Four Technologies Manufacturers And Other Supply Chain Enterprises Can’t Ignore

Hans Thalbauer

Part 1 in the series “Digital Manufacturing

Technology is the ultimate business catalyst. By leveraging the latest innovations, companies can transform into intelligent enterprises that create the right products and deliver them to consumers at the right time.

Disruptors like Alibaba and Amazon know this, and they’re using groundbreaking technologies to transform processes and create new business models that are shaking up traditional supply chain operations.

So, which innovations hold the most potential for helping organizations create their own dynamic supply chains?

Here are four revolutionary technologies companies are leveraging to differentiate their businesses:

1. IoT-powered digital twins

By attaching Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to physical goods, organizations can create digital twins of their real-life products and assets. These digital representations give companies access to real-time data that enables them to gain greater visibility into their supply chain operations and make real-time business decisions to meet – and even predict – customer demand.

E-commerce giant Alibaba recently used the data generated from IoT to transform logistics by introducing a unique delivery model in China that anticipates customers’ needs based on location.

Essentially, the organization analyzes structured and unstructured data – like demographics and weather forecasts – and uses the findings to pre-stock vans with products that customers in certain areas are likely to purchase. When a customer orders an item, the nearest van can drop it off within the hour.

The results have been game-changing. Instead of waiting for an order and fulfilling it, Alibaba proactively determines which products to place in which vans before a customer completes a purchase, cutting delivery time and saving money.

2. Machine learning

Machine learning uses analytics and algorithms to finds patterns in data, predict outcomes, and automate processes, enabling enterprises to effectively forecast and plan for the future.

For manufacturers and other supply chain organizations, being proactive rather than reactive is critical. Instead of waiting for a machine to fail and then fixing it, organizations can anticipate what could go wrong and prevent or correct it in advance – which eliminates downtime, avoids unnecessary costs, and increases customer satisfaction.

Machine learning can also reduce time spent on repetitive tasks, increasing efficiency and productivity and helping companies optimize their supply chain operations.

3. 3D printing

Additive manufacturing – more commonly known as 3D printing – enables manufacturers and other supply chain organizations to reduce risks and costs, increase agility, and take control of the product lifecycle.

Imagine you’re a U.S.-based auto parts manufacturer and a piece of machinery breaks at your factory in Japan. Instead of scrambling for a workaround or shutting down your shop while you wait days (or even weeks) for a replacement, you can print a new part in-house – helping you minimize downtime and save thousands of dollars.

And while manufacturers were once forced to research, design, and source product materials before customers could order an item, 3D printing enables organizations to deliver on changing customer expectations quickly. It allows businesses to create small runs of personalized products on demand – without having to mass-produce items to justify costs.

This flexibility affords organizations the ability to minimize production and eliminate the need to store unused inventory in expensive warehouse facilities.

4. Blockchain

Blockchain is a digital ledger system that records transactions in interconnected blocks and distributes that information across huge networks. The highly secure, decentralized technology offers organizations real-time visibility into any transaction.

While commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, it’s easy to see blockchain’s practical applications for manufacturers and other supply chain enterprises.

Since transactions are recorded in connected, time-stamped blocks, suppliers and manufacturers can use blockchain to stay up to date on every product – from testing through order fulfillment. And because the digital ledger is “owned” by no one and continuously updated, it’s virtually tamper-proof, which fosters trust between organizations.

Whether you’re a shipping company reviewing tariffs or a pharmaceutical company tracing a prescription delivery, blockchain offers you the power to securely and transparently monitor transactions, eliminate human error, and optimize your supply chain.

Achieve better business outcomes with groundbreaking technology

Industry lines are blurring. Disruptors dominate the market. And every business has its eyes trained on the future.

To succeed in this fast-paced world, manufacturers and other supply chain organizations must strive to become more efficient and intelligent enterprises.

Fortunately, cutting-edge technologies can empower enterprises to accelerate that journey.

By capitalizing on these innovations, companies can improve supply chain operations and create new business models that make them better, faster, and smarter than the competition.

For more information register for the MPI whitepaper.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is globally responsible for solution management and the go-to-market functions for SAP digital supply chain solutions and the SAP Leonardo portfolio of Internet of Things solutions. In this role, he is engaged in creative dialogues with businesses and operations worldwide, addressing customer needs and introducing innovative business processes, including the vision of creating a live business environment for everyone working in operations. Hans has more than 17 years with SAP and is based out of Palo Alto, CA, USA. He has held positions in development, product and solution management, and the go-to-market organization. Hans holds a degree in Business Information Systems from the University Vienna, Austria.