If you had walked onto a factory floor during the second or third industrial revolution, it would have been immediately obvious what was so modern about what you were witnessing. You would have seen raw parts being turned into complex products on a moving assembly line, or newly automated processes making use of modern industrial machinery and early computer networks. In the world of Industry 4.0, the so-called “fourth industrial revolution,” the differences in appearance might be more subtle. You might still see a mix of manual labor and automated, computerized systems carrying out various production tasks, while many of important innovation brought about by Industry 4.0 might remain invisible to you. You might even be prompted to ask, “what’s so modern about modern manufacturing?”
Administering an integrated supply chain in today’s manufacturing industry is a tricky proposition. No matter how carefully and thoroughly planners and managers work to reduce volatility and uncertainty in any number of variant-rich industries, the complexity of a global manufacturing and supply stream means companies must work harder than ever to ensure their value streams are responsive enough to weather potential breakdowns, disruptions, shortages, and other obstacles in facilitating effective supply chain management.
Think about the process of writing an email for a moment. How do you go about this task? Do you compose the email in one session without filtering what you want to say or the information you want to convey, only then to go back and reread and edit the email at some later date? Or (and perhaps mostly likely, at least for many people), do you compose the email and edit as you go, deleting phrases, substituting words, or changing ideas and adapting the information in the moment as necessary for the best possible communication?
Odds are the most common method of emailing is the latter where edits and alterations are made in real-time as thoughts, ideas, and information hits you during the composing process. Where the first example may be a relic of the past when typewriters or handwritten correspondence was the norm, digital communication and the capacity to edit, rewrite, and revise in the moment means greater maneuverability in creating moments for effective, streamlined, and more productive communication. Where writing and editing/revising were at one time two distinct processes, today these functions are more or less integrated into one function with a greater level of process efficacy.
For all the bluster about the latest and greatest technological advancements and developments in today’s global supply chain management, it’s important to remember what the true essence of supply chain logistics revolves around: putting the right product in front of the right people at the right time. It may sound simplistic, but as global partner networks continue to expand and already variant-rich industries continue to diversify, it becomes increasingly difficult to execute a very basic premise.
Achieving end-to-end visibility (E2E) in today’s automotive supply chain is like creating the perfect play in an American football game. The right players have to be on the field at the right time and used in the right manner in order to move the ball down the field and give the team the best chance to score a touchdown. Players move strategically about the field, anticipating how the opposing team will react, and responding to those reactions in ways that allow for the best chance of putting points on the scoreboard. Coaches write the plays, players execute them, and the success of each play is then reviewed by both parties to create future successes.
For OEMs and supply chain planners and managers, E2E visibility is the game and the solutions and platforms available to them are the players. Deploying these solutions, platforms, or strategies is analogous to coaches creating and executing plays, and getting a score is similar to an OEM experiencing enhanced productivity, growth, and customer satisfaction due to the reliability of production programs and delivery.
To understand the importance of a balancing solution in supply chain management, think about the knobs and dials on the average stereo system. Treble. Bass. Mid. Fade. These elements, when adjusted and mixed properly, provide the best possible sound quality optimized to the kind of music being played and based on the listener’s desires. The harmony of these different audio components is what makes or breaks how good or bad a piece of music sounds, which can seriously impact how the listener feels about the music - if they’ll be likely to play the music again, recommend it to someone else, and so on.
An optimized balancing solution is very similar in that it accounts for a number of variables, restrictions, and constraints in assigning customers orders to specified production programs with the right part levels and resources to ensure on-time delivery. Much like how the right mix of audio elements creates a harmonious sound on your stereo, balancing solutions foster a harmonious workflow wherein production, logistics, and sales factors work in conjunction to create a well-balanced production program with stabilized parts demand and an even distribution of manpower in assembly and production.
Back at the beginning of the year, we discussed the most likely trends for 2016 in the automotive supply chain industry and how these developments would shape the landscape of production and supply for the next 12 months and beyond. Now, as we’ve passed the halfway point of 2016, we thought it would be interesting to revisit our predictions and review which ones have come to fruition and how these trends have impacted day-to-day operations in the manufacturing and supply stream.
Like we discussed in that initial blog entry, each new year brings fresh opportunities and obstacles for supply chain planners and managers in maximizing efficiency, containing costs, and maintaining steady growth. But as we’ve seen in the first half of 2016 alone with the passage of the TPP, the Brexit movement, increased manufacturing presences in Mexico, and other geopolitical and economic developments, the production and supply playing field can vary from month to month or even week to week.
Ever listen to a great orchestra or symphony perform a classic piece of music? If so, then you’ll know how crucial the balance and delicate interplay between each instrument is in creating a harmonious sound that achieves a certain artistic goal or elicits a desired emotional response.
Each part must be played with precision and an uncanny sense of timing, and the musicians must know the piece of music like the back of their hand in order to add complexity and depth to the overall piece of music rather than subtract.
Just like a great symphony, much of the precision, accuracy, efficiency, and insight is true for the automotive manufacturing and supply landscape in an effort to create end-to-end (E2E) visibility across a company’s entire value chain. Such visibility is critical in cutting through the complexity of today’s global supply network and leveraging best practices to ensure the right products arrive at the right place at the right time in the right quantities. Obviously, this is not only crucial to keep up with demand and planned production schedules, but it’s also integral in reducing waste, increasing efficiency, and enhancing communication and collaboration at each touch point in the supply chain.