What Is A ‘Live’ Supply Chain? 6 Traits You Need To Know

Richard Howells

We’ve been hearing a lot about “live” supply chains — digitized operations that run on real-time data. There’s good reason for this.

Improved supply chain performance is a Top 3 priority of manufacturers, says IDC. Digital commerce networks, advanced analytics, and better integration of supply and demand networks can slash supply chain recovery time in half. Digital technology can cut innovation costs by 10% and new-product lead times by 30%. In fact, one-third of today’s manufacturing leaders will be disrupted by digitally enabled competitors by 2018.

But I’m often asked two questions about live supply chains and real-time data. First, what do we mean by “real time”? And second, what makes a supply chain truly “live”?

From connection to prediction

Your data needs to be as real-time as your business demands. But those requirements will vary by function. So a more accurate way to think of real-time data might be as “right-time” data.

Your logistics people managing transportation fleets need data on traffic, weather, and other relevant factors, and they truly need that in real time. Your production planners probably need data at the shift level. Your business planners might only need data in daily or even weekly increments. Keeping “right time” in mind can help guide where you invest in truly real-time data and where longer time frames will be sufficient.

In fact, live supply chains are about more than just data. A truly live supply chain embodies six key traits:

  1. Connected — A live supply chain connects employees, partners, customers, equipment, and IoT sensors. Those connections don’t just run in two directions, but across a multi-direction matrix.
  1. Collaborative — Not merely connected, a live supply chain must allow collaboration across networks of networks. That includes business networks like the Ariba Network, personal networks like social media, and asset networks like IoT enabled devices.
  1. Automated — A live supply chain is increasingly automated, leveraging machine learning and transformative technologies such as robotics (hardware), robotic process automation (software), augmented reality (such as smart glasses), and additive manufacturing (3D printing).
  1. Data-driven — A live supply chain runs on “big” data — and increasingly, on real-time (or right-time) data. To leverage the huge volumes of big data now available, you need intelligent systems to capture and harmonize it, as well as advanced analytics to respond to it.
  1. Transparent — A supply chain becomes transparent when the data it captures is put into the context of each job function or stakeholder. That means the data needs to be not only right-time but also relevant and actionable to specific roles and job functions.
  1. Predictive — If your supply chain is data-driven and transparent, then it can become predictive. And when you’re predictive, not just your data is right-time; your decisions are, as well. So you can take real-time action when you need to and respond to changing conditions on the fly.

The live supply chain has already become an imperative. In the past, your people manually entered data into your supply chain systems. Execution was short-term. Planning was mid- to long-term. Today, these timelines and solutions are both shortening and blurring. You need data at a speed and at a quantity and from sources that simply can’t be handled manually. And your operations need to take place in real time, or at least at the right time. The good news is that for the first time, the necessary technologies have converged to make the live supply chain a reality.

Learn more about how running a live supply chain can help you thrive today and innovate for tomorrow.

This story originally appeared on the SAP Business Trends Community.

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

Blockchain: Hit Or Miss For Supply Chain?

Richard Howells

Earlier this month I participated in an interesting show on the topic of “Blockchain Technology: A Hit or A Miss for Supply Chain Networks?” with Irfan Khan, CEO and president of Bristlecone.

The discussion was based on blockchain’s ability to drive end-to-end value, eliminate inefficiencies, and improve customer experience. Blockchain – a decentralized, distributed ledger payment system using cryptocurrency – is powering digital transformation for companies around the world.

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I set the stage by using this quote that has been attributed to several people, from Nostradamus to Mark Twain (who is attributed almost every quote known to man). It works perfectly for blockchain, which, according to Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution (July 2017), was rated “transformational” but with a market penetration of “less than 1 percent.” The key is to predict and identify use cases to improve transparency, traceability, and performance and that can benefit from secured transactions.

Where can blockchain benefit supply chain processes?

During our discussions, a few areas of opportunity emerged.

Logistics processes

It has been estimated that 90 percent of global trade is carried out by ocean shipping industry, and the cost of trade-related documents and administration is estimated to represent up to 20 percent of the actual transportation cost. And this process relies on a web of disparate systems across freight forwarders, customer’s brokers, port authorities, ocean carriers, and trucking companies. Imagine if we could digitize the process to collaborate across companies and authorities, reduce the paperwork, streamline cross boarder movements, and reduce fraud and errors. Blockchain has the potential to help enable us to manage and track a “digital twin” of shipping containers across the world.

