Managing Smart Manufacturing

In a description of the National Science Foundation sponsored center for Smart process Manufacturing ( the authors suggest that market disruptions such as a “$3000 automobile or a $300 personal computer” might be outcomes.  Plant integration, plant optimization and manufacturing knowledge are listed as the phases to get to this reality.  What are the barriers to such an evolution in manufacturing ? How much integration of people, process and technology needs to happen to transform existing manufacturing ? Will leadership for this transformation come from small, agile companies who, when successful, will be integrated into larger ones or can the large companies lead such a transformation ? Finally, how global will this phenomenon need to be to transform supply chains ?

IOT in Supply Chain

The process of assessing a chicken in real-time before agreeing to eat it may seem a bit outlandish. But with the IoT, we’ll be able to experience that type of transparency, and so much more. IoT is set to revolutionize the supply chain with both operational efficiencies and revenue opportunities made possible with just this type of transparency. In today’s market, supply chain isn’t just a way to keep track of your product. It’s a way to gain an edge on your competitors and even build your own brand.


With the ever advancing IOT we will be seeing changes in the following areas



Operational Efficiencies


When it comes to operational efficiencies, the IoT offers many:


Asset Tracking: Tracking numbers and bar codes used to be the standard method for managing goods throughout the supply chain. But with the IoT, those methods are no longer the most expedient. New RFID and GPS sensors can track products from floor to store. At any point in time, manufacturers can use these sensors to gain granular data like the temperature at which an item was stored, how long it spent in cargo, and even how long it took to fly off the shelf. The type of data gained from the IoT can help companies get a tighter grip on quality control, on-time deliveries, and product forecasting.


Vendor Relations: The data obtained through asset tracking is also important because it allows companies to tweak their own production schedules, as well as recognize sub-par vendor relationships that may be costing them money. Up to 65% of the value of a company’s products or services is derived from its suppliers. That’s a huge incentive to pay closer attention to how your vendors are handling the supplies they’re sending you, and how they’re handling your product once it’s made. Higher quality goods mean better relationships with customers—and better customer retention overall.

Forecasting and Inventory:  IoT sensors can provide far more accurate inventories than humans can manage alone. For instance, Amazon is using WiFi robots to scan QR codes on its products to track and triage its orders. All the data can be used to find trends to make manufacturing schedules even more efficient.

Connected Fleets: As the supply chain continues to grow—upward and outward—it’s even more imperative to ensure that all your carriers—be it shipping containers, suppliers’ delivery trucks, or your van out for delivery—are connected. Data is the prize. Just like cities are using this data to get to emergencies quicker or clear up traffic issues, manufacturers are using it to get better products to their customers, faster.

Scheduled Maintenance: The IoT can also use smart sensors on its manufacturing floors to manage planned and predictive maintenance and prevent down-time and cut costs.



Revenue Opportunities

The chance to know more—and understand more—about our customers, their buying habits, and the trends associated with them is invaluable. It allows businesses to form tighter connections with customers and, inevitably, market to them in new and better ways. Beyond the use of data for improved efficiencies noted above, businesses can get creative with supply chain transparency. They can build a reputation of social responsibility by allowing customers to access—and with AR, even see—where their product came from, who made it, and the conditions in which those workers lived.

Research shows 70% of retail and manufacturing businesses have already begun to transform their supply chain processes. However, when it comes to supply chain, there is far from a level playing field. For the IoT to be truly effective, all members of one’s global supply chain must be connected. In an age when many companies are just now embracing the concept of mobility, that may take a while. Still, as technologies like blockchain and edge computing continue to take form, there is so much further we can go to make our supply chain even more efficient—and creative—than ever before. Perhaps that’s where the real excitement lies.


Q) When will IOT really begin to have an impact on supply chain operations?

Q) What are the other opportunities and applications of IOT in supply chain?

Q) What are the major challenges faced by companies in implementing IOT in supply chain?

Transforming Supply Chain with Blockchain By Gokul Siddharthan J, DCMME Graduate Student Assistant

In recent times, blockchain has become a buzz word that has been associated with cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, Ethereum and other such currencies have made the term very popular, and they can be associated with the high prices in the crypto market and the immense returns offered. Blockchain is the underlying framework that’s used for thousands of cryptocurrencies out there, but there’s more uses of blockchain to industry than the crypto market.

Blockchain, which is a distributed digital ledger, has many applications and can be used for any exchange, agreements/contracts, tracking, and payments. The term distributed digital ledgers sums up the function in three words. Every transaction is recorded on a block and across multiple copies of the ledger that are distributed over many nodes or computers, thus making it highly transparent. The system is also highly secure because every block is linked to the previous block, and any changes to information will be flagged by other nodes in the system because of the mismatch. This is the consensus system, because all entities have the same version of the ledger, there won’t be any dispute arising. The very things necessary for reliability and integrity in a supply chain are provided by blockchain.

