DRONES IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Two years ago, in an article in SCMR author Nick Vyas outlined real-life applications for drones in the healthcare industry, and predicted other use cases such as pipeline inspections or deliveries of parts and supplies in hard to access areas.

He also noted that “PINC, a provider of yard management systems, has deployed a solution that utilizes drones to identify the location of trailers, shipping containers, and other assets in hard to reach areas. Equipped to carry GPS, RFID, OCR, and barcode readers, the drones can fly overhead to quickly locate and identify assets that have been tagged in a yard or port.”

So, what is the state of drones in the supply chain today?

Companies are focused on improving inventory accuracy to achieve higher supply chain velocity. Tasks like taking inventory and cycle counting are still carried out by humans which can be done more than 300 times faster by drones.

What is the state of the technology? Today, the drone, or robot, flies autonomously in a gps-denied environment using advanced sensors. The company’s warehouse management system (WMS) feeds existing inventory information to the PINC application via integration. When the robot receives a task to count inventory – say the number of cartons on pallets in a storage bay – the software first creates the optimal path for the drone to travel based on mapping done previously.

The drone doesn’t need markers or lasers for guidance to navigate through warehouses. The robot is equipped with an optical system combined with computer vision and deep learning technologies. When it passes through an assigned location, which it knows by the X, Y and Z coordinates, it visually inspects inventory labels and takes photos of the inventory to be counted.

The digital images are processed in real time to generate a count, which is compared against the known count in the WMS system. Since the system manages by exception, after taking inventory, the application provides an exception report to the operator who can click on the exceptions, look at a photo to confirm a count and then, if needed, update the WMS.

Down the road, Yearling expects conversations about using drones in transportation to continue, if for no other reason than the amount of spend on transportation.





  1. How are drones being used in supply chain today?
  2. How do drones aid Warehouse Management Systems?
  3. How do drones improve inventory accuracy?

How will manufacturing progress in 2019?

As manufacturers are continuing to run their operations as lean and efficient as possible technology is continuing to drive change industry. Decision Analyst, on behalf of IQMS, conducted a survey of 151 North American Manufacturers about technologies that they are using to transform their operations. Louis Columbus wrote about the results in his article “Ten Manufacturing Technology Predications for 2019” where he summarizes what the key technological advancements will be that transform manufacturing as we enter the New Year.

  1. More attainable lights-out production courtesy of affordable Smart Machines that are able to run unattended for two or more shifts.
  2. Real-time monitoring with Wi-Fi enabled shop floors and IoT enabled smart machines to improve scheduling accuracy, inventory control, plan performance, and greater flexibility in managing production lines.
  3. Greater adoption of analytics and BI to capitalize on data streams and improve capacity through better resource planning and scale their businesses.
  4. Mobile ERP and quality management applications will become mainstream thanks to advances in integration, usability and high-speed cellular networks and help companies improve data accuracy and operational efficiencies and reduce operational delays.
  5. Digitally-driven transformation with a customer focus by utilizing the above to offer short-notice production runs and achieve greater supplier collaboration.
  6. Replace old legacy machines with cheaper smart machines helping small and mid-tier manufacturers pursue new digital business models.
  7. There will be a major shift to fast-tracking of smart, connected products to avoid price wars and premature commoditization so that within two-years at least two –thirds of product portfolios will be connected thanks to IoT and other technological innovations.
  8. Spreading of the security perimeter thanks to a proliferation of IoT endpoints and an increasing amount of threats to operations from new sources.
  9. Utilizing IIoT to increase productivity by helping improve the inconsistent, inflexible legacy data structures form the shop floor to the top floor.
  10. Greater revenue streams from those manufacturers who were early adopters of IoT will widen the gap between those who adopted IoT early and those who did not.



  1. What will happen to manufacturers who don’t embrace these changes? Will they be able to catch up or will they soon become irrelevant?
  2. What will be the major challenges faced by manufacturers who try to adopt these changes in their operations? How quickly will they see the results from these changes?
  3. Looking beyond 2019, how will the manufacturing space continue to grow as newer technologies come out?

