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The importance of having a resilient supply chain cannot be overstated. In today’s world, supply chains play a crucial role, but disruptions can have negative consequences for manufacturers and their ability to provide customers with satisfying product experiences. While some companies have managed to deal with these challenges, the global health crisis that emerged in 2020 caught everyone off guard and drastically changed established business practices.
In this article, we will explore how smart manufacturing can help businesses mitigate risks and respond to disruptions in real-time. Having worked with a number of both SMEs and large manufacturing businesses, we will also share some key first steps in building a resilient supply chain using smart manufacturing technology.
What is Smart Manufacturing?
Smart manufacturing refers to the use of real-time data to enhance manufacturing processes, increase equipment utilization, and enable flexible responses within manufacturing systems. This is achieved through the integration of production equipment with data collection, analytics platforms, and other new technologies such as computer controls, robotics, and edge computing. The concept of smart manufacturing has been around for some time but advances in technology have made it a reality. The data generated by cyber-physical systems is used to improve manufacturing operations, address supply chain challenges, and develop predictive maintenance programs. Smart manufacturing can also provide valuable data analytics to enhance enterprise resource planning software. The emergence of smart technology in manufacturing is revolutionizing business processes, enabling leaner data-driven companies to reap significant benefits.
The building blocks of a resilient supply chain
Supply chain organizations continue to consider technology a crucial aspect of their strategy. According to a recent survey conducted by Gartner, 61% of the respondents view technology as a means of gaining a competitive edge. Additionally, a significant number of participants recognize various emerging technologies as crucial investment areas, with 20% of them investing in robotics.
Building a resilient supply chain involves implementing a range of strategies and smart manufacturing technologies to help companies prepare for, respond to, and recover from unexpected disruptions. Here are some key building tech blocks of a resilient supply chain.
Real-time visibility in manufacturing is particularly valuable for manufacturers because it enables them to respond quickly to any disruptions or changes in demand. This means that they can see what is happening at any given moment and respond quickly to any issues or changes. Smart manufacturing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) are making real-time visibility possible. AI can be used to automate decision-making based on the data collected by IoT sensors and analyzed by data analytics tools. For example, it can help automatically reorder supplies when inventory levels get low or to optimize production schedules based on demand forecasts.
Predictive maintenance is a technique used in manufacturing to monitor equipment and predict when maintenance is needed before a breakdown occurs. This approach involves collecting data from sensors and other sources, then using analytics and machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and anomalies that indicate a potential issue.
By predicting when maintenance is needed, manufacturers can avoid unexpected downtime and disruptions to production schedules. This can help reduce costs associated with unscheduled repairs and lost productivity, as well as improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and increase uptime.
Demand forecasting is a critical component of supply chain management, and is essential for businesses looking to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing marketplace. It involves analyzing historical data, current trends, and external factors such as economic conditions, competition, and changes in consumer behavior to estimate the expected demand for a product or service over a certain period of time.
AI in Manufacturing: Reshaping the future
Data analytics and AI are increasingly being used by manufacturers to improve demand forecasting accuracy. These technologies enable businesses to collect and analyze large amounts of data in real-time, and identify patterns and trends that can help them make informed decisions about production levels, inventory management, and pricing strategies.
By accurately forecasting demand, manufacturers can optimize their production schedules, reduce inventory costs, and improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that products are available when and where they are needed. This can also help businesses to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and maximize profits.
Automation is an important trend in modern manufacturing and is likely to continue to grow in importance as technology advances. Automation can involve a wide range of technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, robots can be used to perform tasks such as welding, assembly, and painting in a manufacturing plant. AI can be used to optimize production schedules and minimize waste. IoT can be used to monitor and control machines and equipment remotely.
Supply chain optimization
Smart manufacturing technologies can play a critical role in supply chain optimization by providing real-time data and analytics that enable manufacturers to make informed decisions about production, inventory, and logistics.
One area where smart manufacturing can be particularly useful for supply chain optimization is in transportation management. By leveraging IoT sensors, GPS, and data analytics, manufacturers can track shipments in real-time, monitor traffic patterns, and identify the most efficient routes for shipping. This helps to reduce transportation costs, minimize delivery times, and improve overall supply chain performance. For example, smart manufacturing technologies can help manufacturers to optimize their transportation routes by analyzing data on traffic patterns, weather conditions, and delivery times. This data can be used to identify the most efficient routes for shipping, which can help to reduce transportation costs and improve delivery times.
Collaborative planning is a supply chain management strategy that involves all stakeholders, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, working together to create a unified plan that meets customer demand. Collaborative planning aims to optimize the entire supply chain, from raw materials procurement to final delivery to the customer, by sharing information and coordinating activities. In a collaborative planning process, each stakeholder in the supply chain shares their data, such as production capacities, inventory levels, and demand forecasts. This data is then analyzed to create a single, unified plan that considers the entire supply chain, from sourcing to delivery. To synchronize all these processes, it is essential to build tailored enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that integrates all aspects of a business, including supply chain management, into a single platform.
Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical objects, systems, and processes that can be used to simulate and analyze their behavior in real-time. In the context of manufacturing, a digital twin can be created for a production process, a piece of equipment, or an entire factory. By creating a digital twin, manufacturers can simulate different scenarios, test new ideas, and optimize their processes without disrupting their actual operations. A digital twin can be built using a number of technologies, including cloud computing, IoT, AI and Augmented Reality (AR). For example, AR can be used to visualize the digital twin and interact with it in real-time. This can enable remote monitoring, training, and troubleshooting.
6 Key Steps for implementing smart manufacturing
In today’s interconnected global economy, building a resilient supply chain is essential for any business to survive and thrive. With the rise of smart manufacturing, companies can leverage cutting-edge technologies to streamline their operations and increase their supply chain resilience. However, this process is not as simple as just implementing new technologies. Therefore, we will explore some key steps that businesses can take to build a resilient supply chain using smart manufacturing. These steps will help companies stay ahead of disruptions, improve their agility, and ultimately ensure their long-term success in the competitive marketplace.
1. Align technologies with your business needs
To identify the technologies that align with your business goals and needs, start by understanding the specific challenges and pain points you are trying to address. Then, research the different smart manufacturing technologies available and assess which ones can best address these challenges. This can involve working with vendors, attending industry events and conferences, and consulting with experts in the field.
2. Assess your current infrastructure
Assessing your current infrastructure involves evaluating your hardware, software, and network infrastructure to ensure it can support the implementation of smart manufacturing technologies. You may need to upgrade your hardware to support automation, IoT sensors, or other technologies. Similarly, you may need to invest in new software platforms that can support data analytics or AI. Finally, you may need to improve your network infrastructure to support the increased data traffic generated by these technologies.
3. Put your team needs first
It is important to ensure that smart manufacturing initiatives improve and enhance how people do their jobs. This involves blending stakeholders across different areas such as IT, OT, ET, and supply chain. The convergence and alignment of these stakeholders are critical, emphasizing culture, decision making, and governance ahead of technology. By focusing on these aspects, you can create a cohesive team that works together to achieve your goals.
It’s also important to provide training and support to employees during the implementation process. This can help alleviate concerns or apprehension about new technologies and ensure that everyone is equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively with these technologies.
4. Develop a roadmap
Developing a roadmap for implementing smart manufacturing technologies involves creating a detailed plan that outlines the steps required to implement these technologies successfully. This can include timelines for each technology implementation, milestones for achieving specific goals, and budgets for each stage of the implementation process. A well-developed roadmap will help you stay on track and ensure that you are achieving your goals on time and within budget.
Digital Transformation Roadmap for Manufacturing
5. Add new skills to your existing team
Implementing smart manufacturing technologies is a complex process that requires new skills and capabilities. Therefore, if you don’t have it in-house, you may need to source the right talent. This can involve hiring new employees with the necessary skills and expertise or partnering with outside consultants or vendors who specialize in smart manufacturing technologies. Having the right team in place will help ensure that you can implement these technologies effectively and achieve your goals.
6. Monitor and continue to optimize
Monitoring and optimizing the implementation of smart manufacturing technologies involves tracking key metrics to ensure you are achieving your goals and making adjustments as needed. This can involve collecting data on productivity, efficiency, quality, and other performance indicators. Regularly reviewing this data can help you identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to your processes and technologies to maximize their benefits. Additionally, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication with your employees to gather feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Each of these actions can be easily taken with a technology partner like Accedia. We can combine the right technology skills and industry know-how to help you build a resilient supply chain.
The Future of Smart Manufacturing
The prevailing supply chain management trends can serve as effective instruments to fortify your supply chain and increase its agility and resilience. Incorporating technology is crucial for future supply chain success, which is why many businesses are digitizing their operations.
The existing economic downturn continues to impact the supply chain, even after some respite from COVID-19’s effects. There is now an excess of inventory compared to consumer demand, which threatens freight demand. Supply chain management specialists refer to this as the ‘bullwhip effect,’ where manufacturers and retailers have more stock than they can sell.
However, supply chain management specialists predict that the supply chain will eventually recover, albeit at a slower-than-desired pace. If the pandemic and global recession have taught us anything, it is that sustainability and intelligent sourcing are essential factors that we must incorporate into our supply chains.
If you are looking for a technology company to help you implement smart manufacturing and build resilient supply chain, you’ve come to the right place. Discover how Accedia can help you solve your challenges and further benefit from ready-to-use AI models!