the vision of a single individual, or even trusting in corporate culture—both inevitably change over time. It would be systemic, a part of the structure of the company, and wouldn’t change without a conscience decision and a serious amount of thought.

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Move over old man. It’s time to meet supply chain planning 4.0

TrevorMiles
  • by Trevor Miles
  • Published

What I took away from the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference

Supply Chain Management is a relatively young practice, though many of the core principles go back many decades and are based on Operations Research concepts. These have focused on optimization and efficiency. Undoubtedly the world is a better place because of this focus on manufacturing and distribution efficiency over the past 50 years, resulting in large gains in productivity and therefore standards of living, initially in the West, but more recently around the world. All of this productivity gain was achieved in the analog phase.

We are now entering the digital phase of business. Even if we discount a great deal of the hype for what it is, hype, the reality is there has been a significant shift to digital. The title of the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, “The Bimodal Supply Chain: Tackling Today, Preparing for Tomorrow”, says it all. It was focused on the manner in which companies can adapt to the digital world while still operating in the analog world. Hence bimodal. As outlined in the diagram below, the bimodal approach advocated by Gartner is about innovating on top of a stable platform. Once the value of the innovation has been captured and stabilized it can be drawn into the stable platform.

Gartner Supply Chain Strategy

“Disrupt or Be Disrupted — Defining the Bimodal Supply Chain”, 30 December, 2015 Analyst(s): Dana Stiffler | Jane Barrett | Debra Hofman | John Johnson

The keynote, delivered by David Willis of Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, describes the bimodal shift as:

The shift requires a new approach to investment in technology, leadership and talent, taking a more agile approach. The bimodal supply chain combines stable best practices with innovation-seeking behaviors to keep your organization competitive.

I have no question that Gartner is correct in their assertion of the need for a bimodal approach to the adoption of digital technology, whether more broadly to the business in general or specific to supply chain processes. Industry 4.0 is a reality. The Internet of Things is a reality. The only question is how quickly companies will absorb these innovations and adapt processes to accommodate them.

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Innovate to Survive—Isn’t That Already the New Norm?

AlexaCheater

Innovative Supply ChainInnovate to survive. That’s the key message I took away from this year’s Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference. While that may not be exactly what Gartner had in mind—the official theme was The Bimodal Supply Chain: Tackling Today, Preparing for Tomorrow—it was a running dialogue across all the sessions I sat in on.

Their idea of the bimodal supply chain in essence breaks things down into two ‘modes.’ Mode one focuses on tackling the issues your supply chain is facing today. Mode two is about innovation and growth, and the point was made in a number of sessions that you need to do both if you want to excel. If you’re someone who looks forward to change, who seeks it out because it’s inspiring and exciting, then mode two may seem obvious. You’ve likely already embraced this era where innovation across all facets of life has exploded and become ordinary.

To me, innovation, aka what’s driving mode two of Gartner’s bimodal supply chain model, is already intertwined in our day-to-day lives. Hasn’t it always been to some capacity? Innovation is what has taken us from the birth of the internet to this growing concept of the Internet of Things and now beyond.

We know innovation is important, it’s what moves us forward. History has proven that notion over, and over, and over again. Just look at the advancements in supply chain courtesy of innovation like MRP I, MRP II, and APS. Without them, we likely wouldn’t have been able to keep pace with the widespread globalization that has led to extensive supply chains and an explosion in product portfolios. I do agree strongly with Gartner that while we may all know how critical innovation is, we have to face the reality that actually achieving it is hard. Very hard. And in most cases true innovation isn’t just going to happen on its own. At least not in the type of siloed and conservative organizations that are quite prevalent across supply chains today.

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Is Your Supply Chain the Tortoise or the Hare?

AlexaCheater

Is Your Supply Chain the Tortoise or the Hare?In Aesop’s Fables there is a very famous story about a tortoise and a hare. For those of you unfamiliar with this children’s classic, the moral of it is this—slow and steady wins the race. Except of course, if you work in supply chain.

While turtles and tortoises have many wonderful qualities that should be celebrated as part of World Turtle Day, their characteristically slow pace and unhurried nature can prove detrimental to any business trying to keep up in this digital age, and the rapidly changing consumer demands that go along with it.

Now that’s not to say I’m advocating rushing headlong into anything without some thought. Your supply chain does need to be at least part tortoise in that aspect. There’s value and protection in stability. But if you spend all your time planning, are you really going to be prepared when the course unexpectedly changes direction? If your first thought is to go back to the planning stage to factor in this new variable, you may soon find yourself left in the dust of a much faster paced and agile competitor.

My colleague CJ Wehlage has described speed as the true innovation in supply chain. He talks about the ability to act on change in minutes, bringing your suppliers, distributors, shippers, etc. together and getting everyone on the same page as quickly as possible. Digital technology has enabled your customers to make decisions more rapidly and confidently, making the process that much more efficient and effective. Shouldn’t your supply chain be able to do the same?

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