Source: https://www.manufacturing.net/blog/2018/11/ten-manufacturing-technology-predictions-2019

The Rise of the Smart City

By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant

Image result for smart cityTechnologies that once seemed like science fiction fantasy years ago are very rapidly changing our urban landscape. The world is set to become more urbanized, and by 2050, more than 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. Ensuring that these cities are better places to live with an adequate quality of life is essential to making them more sustainable and efficient with streamlined services.

Companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems, IBM, Verizon, Silver Spring Networks, GE, Ericsson, and Siemens are among those pioneering and building smart city solutions. The smart city market is projected to be a $400 billion industry by 2020, with more than 600 cities globally expected to contribute to 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025, according to recent McKinsey research.

In our digital age, imagine having the power at your fingertips via an app to gain fast access to traffic information, road conditions, points of interest, and more in a given city. At the end of the day, it is all about efficiency. The idea of using your smart phone to impact things such as traffic management, waste removal, and even snow removal is simply remarkable, and the next step in urban evolution.



What are some other companies that can contribute smart solutions to cities?

What kinds of technologies can help make a city “smart”?

What are the biggest barriers to bringing about a smart city?

Source: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/smart-cities-the-smart-persons-guide/


Blockchain technology in developing microgrids


By Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant 

Microgrids have transformed the transmission of electricity, and South Korea’s largest power utility company Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) plans to augment this system using blockchain technology. 

The company’s project, “KEPCO Open Micro Grid Project”, will reportedly integrate energy and blockchain technologies with the existing microgrid system. The KEPCO Open MG power source is a fuel cell which addresses the current difficulty in supplying stable power. Unlike consisting of photovoltaics, wind turbines, and energy storage devices, the improved microgrid will be using power-to-gas technology. Converting excess electricity into hydrogen, which can be converted to electric energy through fuel cell, will provide a continuous supply of power.

Blockchain use case

The KEPCO Open MG will implement its blockchain to remove the existing bottleneck created by attempting to connect different microgrids. Eliminating the existence of multiple technical standards by separate providers could potentially enable network operators, customers and energy stakeholders to be more efficient in connecting operationally.

How can blockchain technology increase energy efficiency?

How could a microgrid be developed using blockchain technology?

How is blockchain technology driving energy conversion?





Industry 4.0


We’re in the midst of a significant transformation regarding the way we produce products thanks to the digitisation of manufacturing. This transition is so compelling that it is being called Industry 4.0 to represent the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. From the first industrial revolution (mechanisation through water and steam power) to the mass production and assembly lines using electricity in the second, the fourth industrial revolution will take what was started in the third with the adoption of computers and automation and enhance it with smart and autonomous systems fuelled by data and machine learning.


Industry 4.0 optimises the computerisation of Industry 3.0

When computers were introduced in Industry 3.0, it was disruptive thanks to the addition of an entirely new technology. Now, and into the future as Industry 4.0 unfolds, computers are connected and communicate with one another to ultimately make decisions without human involvement. A combination of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems make Industry 4.0 possible and the smart factory a reality. As a result of the support of smart machines that keep getting smarter as they get access to more data, our factories will become more efficient and productive and less wasteful. Ultimately, it’s the network of these machines that are digitally connected with one another and create and share information that results in the true power of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 applications today

While many organisations might still be in denial about how Industry 4.0 could impact their business or struggling to find the talent or knowledge to know how to best adopt it for their unique use cases, several others are implementing changes today and preparing for a future where smart machines improve their business. Here are just a few of the possible applications:



Identify opportunities: Since connected machines collect a tremendous volume of data that can inform maintenance, performance and other issues, as well as analyse that data to identify patterns and insights that would be impossible for a human to do in a reasonable timeframe, Industry 4.0 offers the opportunity for manufacturers to optimise their operations quickly and efficiently by knowing what needs attention. By using the data from sensors in its equipment, an African gold mine identified a problem with the oxygen levels during leaching.

Optimise logistics and supply chains: A connected supply chain can adjust and accommodate when new information is presented. If a weather delay ties up a shipment, a connected system can proactively adjust to that reality and modify manufacturing priorities.

Autonomous equipment and vehicles: There are shipping yards that are leveraging autonomous cranes and trucks to streamline operations as they accept shipping containers from the ships.

Robots: Once only possible for large enterprises with equally large budgets, robotics are now more affordable and available to organisations of every size. From picking products at a warehouse to getting them ready to ship, autonomous robots can quickly and safely support manufacturers. Robots move goods around Amazon warehouses and also reduce costs and allow better use of floor space for the online retailer.

