Industry 4.0 and Visibility: flexis’ Shay Sidner On Enhancing Your Supply Chain

Posted by Nick Ostdick on Oct 26, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Shay Sidner helps us understand Industry 4.0 and agility in today's global supply chain. Today’s blog entry features thoughts and insights on the connected nature of Industry 4.0 and increased supply chain visibility and agility from Shay Sidner, flexis North America, Inc’s Director of Operations (pictured middle). As a respected thought-leader in the supply chain industry with more than 10 years experience in supply chain software and optimization, here Shay speaks in her own words about how Industry 4.0 connects to visibility and how this development in planning and production programs is the engine which drives modern manufacturing processes.

Sidner on successfully embracing and deploying Industry 4.0

A successful implementation or adoption of Industry 4.0 depends on a number of critical variables all designed in conjunction with lean manufacturing and supply principles to eliminate waste and/or underused resources across the entire supply chain.  There are numerous elements and variables to consider such as the availability and transparency of critical information and data; the interoperability of people, systems, and machines to communicate and coordinate production; automation of collecting information, teaching, and making timely or automated decisions.  It is critical to have visibility to and understand all variables and how they effect and influence the decisions being made for both current and future situations.  With such knowledge and collaboration across the entire process, Industry 4.0 cannot only help manufacturers become more agile and responsive, but also it can help drive down costs and increase ROI.  

On how manufacturing companies can foster greater agility and responsiveness

First, just to clarify, as I am asked frequently, when we discuss the entire supply chain or end-to-end, this refers to all respective areas for selling, ordering, producing, and delivering products. This includes areas such as sales planning, capacity planning, and capacity management (S&OP) in the long- to mid-term; and in the shorter-term scheduling / sequencing, supply ordering (APS) and transportation planning, supply monitoring; execution and outbound shipping.

With that clarified, as we just discussed, understanding the value and importance of adopting Industry 4.0 certainly goes a long way toward achieving such goals.  However, manufacturing companies must also look toward how they gather, analyze, and distribute data as a key driver of agility and responsiveness. In today’s global manufacturing and supply network, the focus is the collection of data, understanding the data through analytics, and utilizing the data.  Understanding all aspects of how your supply chain operates is critical in determining how to best integrated new solutions and strategies to increase your efficiency and transparency. This is where concepts like advanced analytics and Big Data play a large role in helping manufacturers understand the functionality of their value streams.  

With that said, I would also stress the importance of understanding and incorporating the findings that were discovered through the collection of data and analytics for not only a single area, but across the entire supply chain.  Information is valuable when it is used or applied to alter the direction or decisions made considering all impacted areas.  

This is the area I find most interesting and the area in which one can achieve the greatest benefits. The achievement of integration between both planning and the execution processes are an important part of creating agility and responsiveness.  The notion of planning and production being two disparate parts of the entire manufacturing scheme is a thought of the past. It has become more apparent that end-to-end supply chain visibility and planning is the direction of today and of the future.  Companies must work to integrate all areas and key processes if they want to break down cross-functional silos; increase communication and coordination between planning and production; and ultimately, to make more informed decisions about how to create and move products with the greatest amount of efficiency. Today’s technological advances enable an entire organization to process and analyze the complete supply chain quickly in order to collaborate and make very informed decisions without any delays.

One of the more challenging yet least understood aspects of supply chain digitization

Communication and collaboration. Maintaining these two functionalities. Digitizing the supply chain is a critical move toward eliminating communication silos across an organization. This means major players within the supply stream will have a greater capacity to share data, collaborate on important initiatives, and work in conjunction to ensure smooth workflows that are free of bottlenecks, disruptions, or breakdowns.  Because a digitized supply chain is based in part on a central hub of data storage with multiple access points, the days when those within the supply stream had to wait days or weeks to review data sets and communicate the results are in the past. Those within the supply stream need to access data and communicate its importance in real-time, which is a core driver of end-to-end (E2E) visibility.

We want to thank Shay for taking a few moments to discuss this very critical aspect of global supply chain management, and for her creating a space for this conversation in her own words in a language planners and managers can appreciate and engage in.

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Topics: Industry 4.0, Automotive Industry, Lean Manufacturing