The answer is in the arteries: New ways to exploit the smart supply chain

Sept. 15, 2021
How digital transformation is transforming supply chains.

By Dave Ray, Parsec director of product advancement

Industry 4.0—by now, this phrase (and the technologies that underscore it) has become a well-known adage in the manufacturing sector. Solutions powered by this industrial revolution, such as real-time production management, digital traceability, and predictive analytics, have been successfully deployed at factories worldwide, with many more projects and solutions being introduced every day.

As discussions around IIoT and remote monitoring continue to permeate factory walls, many companies have begun pondering what comes next. What is the next step once a factory has implemented a complete suite of manufacturing operations management (MOM) solutions? How can the insights and advantages gained by these solutions be further leveraged to empower the manufacturers who use them?

The answers can be found outside factories, within the arteries that sustain them. The answers can be found within the supply chain.

At the factory level, automating processes has been shown to shrink lead times by reducing delays inherent in manual processes. This is also true at the supply chain level, and a smart, digitally connected supply chain will also provide invaluable insights and predictive decision-making tools throughout the manufacturing value stream. Beginning with downstream partners, manufacturers are gaining real-time data on the raw materials they are picking up. For dairy manufacturers, this means getting insight into where and when the milk they are picking up originated, which truck and driver is handling the delivery, and what environmental conditions the milk was kept at throughout its journey. For coffee-roasting outfits, suppliers could go so far as to note the saturation and nutrient levels of the soil surrounding the coffee-bean plants.

These are just a few examples of how digital-transformation technologies are being applied today.

Once raw materials arrive at a facility, teams can quickly and accurately log inventory, automatically match lot numbers to manifests, and seamlessly identify where raw materials should be held within the warehouse. This data can be monitored in real-time to track inventory aging and preemptively identify resupply thresholds based on near-term demand. Real-time performance-management data helps identify how specific material lots impact production and the quality of semi-finished or final goods. These insights enable manufacturers to better understand the impact their suppliers have on factory-floor production. They help facilities measurably adjust where future resupplies are purchased from, and facilitate impactful conversations with existing vendors that may improve the quality of raw materials.

Digital supply chain solutions are not just for vendors and their raw materials. There are also applications for post-production and distribution. Remote monitoring and tracking of finished goods in transit help complete the digital thread for products and provide a complete "cradle-to-grave" view of every unit sold. Beyond that, these digital solutions can provide real-time information on product demand. Real-time analytics from distribution centers and storefronts offer concrete answers to questions like "How quickly are goods selling?" and "Are they staying on the shelf longer?"

Being able to readily identify how consumer trends are changing means being able to optimize production accordingly.

Having access to this level of granular data makes it easier to resolve and stave off product recalls. Complete traceability records make it easier and faster to address and respond to customer complaints. Having detailed records like this across all junctures of the supply chain streamlines auditing processes. It helps pinpoint areas for optimization outside of the factory itself and empowers manufacturers to focus on improvement opportunities beyond "make" operations.

Industry 4.0 has seen the advent of many impactful manufacturing solutions. As the movement continues and the adoption of these solutions increase, we will see a continual rise in the performance and output of facilities worldwide. In the face of that, and with an eye on retaining that ever-elusive competitive edge, manufacturers will begin turning not inward toward the factories to which they digitalized, but externally, to their vast value streams that hold the keys to their untapped future successes.

About Parsec

Parsec is the developer of TrakSYS, a proven operations management software application and solution platform designed to significantly improve manufacturing processes. Parsec is committed to providing best-in-class products and solutions to our worldwide community of clients to assist them in optimizing their manufacturing operations. There are thousands of TrakSYS licenses in use around the globe in a wide variety of Industries. TrakSYS helps manufacturers to maximize asset utilization and efficiency, increase capacity with no new capital equipment, reduce production costs, decrease lead time, and improve profitability. Click here for more information about Parsec and TrakSYS.