Tag Archive: IoT

Supply chain strategy: Modernization tips from Lisa Anderson

March 27th, 2020

As Published in:  Ratelinx

For business leaders looking to modernize their supply chain, the technology investment is the easy part: Evaluate solutions, calculate the ROI, make your business case, and take delivery. Sure, it can be tricky to get sign off on these tech investments, but it’s a business problem with a logical solution.

The more challenging part is preparing your organization to take full advantage of that investment. That means getting people on board, ready for the change, and developing new processes that take full advantage of the new tech.

“High tech must be accompanied with high touch,” says Lisa Anderson, supply chain consultant and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. “The most successful supply chain leaders will remember that people are their number one asset.”

We asked Lisa for her perspective on the current state of supply chain, the key trends that are driving change, and how you can prepare your team for what comes next. Read on to learn what she had to say.

Modernizing Your Supply Chain Strategy

The right supply chain strategy includes technological investments, process refinements, and a change management plan for your team. It should be detailed enough to act upon, but flexible enough to account for changing trends. Here’s how to get started.

Key Trends Driving Supply Chain Modernization

For most businesses, there are two factors that make modernization essential. First, there’s sustainability: Consumers are looking to buy from sustainable companies. That means companies are under pressure to not only work with sustainable suppliers, but to prove they’re doing so.

The second factor is perhaps an even bigger driver for change: The demand for near-instantaneous, free shipping for ecommerce. “In the next five years, customers will be expecting Amazon-like service levels at affordable rates, regardless of the high levels of disruption,” Lisa says. “Reshoring, near-sourcing, and sourcing reevaluation will be major concerns.”

Lisa predicts high levels of adoption for new technologies to meet these demands. “The use of technology such as artificial intelligence, IoT, predictive analytics and other technologies will enable meeting these customer needs while maximizing profit and cash flow,” she says.

 

“In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the
most relevant data to drive decision-making. ” 

Getting Started with a Modernization Strategy

The actual nuts-and-bolts process of building a strategy is the same as solving any problem in your organization. “Start with the outcomes you’d like to achieve,” Lisa says, “then perform an assessment and gap analysis of your people, processes and technology. Assess your change management capabilities to achieve your outcomes. Finally, design the solution and build an implementation team.”

The process may be familiar, but knowing where to start can be a challenge. The first step should be getting a clear picture of your current supply chain. “Start simply and create a dashboard or availability screen that shows your supply chain status; however, remember that if you don’t pay attention to process disciplines, garbage in will result in garbage out,” says Lisa.

In these early stages, it’s important to focus in on the most relevant data to drive decision-making. But don’t try to boil the ocean: “Data plays a vital role; however, do not get sidetracked and overwhelmed with data. Start with your No. 1 priority, find directionally correct data and enable visibility,” Lisa says. “Once your team and supply chain partners understand this data, move to the second largest priority.”

Once you have your supply chain mapped out, you can start to implement solutions that will pay off in the short term and in the long run. A.I. and IoT initiatives have the potential for a quick win. Lisa says in her consulting work, she’s seeing “Artificial Intelligence and IoT used in predictive analytics and forecasting as top priorities. Getting ahead of customer demand drives significant supply chain value.”

Train and Hire the Right Skill Set

For Lisa, the human element is an often-overlooked, but crucial, part of supply chain modernization. “I’ve found that a more dramatic ROI can occur by aligning the people, even more than the data and the process,” she says.

When bringing in new talent, Lisa recommends looking for data science fundamentals. “Data analytics, the ability to leverage ERP systems and think through down-the-line impacts as well as tying business process to systems design are all part of the equation,” she says. “But we should also look at soft skill requirements, such as the ability to collaborate.” Collaboration, big-picture strategizing, and lateral thinking are all essential characteristics of a modern supply chain expert.

The ROI Potential of Supply Chain Modernization

Remodeling your supply chain is not without risks, and it’s a process that takes time and resources to ensure success. But the rewards are worth the effort. “It depends on the situation, of course,” says Lisa, “but it isn’t uncommon to see a five or 10:1 return on investment from supply chain transformation improvements.”



Special Report: 2020 Predictions

March 12th, 2020

We received such a positive response to last year’s predictions report that we wanted to add to that value in 2020. It was an exciting process to see what CEOs, executives and thought leaders of manufacturing and logistics organizations think about the current trends, what’s coming, and most importantly, what to do to get ahead of the curve.