Track and trace and genealogy processes

In many industries, we are continually pushing for improved traceability by both regulatory bodies, and consumers. For example, in the food and beverage industries, we are seeing an increased demand for local and organic products with a clear proof of origin and sustainability.

Let’s look at the simple coffee bean as an example. This starts literally, at the source, in remote farms in Africa where 70-80 percent of the world’s coffee beans are grown. Imagine if we could have mobile machines that could capture the grade, color, size, and quality the coffee carries at source, and by leveraging AI and machine learning, determine a fair-trade price for the specific lot. This could be transmitted to the buyers who could agree a purchase with the farmer and perform an electronic transfer of funds immediately. Imagine also that the quality information and price paid is tracked throughout the harvesting, logistics, roasting and consumption of those beans all over the world. A consumer could have an app that would tell them where the coffee came from, the journey from farm to cup, and even if the farmer was compensated fairly.

This example is not too far-fetched. Check out what a company called Bext360 is doing as a proof of concept today.

Asset lifecycle management

Many industries have capital-intensive, business-critical assets (think airplanes, mining equipment, trucks, tractors) that are expected to be in use for 10 or even 30 years. Over its lifespan, each asset will go through numerous upgrades, repairs, and refurbishments and may also go through numerous owners. This ensures that all the parts used to perform these activities are of high quality, from reliable, legitimate sources and are critical for end user or passenger safety and security. We can now put IoT-enabled sensors on every part within an asset and track (Big) Data at a level never imagined a few short years ago. Ensuring the traceability and security of this data is critical to ensure the history and provenance of parts, the or the maintenance and repair history of a capital-intensive piece of equipment.

Blockchain, along with other technologies such as IoT, predictive analytics, and machine learning has the potential to manage assets from the design of the product, through manufacturing and throughout its active life and keep a secure, digital twin that can be tracked and analyzed for a complete history of that asset.

Blockchain is a key part of a digital supply chain

Blockchain, although relatively early in its existence, has the potential to help digitize our supply chains. However, as we discussed, it is not a solution by itself. We see several technologies coming together to enable the digital supply chain. The Internet of Things enables smarter and connected products and assets that are generating amazing amounts of data from all areas of the supply chain. This “Big Data” is the catalyst for predictive analytics, and machine learning adds intelligence to this data and drives automation and artificial intelligence through physical devices. Blockchain’s role is to automate transactions, ensure traceability, and address cybersecurity.

For more on blockchain, see Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Article published by Richard Howells. It originally appeared on Huffington Post and has been republished with permission.

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

3D Printing: A New Dimension To Mining

Indranil Som

Maintenance and downtime due to poor inventory optimization is a major challenge faced by field operations in mining.

Investing in 3D printing technology can help mining firms innovate and develop their existing processes, in addition to improving efficiency and costs. This approach can be used to produce parts on site and on-demand, thereby streamlining and optimizing the inbound supply chains. As mining companies operate in many remote and hostile environments and downtime of mining equipment could be extremely costly, the industry faces many practical challenges:

  • The high cost of materials, excess inventory, and warehousing and on-site storage costs
  • Logistic costs of transporting parts in emergencies to ensure the continuous running of machines
  • High dependence on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for precision-engineered parts

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, also referred to as additive technology, is the process of making physical objects from a digital model using a printer. Although still at its nascent stage, the technology is already making waves in the manufacturing of prosthetics, medical devices, and lightweight precision automotive and aerospace parts.

Increased use of technology and innovation

By applying 3D printing into their production cycle, businesses can create quality products quickly and easily without the need for a physical prototype, thereby improving efficiency and reducing costs. But time will tell whether 3D printing can meet the demands of the mining industry, which requires high-quality, precision-manufactured items made of multiple materials.

Parts failures and repairs

With access to a digital service parts library and the requisite 3D printing capability, production of parts on site and on demand makes part failure and the site remoteness inconsequential. With spare parts stored digitally, the high cost and environmental impact of transportation and warehousing of inventory are drastically reduced.

Further, 3D printing helps optimize material and energy consumption by consuming only the raw material required to build the final product, thus supporting a leaner and greener approach to production.

