It’s the holiday season. You’re planning a big meal for friends and family. You’ve decided on the menu, selected recipes, made a list of ingredients, and identified the tools you need to actually prepare the meal. You’ve made a prep list, blocked off time in your day to actually put the ingredients together and cook. And in completing all these tasks ahead of time, you’ve given yourself enough of a base to finish the meal on-time, within budget, and in the most pleasurable way possible.
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.
For so many companies in today’s digital manufacturing landscape, so much of transport logistics is still shrouded in mystery. Because a majority of manufacturing companies place a greater emphasis on earlier stages of the production cycle (planning, procurement, inventory management, and job allocation), little attention is often paid to successfully administering a transport management system or structure that effectively helps companies reduce transport costs and optimize transit processes.
This lack of visibility, as with almost every other aspect of global supply chain management, allows for misinformation or inaccurate understandings of just how and why an integrated transport logistics strategy is a critical value proposition for today’s manufacturing companies. Moving finished products from the production floor to the customer’s front door on-schedule and in good order is part and parcel of what effective production programs are all about, and transport logistics are a key driver in helping manufacturing companies achieve this ever-important goal.
If our goal on the flexis AG blog to educate our readers about the pressing issues in global manufacturing and supply chain management, then today’s entry is right on par with that mission. Transport logistics, though a critical element to a manufacturing supply chain management strategy, is perhaps one of the least discussed aspects of SCM. While an underutilized element of administering a successful value chain, transport logistics (or the manner in which companies move finished products from the production room floor to the customer’s door) is the last crucial link in fulfilling customer expectations and ensuring production programs are executed to their fullest extent.
It’s somewhat difficult to understand why transport logistics often gets lost in the fray of global supply chain management. Perhaps it’s because more emphasis is placed on operations at earlier stages in the value chain such as planning and procurement. Or perhaps it’s because the facilitating of effective production programs is often at the forefront of the minds of planners and managers. Either way, transport logistics, though often neglected, can either be a significant boon or detriment to how effective a manufacturing company conducts itself.
One of the greatest challenges manufacturing companies face in today’s global, competitive landscape is generating and sustaining growth of revenue. Because the manufacturing industry is variant-rich and often reliant on complex partner networks spread across the globe, manufacturing companies often operate in a ‘lean and mean’ context where profits can be fairly small and margins for error in terms of investment and return are razor thin. As a result, companies must deploy a number of concepts, platforms, and campaigns to help bolster revenue, optimize processes, and eliminate instances of waste or redundancy.
There’s one thing that pops to mind when you ask people about artificial intelligence in the manufacturing industry, particularly in the automotive landscape: Autonomous or driver-assisted cars. And the future of driverless vehicles may in fact arrive sooner than many people think, there’s actually more concrete contexts for artificial intelligence (AI) in today’s manufacturing sphere. AI has the potential to impact the automotive manufacturing supply chain in equally profound and interesting ways beyond the idea of the driverless car. In fact, AI has the potential to be a truly disruptive force in the way automotive manufacturing companies produce vehicles and how the consumer interacts with the end product.
With AI as an increasingly common technology platform, the manufacturing industry — automotive sector in particular — is set to experience significant changes in the coming years in terms of production and supply chain management. As vehicles become more integrated, individualized, and complex, manufacturing companies will have to leverage more lean methods of production and supply chain logistics to keep pace with the demands of such a variant-rich industry.
Today’s blog entry features a fascinating conversation with flexis AG Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics Robert Recknagel. As a thought-leader in the supply chain landscape with more than 10 years of experience in operational supply chain management, software concepts and optimization design, Recknagel provided us a glimpse into the key conversations, discussions, and concerns manufacturing companies are addressing in today’s global manufacturing landscape. Recknagel’s work with flexis has largely focussed on helping companies administer their supply networks as efficiently and productivity as possible, which uniquely positions him to shed light on the challenges and opportunities today’s manufacturers see each and every day.
Nick Ostdick: There’s a lot of information in today’s supply chain about Industry 4.0. Can you clarify a little bit about what Industry 4.0 means for the manufacturing supply chain and how companies should be looking to implement this technology platform?
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.
Consider this question: Is simply doing enough actually enough? Should the status quo be an appropriate goal? Or, in the sphere of today’s global manufacturing pipeline, is merely administering an adequate supply stream sufficient enough to compete in a complex, variant-rich marketplace? In each of these questions, the answer is no, and manufacturing companies are quickly realizing their supply streams have to do more than simply move products from the production floor to the customer’s door. Instead, supply logistics have to be drivers of growth at each touch point of a company’s value chain.
A 2014 survey released by professional services group Deloitte showed 79 percent of companies with high-performing supply chains achieved revenue growth greater than other companies within their same industry. If nothing else, this clearly illustrates the connection between a well-structured, highly-functioning supply chain and business growth and profitability.