John Burgess, Project Delivery Director at supply chain solutions suppliers Balloon One, has been in the industry for over 16 years. Here, he shares his insight into Supply Chain 4.0 and its impact on manufacturing.
The UK manufacturing industry has been suffering from severely low output, according to national statistics (ons.gov.uk). This could be owed in part to various government failures and Brexit uncertainty, and it can be difficult to have any control over the impact of external issues like these. But working against these obstacles is new software, technology, and other innovations contributing to Software 4.0, which could be enough to turn it all around.
Below, I’ll be taking you through what Supply Chain 4.0 is and highlighting how it can transform manufacturing for the better.
What is Supply Chain 4.0?
Supply Chain 4.0 is the digitalisation of the supply chain, or how we use new software and technologies to improve our operations. There are two key elements to it:
• Technologies that provide data, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.
• Technologies that provide insight, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
Combined, these technologies can allow stakeholders in the supply chain to receive more information about their operations in an easy to digest way. They can also give you greater (and more precise) control over what to do with that information. Plus, they can increase efficiency and reduce the risk of human error by automating steps in the process.
Supply Chain 4.0 massively improves communication, planning, and management between every stakeholder. Regardless of physical location, everyone can also access and edit the same information in real time, so the chain is fully synchronised. This can have a few different advantages, which I’ll take you through below.
Improved factory efficiency
Smart factory machines and software can provide production capacity information, which makes it easier to spot dips in output that could indicate issues with your machines. This means you can get them fixed or order spare parts promptly and reduce downtime. It also allows you to make more accurate and realistic predications about how much you can produce based on previous performance, among other factors, and some software may even recommend courses of action.
Streamlined warehouse operations
Supply Chain 4.0 can be used to keep track of automated picking, packing, and shipping robotics that are faster and more precise than human warehouse workers. They don’t need breaks and they can handle multiple tasks and batches of data at speed, so they can massively streamline warehouse operations. With the right software you can limit their inefficiency and downtime for repairs. Plus, with capacity planning and shipment fleet tracking software, it’s easy to identify potential problems with your deliveries from suppliers so that manufacturing output isn’t affected.
Increased ability to anticipate consumer demand
AI software can forecast fluctuations in demand by considering variables such as sales, the weather, and events. This information is relayed in real time to stakeholders, who can make the necessary changes quicker and more accurately — often from the same dashboard. Helpfully, simulations produced using this data can also allow you to try multiple solutions to determine the best approach without wasting resources or inconveniencing consumers.
Stronger and more secure consumer relationships
On the consumer side of things, customers have more ways to pay and shipping options than ever before, so their transactions are easier and more efficient. Customers can even view and reroute shipping in real time while their order is on its way, redirecting it to a more convenient location, and the returns process is faster too. This all means that consumer relationships with manufacturers can be made stronger, and manufacturers that offer these kinds of solutions will have an edge over their competitors.
The future state of manufacturing
It’s safe to assume that Supply Chain 4.0 will continue to get faster and more flexible as the software and technology becomes more sophisticated. The next big steps will probably include the rise of autonomous vehicles, which should result in efficient and safer transportation of goods. Amazon is also working on predictive shipping, where the delivery process begins before an order is even placed, to reduce delivery times.
These are just some of the ways that the software and technology being used in Supply Chain 4.0 can streamline communication, transactions, and analysis. Plus, there are plenty more exciting developments to look forward to in the future.
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