Design customization

The tools used in mining can be customized to suit the mining environment and produced cost effectively in small quantities. Using 3D printing, any item in the digital library can be replicated on site to suit the unique requirements of the operations.

Sustainable manufacturing

3D printing increases efficiency, reduces waste, and makes processes more cost-efficient and manufacturing sustainable. Transportation costs will be reduced and as technology evolves, designs will become more energy- and fuel-efficient.

Mining businesses can potentially reduce waste in terms of energy and raw materials, and optimize utilization of used or faulty parts by recycling them. This allows for reusability of raw materials, adding to the sustainability of 3D printing.

Future of 3D printing in mining

In the mining industry, efficiency and cost containment in the supply chain is critical. Adoption of 3D printing can bring about significant changes in supply chain operations due to more on-demand in-sourcing of parts, operations strategies, and policies. It revolutionizes the supply chain operations by impacting manufacturing location strategies, shrinking delivery lead times and removing excess stock and complexity.

For more on how advanced technology can benefit manufacturing in many industries, see Digitalization, Industry 4.0, And The Future Of Industrial Production.

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Indranil Som

About Indranil Som

Indranil Som is the Digital Leader for Energy and Natural Resources industry at SAP India, engaged in consulting with C-level executives to enable organizations unlock business value through technology driven business transformations. He has had over 16 years of management consulting experience with a combination of strategy and technology engagements, encompassing scoping, planning and execution, with leading international firms.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

Link to Sources


From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Blockchain: Thoughts On The "Next Big Thing"

Ross Doherty

Many people associate blockchain with bitcoin—which is, at least for today, the most common application to leverage blockchain. However, when you dig a little deeper and consider the core concepts of blockchain—distribution, consensus achieved by algorithm rather than opinion, cryptographically secure, private—you start to think about how these aspects can be applied, both technically and strategically, to solve problems simple and  complex. Blockchain is neither a product nor a system – instead, it is a concept.

Blockchain applications disrupt conventional thinking and conventional approaches regarding data processing, handling, and storage. First we had the “move to the cloud,” and many were cautious and even frightened of what it meant to move their systems, infrastructure, and data to a platform outside their organization’s four walls. Compound this with blockchain in its purest form—a distributed and possibly shared resource—and you can see why many may be reluctant.

My sentiment, however, is a little different. Creating a solid basis that harnesses the concepts of blockchain with sufficient thought leadership and knowledge-sharing, along with a pragmatic and open-minded approach to problem-solving, can lead to innovative and disruptive outcomes and solid solutions for customers. Blockchain should not be feared, but rather rationalized and demystified, with the goal of making it someday as ubiquitous as the cloud. Blockchain should not be pigeonholed into a specific industry or use case—it is much more that, and it should be much more than that.

Grounding ourselves momentarily, allow me to relay some ideas from both within the enterprise and customers regarding possible use cases for blockchain technology: From placing blockchain at the core of business networks for traceability and auditability, to a way for ordinary people to easily and cheaply post a document as part of a patent process; a way to counteract bootlegging and counterfeiting in commodity supply chain, a way to add an additional layer of security to simple email exchange; from electronic voting systems through to medial record storage. The beauty of blockchain is that its application can scale as big as your imagination allows.

Blockchain is not the staple of the corporate, nor is it limited to grand and expansive development teams—most of the technology is open source, public, and tangible to everyone. It is not an exclusive or expert concept, prohibitive in terms of cost or resource. Blockchain is a new frontier, largely unmined and full of opportunity.

In closing, I invite you to invest some time to do what I did when I first encountered the concept and needed to better understand it. Plug “Blockchain explained simply” (or words to that effect) into your preferred search engine. Find the article that best speaks to you—there are plenty online. Once you get it (and I promise you will) and experience your “eureka!” moment, start to think how blockchain and its concepts might help you solve a business or technical problem.

For more insight on blockchain, see Blockchain’s Value Underestimated, Despite The Hype.

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Ross Doherty

About Ross Doherty

Ross Doherty is a manager in the SAP Innovative Business Solutions team, based in Galway, Ireland. Ross’s team’s focus is in the domain of Business Networks and Innovation. Ross is proud to lead a talented and diverse team of pre-sales, integration, quality management, user assistance and solution architects, and to be serving SAP for almost 4 years.