Imagine whenever a product changes hands, the transaction could be documented, creating a permanent history from manufacture to sale. It dramatically reduces time delays, costs, and human errors that plague transactions today. Experts suggest blockchain could become a universal operating system before long. Tasks such as recording the quantity and transfer of assets, tracking purchase orders, assigning certifications or certain properties of physical products, linking physical goods to serial numbers, and sharing information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery could be transformed.

Blockchain offers the following advantages to the shippers

  • Enhanced Transparency
  • Greater Scalability
  • Better Security
  • Increased Innovation.

Some of the users of blockchain in their value chain are Walmart, De Beers, BHP Billiton, IBM Blockchain and many more.



Improving Food Manufacturing

When it comes to increasing profits in the food manufacturing industry the name of the game is efficiency. This means finding ways to cut costs and improving operations while maintaining good quality so that margins can improve and facilities can produce more. The article “Six tips for Improving manufacturing efficiency” by Megan Ray Nichols outlines six different ways that companies can improve their facilities to become more efficient and see increased profits. These tips revolve around three main ideas: mitigating risks, reducing operating costs through more conservative operations, and embracing the use of technology in facilities. By following these six simple tips, a food or beverage operation can reduce costs, increase productivity, and ultimately be a more profitable operation.

Her fist tip is to embrace the inherent risks of a food manufacturing operation and plan for them. Ready your plant for the risks by investing in additional backup generators and control systems as well as business loss insurance to mitigate the risk and cost of lost inventory in the event of a mishap. Along with this, reduce contamination risks to prevent recalls from happening. Recalls waste time, harm productivity, and most importantly are extremely expensive. Be proactive and do everything possible to prevent contamination in the plant.  Second, become more energy efficient. Nearly 60% of food manufacturer’s energy bill comes from refrigeration. Therefore one of the easiest ways to lower cost is to make these units more efficient which can be done by simply placing them in as far away from heat-generating equipment and avoiding the use of incandescent light bulbs, both of which force cooling units to work harder. Along with becoming more energy efficient, conserve water. The food manufacturing industry uses more water than most other industries. Water recycling programs, reuse systems, and flow restrictions can significantly decrease operating costs and provide savings which can be reinvested elsewhere to improve production efficiency. Finally, take advantage of new technological advancements by embracing preventative maintenance and increase the use of automation and integration. Use preventative maintenance to track and plan when equipment needs to be fixed. This proactive approach can save time and money, as the beer brewer New Belgium demonstrated when it was able to cut downtime by 50% when implanting a preventative maintenance system. Using automation and integrating your processes so that they can “talk to one-another” allows your system to run more efficiently because each section can instantly react to what happens in another.

Questions to think about:

  1. Besides moving refrigerators and installing less light bulbs, how else can food manufactures reduce their energy usage to cut costs?
  2. Are there any alternatives to food storage that can reduce the risks of losing large amounts of inventory in the event of a power failure?
  3. Do food manufacturers really need to maintain high inventory levels or is there a better way to plan production and delivery so that less inventory can be held at facilities?


Smart Eye-wear Coming 2019

The first google glass was released in May of 2014 to the general public for roughly $1,200, which had high expectations and lots of hype to its market potential. Sadly, it flopped and didn’t meet customer expectations and it wasn’t worth the price.

Despite the flop of Google Glass 1, wearable technology has gained popularity the past 5 years. Mainly with the release of smartwatches and many other types of wearable technology. Google is now releasing its Google Glass 2, which is targeting more business applications – similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens, instead of the general public. Google Glass 2 will allow users to preform their jobs more efficiently and provide information instantly to the user while they’re performing their job.

Amazon, along with a startup call North, is also releasing its own version of smart eye-wear with the release of Focal. Focal’s will cost $1,000 and are more hip and provide more functionality than the original Google glass and provide a different user experience than Google Glass 2. With Focal, you can connect to Alexa, check the weather, read text messages, and use a variety of other applications. Focal will come’s with a ring that has an attached joystick, which allows users to scroll through messages and many other functions of the smart glasses.

Both these products provide lots of potential to their respective users and are rumored to be release sometime in 2019.

Links to articles and videos below:

Current Supply Misconceptions By Matt Foust, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Current Supply Misconceptions

As a profession, those that work in supply chain are constantly on the lookout for initiatives that can make companies more efficient, cut cost, or incorporate new technology (usually to become more efficient or cut cost).  But not all of the newest hype is always worth an investment.  And some of the newest trends or prevailing knowledge don’t always save time and dollars.  In the article The Biggest Supply Chain Fallacies, we will look at some of the current misconceptions and over-hyped technology that currently are in the supply chain industry.

Regarding newer technologies, Blockchain is very popular just about everywhere.  Through its rise in cryptocurrency, many companies have taken notice and exploring where Blockchain might add value.  I’ve even wrote in recent blogs about Samsung is planning to implement Blockchain in its logistics.  But Blockchain isn’t without its issues, and the author of the article brings ups a very good point – Blockchain cannot overcome the issue of garbage in – garbage out.  Suppose an upstream supplier lies about what they are doing and enters the untrue information in the Blockchain.  This information will be regarded as true and is unable to be changed later on.  The need for certify and monitor suppliers is not solved by Blockchain, and since Blockchain’s records are unchangeable, the need to certify may actually be more important.

