Channeling Nostradamus: Transform Your Supply Chain Enterprise Into A Predictive Business

Patrick Crampton-Thomas

Part 5 of the “The Digital Supply Chain of One” series

Predicting the future isn’t easy – except for one man. The prophet Nostradamus made more than 900 predictions in his lifetime, allegedly foreseeing things from catastrophic events to dangerous political figures.

For your supply chain enterprise to succeed today, you need the same predictive prowess as Nostradamus. You need to know what your customers want before they do. You need to detect and prevent asset failures before they occur. (In his blog, “Four Supply Chain Strategies To Drive Digital Transformation,” Richard Howells, vice president of Solution Management for Supply Chain Solutions at SAP, expertly explains this more.)

There’s a lot to do, but you don’t need supernatural powers to get it done. All you need are connected products and assets and a real-time network of digital twins.

Your own digital twin isn’t good enough

By creating a virtual representation of your products or assets and capturing data from smart sensors embedded in the physical items, you can gain a comprehensive picture of the real-world performance and operating conditions of the objects.

But while your digital twin is great for collecting and analyzing product or asset data, it isn’t enough. You need an entire network of digital twins to collect, analyze, and most importantly, share data with different departments of your organization, as well as with your external partners.

Capturing Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data through your digital twin network will enable your enterprise, suppliers, manufacturers, logistics companies, service providers, and customers to collaborate throughout the entire product or asset lifecycle, from design and production through operation.

With greater real-time insight into how customers use your products and assets – coupled with machine learning capabilities – you can transform your supply chain enterprise into a predictive business, one that can improve product design, accelerate innovation, and take a more proactive approach to asset maintenance.

The product perspective: Delivering perfection to your customers

The better you understand your products, the better your business can serve consumers. By creating a network of digital twins, you can gain unprecedented insight into how your products perform in the moment. This data will empower your organization to redesign and reengineer your goods and deliver increasingly exceptional products to your customers.

Consider this example: I own a smart lawnmower. While I enjoy an ice-cold beer on the patio, this magical machine furiously hacks away at the grass around me.

All the while, the device feeds a steady stream of usage data to the manufacturer. Whether the mower runs into trouble cutting the grass around my shed or the uneven landscape in my backyard slows down the machine, the manufacturer knows.

As the business detects patterns in how its products operate, it can also predict potential future issues. The company can then collaborate with its R&D team and other partners – which already have access to this same data – to make improvements and address the problems, adding features or capabilities to new models.

I’m already in love with my smart lawnmower. But as the manufacturer continues to perfect the product and its services, I’m only going to develop a deeper devotion to the device – and the company that makes it.

The asset perspective: Providing predictive maintenance and as-a-service business models

Data generated from IoT sensors can open brand-new opportunities for your business. For one, this insight can enable your organization to take a more proactive approach to maintenance, rather than a reactive one.

By analyzing real-time data on how your assets are performing, you can predict system failures before they happen, resulting in substantial cost savings, increased quality, and elevated customer satisfaction.

Say you manage a fleet of rail cars. The data in your digital twin network highlights a sudden irregularity: Train doors are opening and closing a full second slower than they’re supposed to.

Before you notify your service provider of the issue, the company is already fully aware of what’s going on. After all, you both share access to the same data in your digital twin network, so when an issue arises, the service provider doesn’t skip a beat. Your partner can resolve the matter immediately, before it develops into a major problem that requires suspending service – leading to profit losses – and initiating expensive repairs.

IoT sensor data can also help your enterprise create new revenue streams by offering as-a-service business models.

In the past, your job as a wind turbine manufacturer, for example, would have ended once you produced your asset and installed it for your customer. Today, instead of charging a one-time purchase fee, your company can charge based on the amount of power your wind turbine generates.

You’re also responsible for maintaining the asset on behalf of your customer over its entire lifecycle. By analyzing real-time IoT sensor data through your digital twin network, you can determine the operational condition of the asset around the clock and predict when maintenance is required. The moment you detect an issue, you can develop corrective measures to ensure the asset remains online and functional. You can also order spare parts or manage your resources ahead of time.

Predictive supply chain companies have a serious competitive advantage

Some people view connected goods as a joke.

“Why do I need a smart, robotic lawnmower?” they’ll ask incredulously.

But perceptions are changing fast, and more and more consumers are beginning to recognize the power of connected products and assets.

For supply chain companies, connecting your products and assets is no laughing matter. With IoT sensors and a network of digital twins, you and your partners will have the chance to collect and analyze massive volumes of real-time data, giving you the predictive capabilities you need to gain a serious competitive advantage.

By channeling your inner Nostradamus, you can design and produce innovative products that appeal to your customers’ ever-evolving needs and maintain assets that never fail. And once you achieve that, the joke will be on your competitors.

Download this IDC Infobrief to learn more about predictive business and the digital supply chain one.


Patrick Crampton-Thomas

About Patrick Crampton-Thomas

Patrick Crampton-Thomas is Vice President of Supply Chain Solution Management at SAP, with global responsibility for the response and supply orchestration portfolio, based in the UK. This includes the strategy and go-to-market for existing and new supply chain solutions including integrated business planning solutions, supply chain control tower, and supply chain collaboration.