A special THANKS goes to our contributors. We’ll be discussing these topics much more in our March newsletter to build upon their predictions and ways we can THRIVE amidst the ambiguity.

For our Profit through People subscribers, we are pleased to provide a direct link. Feel free to forward to your colleagues and friends by sending them our download link.

A Few Highlights
Please pay special attention to my introduction (page 2). I believe we are at a critical juncture in our field. To succeed in 2020, manufacturing and logistics organizations need to become agile, proactive and even disruptive, to merely survive. The most successful organizations are going to do a deep dive into human capital, technologies and strategies that will achieve the trifecta – a superior customer experience, profitable growth and improved working capital, simultaneously.

With the promise of additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, IoT, robotics and blockchain, technology can play a pivotal role.  However, technology alone is NEVER the answer. Instead, it is the smart application of the appropriate technologies by top talent, aligned internally and across the extended supply chain and following a well-thought out strategy that wins the race.

I thought the insights, predictions and recommendations from our experts are worth noting – and taking action! We were careful to gain perspectives from manufacturing and logistics executives and thought leaders, spanning industries (from food and beverage to building products and logistics), specialties (trade, sourcing, technology, human capital, economic development and more), and size and complexity (from family-owned to private equity to large, complex organizations). I’d love to hear your feedback and areas you’d like to deep dive further.

We will continue our webinar series with future-proofing topics and thought leaders, as well as our video series of timely topics such as the coronavirus. We will continue to explore these topics in our blogs and newsletters, as well.

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your situation and how you can future-proof your manufacturing operations and create a resilient supply chain.



Will Technology Gain Critical Mass in Manufacturing in 2020?

January 6th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to an Industry Week article, recent predictions say we are headed into the year where technology gains critical mass!  That is truly exciting for manufacturers as people and robots work in collaboration to achieve profitable growth and success. Of course, it isn’t all about robots but it provides a good visual for the conversation.

 

There are all sorts of technologies to consider including robots, collaborative robots, wearables, IoT, additive manufacturing, 5G, AI and more. By NO means should we jump on the next fad.  Yet, we should be aware of these technologies, the progress of the technologies and be ready to take advantage of opportunities. Your smart competition will be! When technology gains critical mass, not only will your competition have the edge but it will accelerate the rate of progress.  This means you will be left inching your way from the start gate when your competition passed you in the victory lap with profitable growth, superior customer experiences and happy employees. Are you considering your technological footprint?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Without a doubt, shift into high gear when it comes to getting educated on the technologies that support your industry and your supply chain partners. You do not need to throw bunches of money at this issue but gaining prudent proactive knowledge is a must. Understand your landscape and which technologies might provide an advantage in the marketplace. Be willing to invest in testing and trials.

Involve your team and extended supply chain partners in collaborating and brainstorming on win-win-win strategies to achieve key objectives. We live in a collaborative world.  We need to see our partners as partners – not vendors and the competition. From this point-of-view, in my ProVisors group of trusted advisors, the most successful members believe in referring business they could do themselves if they think it is slightly better off with their competitor. It is counter intuitive and ends up turning 1 + 1 into 4 with more business for all. The same will hold true with your supply chain partners.  With that said, being collaborative is not an excuse to be negligent. You have to watch out for cyber security and a host of other issues that could arise.

At a minimum, re-evaluate your technology roadmap.  Remember, this is identical to strategy in 2020. A strategy looking 5 years out is pointless, even a year out is suspect. Instead, you need a roadmap of guidelines with the flexibility to be resilient and the attentiveness to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. In essence, future-proof your manufacturing organization and extended supply chain.

Check out our new LMA-i, LMA-Intelligence series including Future-Proofing and contact us if you’d like an assessment path-forward plan to accelerate your bottom line and customer performance.



Blockchain, IoT, AI, Big Data. Will Anything Stick?

November 11th, 2019

Client Question
Should I really invest time and resources into technologies I don’t know will pay back?

For example, there is a lot of conversation about the value (or lack thereof) of blockchain, IoT, AI and more. This concern continues to arise and is on every executive’s mind. They do not want to be left in the dust “holding the bag” (old and slow) while their competitors race by. On the other hand, they do not want to dump all sorts of money into technology that might not prove effective in their industry. And, in some cases, what they could invest would be a drop in the bucket. It would be like trying to refill the Pacific Ocean with a pail. Remember that fabulous song by Harry Belafonte “There’s a Hole in the Bucket“?