The next fallacy is that Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) initiatives will assuredly drive better financial performance.  Unfortunately, this is just not true. CSR programs can reduce cost such as initiatives to reduce fuel consumption through better routing and more full truckloads, but CSR programs overall tend to be better looking from the outside.  A realistic view of CSR programs is that may reduce cost, they will most likely attract better talent, and they will attract positive attention to the firm.  Overall, CSR matters more in wealthy nations and to younger employees, and its important to be realistic about what can be achieved through their usage.

Finally, the last supply chain fallacy discussed is the apparent truck driver shortage.  This shortage, as claimed by the majority, is due to the fact that younger people do not want these jobs. But the basis of this issue is most likely just economics.  The average wage for the truck driver according to is a bit over $42,000/year.  At that wage, most young people do not want that job.  If wages went up, economically it would make sense that there would be more individuals that would want to drive trucks.  And in fact, that is apparently happening.  From 2013 – 2017, truck driver salaries increased between 15%-18%.  As wages increase, there will eventually be more drivers, and this shortage will be solved.  Interestingly, the author of the article brings up automation taking the place of drivers as wages rise.  Autonomous vehicles are a hot topic right now, but it’s highly unlikely that autonomous trucking fleets make their way on to our roads anytime soon.

As supply chain professionals, its important that we discern fact from fiction and over-hyped technology from value-adding technology.  Getting differing opinions, staying well read, and keeping an open mind appear to be the best ways to move forward, even in an ever-changing environment.



Do you believe these points to be true?

Are there other supply chain misconceptions not mentioned?

Where will blockchain’s utility be found or is it most likely not useful in a supply chain context?

Using the Cloud to Improve Warehouse Performance by Nick Wright, DCMME Center Graduate Student

Using the Cloud to Improve Warehouse Performance

Starting in May of 2018, Ametek Prestolite Power will begin offering Ametek Insight though their Wireless Battery Identification Devices (WBID). Ametek Insight, a cloud-based ZigBee software, is the newest intelligence solution provided by Ametek that, when paired with the WBID, aims to solve one of today’s warehouse challenges – fleet optimization.  The WBID allows users to continuously and remotely monitor an entire fleet of forklifts using real time data, transmitted and collected using Insight, by managing battery performance, changing settings, updating software/firmware, and more. The ability to use and apply this technology will allow companies to optimize fleet management to extend battery life, increase productivity, reduce costs and ultimately better serve customers. Ametek expects that Insight will eventually become a standard feature on a majority of its batter charger, not just offered through WBID. Can this technology be adapted to optimize other areas of the supply chain besides forklift operation? As the Internet of Things and real-time data analytics takes a more prominent role in supply chains, how will the job of a supply chain manager change?

Article Source:

Video Source:

Staying Ahead of Customer Needs with the Help of CNC Technology, By Nick Wright, DCMME Graduate Student

Staying Ahead of Customer Needs with the Help of CNC Technology

Bridge Tool & Die is a major player in the Carbide tooling market since 2005 and has been transitioning from the use of manual grinders, the tooling industry norm, to the use of automated CNC grinders to increase productivity, capacity, and quality in the hopes of being able to better serve its customers who are continually looking for better and cheaper solutions. This transition began back in December of 2015 when Bridge Tool & Die implanted a Three-Pronged Strategy to enhance their manufacturing processes by reducing machining time and increasing consistency. The three prongs were: retrofitting their existing manual grinders with CNC, setting up multi grinder work stations, and purchasing high-end CNC machines. Using this approach, an operator would theoretically be able to operate three machines at once – one manual, one CNC, and one semi-automatic grinder. Most recently, in 2017 Bridge Tool &Die invested in a Studer CT960 CNC multi-axis grinder to further improve quality and capabilities, boasting of grinding parts in a third of the time, halving the polishing time required, and achieving tolerances of 0.0001” in an industry where the market normal is tolerances of 0.0004”. As well, the new CNC machine is lowering costs for Bridge Tool & Die, as it is expected to require two fewer operators to run, reducing labor costs for the company. Glenn Bridgeman, the owner of Bridge Tool & Die, states that “The need for increased technology was not driven by reducing operators in our shop . . . Rather, it offers us the ability to keep all of our experienced operators, and address capacity versus technology-allowing us to grow over 15% per year.” Will Bridge Tool & Die continue in its trend towards a more automated grinding process? How will industry competitors react to their ability to achieve above normal tolerances? How soon before automation with CNC becomes the new norm and all manual grinding, both at Bridge Tool & Die and elsewhere, becomes obsolete? How will Bridge Tool & Die continue to improve its processes beyond the use of CNC grinders?