Additive manufacturing (3D printing): This technology has improved tremendously in the last decade and has progressed from primarily being used for prototyping to actual production. Advances in the use of metal additive manufacturing have opened up a lot of possibilities for production.

Internet of Things and the cloud: A key component of Industry 4.0 is the Internet of Things that is characterised by connected devices. Not only does this help internal operations, but through the use of the cloud environment where data is stored, equipment and operations can be optimised by leveraging the insights of others using the same equipment or to allow smaller enterprises access to technology they wouldn’t be able to on their own.

While Industry 4.0 is still evolving and we might not have the complete picture until we look back 30 years from now, companies who are adopting the technologies realise Industry 4.0’s potential. These same companies are also grappling with how to upskill their current workforce to take on new work responsibilities made possible by Internet 4.0 and to recruit new employees with the right skills.




What is the potential of industry 4.0?

What are the challenges in implementation?




New Opportunities for Space Manufacturing

Reduced access costs to space and the International Space Station has offered new opportunities for space manufacturing, which has gone unrealized in the past few decades. To demonstrate the feasible opportunities of manufacturing in Space is to produce products of value to Earth. The value must be in terms of use and profits.

“The opportunities for in-space manufacturing have never been better,” said Lynn Harper of the Space Portal Office at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “Large-scale manufacturing could be tested and perfected on the ISS, and then implemented in the many commercial carriers that are starting to emerge.”

Made in Space, an in-space manufacturing company is looking to manufacture a special type of fibre-optic cable called ZBLAN. By manufacturing in microgravity, tiny crystals that increase signal loss can be avoided. By avoiding these flaws, the cable is better at transmitting light signals by orders of magnitude over cables developed on Earth. The selling prices for a kilo of ZBLAN on Earth is around $1 Million and considering the costs of launching a kilo into space is around $20,000, the investment is expected to pay off.

“Demand for high-tech solutions requiring higher resolutions, faster processors, more bandwidth, greater precision, novel materials, unique alloys, innovative processes, higher energy efficiency, more processes in a smaller volume and more sophisticated tools, in general, are pushing materials and processes for manufacturing to the point that defects at the atomic- and molecular-level matter,” said Lynn Harper.

Space is a dangerous place for humans. Microgravity weakens muscles, radiation tears through our DNA and the vacuum outside is an ever-present threat. But for materials that show incredible strength, transmit information with barely any loss, form enormous crystals or even grow into organs, the harshness of space can be the perfect construction zone. As the cost of spaceflight goes down, more of these materials may become cost-effective to make or study in space.

There is enormous potential in this field with private firms such as SpaceX, Blue Origins, and Virgin Galactic making serious advances into commercialization. The reusability of the rockets launched by SpaceX has driven down the costs drastically. The volumes of data collected by SpaceX in their numerous successful launches have benefited the firm in securing multiple contracts from governments and corporations. Space manufacturing and commercialization may not be a dream too far away, and it could happen very much in our lifetime.

Space Manufacturing

The famous photograph of astronaut Barry “Butch” E. Wilmore holding a ratchet that he printed onboard the International Space Station.





One Giant Leap for 3D Printing

By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant


Think for a second. You do not have the tools you need to perform your job, but have limited materials and resources to make what you need to accomplish your tasks. What if the process could be simplified? What if you were in outer space? It just so happens that there is a solution.

The International Space Station (ISS) is employing the use of a combination 3D printer and recycler. Dubbed as a “Refabricator”, this device turns waste into reusable parts and tools. Due to the scarcity of resources in space the refabricator is able to recycle previously printed items, parts, and other on-board plastics into much needed tools for the ISS crew. This is key in reducing the station’s on-board waste and reduces the need to potentially jettison the waste into space.

This device is still in an experimental stage, but its implications for promoting an environmentally sustainable future have yet to reach their full potential. The idea that an all-in-one, on-demand, user friendly machine will some day be widely available here on Earth is a game changer.



How does this device promote a more sustainable environment?

What other materials/items here on Earth might be worth refabricating?

What industries do you think this technology could have the greatest impact on?

Source: https://3dprinting.com/news/refabricator-3d-printer-launched-en-route-to-space-station/