My colleague Diane Garcia and I set out to find the latest answer to this question at the Association for Supply Chain Management International Conference. There were several panels and presentations on each of these topics, along with several exhibitors talking about the latest and greatest technology integrations.

The Answer
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of noise about these technologies. According to Gartner, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover $6.2 billion hours of work productivity. So, it is easy to see why AI is gaining investment with the large companies and with leaders of large organizations.

I love this quote from Harvard Business Review, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.” That about sums it up! We need to at least be aware so that we can make good decisions when it comes to these technologies.

As it relates to AI, according to McKinsey Quarterly, across all functions, respondents report that the most significant benefits come from adopting AI in manufacturing! Coming in second is risk with supply chain management just behind in third place. So, if you are in manufacturing, you cannot afford not to at least consider the opportunities. Do you need to do this on your own? NO! We are seeing small companies come together to share resources and invest jointly to drive scale with results (and so they can compete with the large companies). There are also groups that facilitate this type of collaboration. At the most digitized companies, the adoption of AI capabilities is greater including machine learning, virtual agents, robotic process automation, computer vision and more.

According to Forrester, 90% plan greater investments in data and according to MIT Sloan, 85% view AI as a strategic priority. These two technologies cross over and seem to have the upper hand with the most immediately applicable technology.

With that said, there were even more sessions about blockchain and whether it was hype or hope. The bottom line on blockchain is that it is a real opportunity for certain industries such as the food industry (related to food safety).  It is still in early stages and will require a consortium of companies to come together to bring to reality.

According to a leader from FedEx, whether big or small, no one company will be successful on its own. Yet all the “big guys” are interested and participating. Stay tuned to see where it goes. Last but not least, IoT is integrated into many conversations about big data, AI, autonomous vehicles and more because it connects technologies. In manufacturing, IoT is connecting machines and data for predictive maintenance and the possibilities abound.

The bottom line: pay attention but resist exploring technology in isolation. Learn to collaborate.

Food For Thought
As much as these technologies should be on your radar, don’t get carried away and forget your fundamentals.

Do you have a scalable ERP system to support your business growth and profitability? If not, start there!

Do you have reporting and business intelligence systems so that you can slice and dice information to make instantaneous, informed decisions as key customer questions or business opportunities arise? If not, start there!

How about a simple CRM solution? Certainly in the Amazon Effect era, we must pay attention to customers.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

What is Ahead for Technology?
AI, Robots, IoT, Blockchain, Hike!
Systems Pragmatist



Survey says Automation Beats IoT

September 19th, 2019

According to Industry Week’s Tech survey, robots are hot! On the other hand, there is a bit of skepticism with IoT and wearables. In talking with mainly small and medium size manufacturers in answering the question of which technology is most important to your company’s success, AI/ automation came in at #1 by a long shot.  It was followed by data analytics software/ERP/MES and then additive/digital manufacturing.

The article discussed the fact that IoT has been quite successful at driving results but the larger companies are the ones pursuing it. Certainly, with our clients, the small and medium size clients have less resources and need to prioritize.  We are seeing the same set of priorities. With that said, there is a lot of interest in IoT as it relates to connecting equipment, vehicles and more.  However, it is a more complex topic with multiple vendors involved. It just hasn’t been rolled out in any significant way because manufacturers and distributors see more potential for customer and bottom line improvement with automation/AI, ERP systems and additive/digital manufacturing. Are you considering any of these options?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Since we work with clients that are small and medium closely-held organizations to private equity backed to multi-billion dollar enterprises, it is interesting to note what is in common across the board. Certainly, there is no doubt that almost every executive is at least thinking about automation and robots!

Are you keeping up on the latest thinking on the benefits of technology? We NEVER support technology for technology’s sake. In fact, it is a common mistake for clients to get carried away with the latest and greatest concepts and lose sight of the return to the customer experience and the bottom line. With that said, you have to be aware of what’s out there and be continually evaluating what might make sense for your business.

I just talked with a commercial banker about collaborating on a robotics education session. Why not seek out information and figure out which technology will align with your business strategy and objectives? Then, put together a trial to test the concept without a significant financial commitment. There are also resources to collaborate with to share in these learning opportunities.

For example, we are creating a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics excellence in the Inland Empire focused on just this topic. Also, our non-profit APICS Inland Empire group, which is a chapter of the Association for Supply Chain Management, provides symposiums, webinars and tours related to these types of topics. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.