Blockchain a Game Changer for Supply Chain Management Transparency

 

What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed database that holds records of digital data or events in a way that makes them tamper-resistant. While many users may access, inspect, or add to the data, they can’t change or delete it. The original information stays put, leaving a permanent and public information trail, or chain, of transactions

If the entire blockchain were the history of banking transactions, an individual bank statement would be a single “block” in the chain. Unlike most banking systems, however, there is no single organisation that controls these transactions. It can only be updated through the consensus of a majority of participants in the system

How Will Blockchain Technology Affect the Supply Chain?
If blockchain technology allows us to more securely and transparently track all types of transactions, imagine the possibilities it presents across the supply chain.

Every time a product changes hands, the transaction could be documented, creating a permanent history of a product, from manufacture to sale. This could dramatically reduce time delays, added costs, and human error that plague transactions today.

Some supply chains are already using the technology, and experts suggest blockchain could become a universal “supply chain operating system” before long. Consider how this technology could improve the following tasks:

  • Recording the quantity and transfer of assets – like pallets, trailers, containers, etc. – as they move between supply chain nodes
  • Tracking purchase orders, change orders, receipts, shipment notifications, or other trade-related documents
  • Assigning or verifying certifications or certain properties of physical products; for example determining if a food product is organic or fair trade
  • Linking physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID, etc.
  • Sharing information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors

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Benefits in a Nutshell
Regardless of the application, blockchain offers shippers the following advantages:

  • Enhanced Transparency Documenting a product’s journey across the supply chain reveals its true origin and touch points, which increases trust and helps eliminate the bias found in today’s opaque supply chains. Manufacturers can also reduce recalls by sharing logs with OEMs and regulators
  • Greater Scalability Virtually any number of participants, accessing from any number of touch points, is possible
  • Better Security A shared, indelible ledger with codified rules could potentially eliminate the audits required by internal systems and processes
  • Increased Innovation Opportunities abound to create new, specialised uses for the technology as a result of the decentralised architecture.

Questions

  • What is Blockchain?
  • What are the applications of blockchain in supply chain?
  • What are the risks of Blockchain technology?

https://www.supplychain247.com/article/why_blockchain_is_a_game_changer_for_the_supply_chain

 

Amazon Delivery Robot Development

Amazon is testing and developing an autonomous delivery robot called “Amazon Scout.” The robot was developed at an Amazon R&D facility and is currently being tested in a neighborhood just north of Seattle, Washington to see how it performs. Through this testing and studying how the robot is performing in the neighborhood, Amazon will see if integration and future expansion is worth the investment.

For the testing phase of this initiative, the robots are accompanying Amazon delivery employees and are following very specific programmed routes. As testing progresses, the robots will operate on their own and be completely autonomous.

Amazon is always trying to find new ways to use technology and improve its supply chain and customer service. First, it tried using drone technology to deliver packages, but the drone initiative is currently on hold due to government regulations, specifically with the FAA (Federal Airline Administration).

Will this project be expanded to other industries like food delivery services?

Will other logistic companies like UPS, FedEx, and DHL integrate this technology in their supply chain capabilities as well?

How long till consumers across the country start interacting with autonomous delivery robots to receive their orders?

Source: https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/amazon-tests-small-autonomous-delivery-vehicle/546763/

Filling the Worker Gap for Manufacturing Careers

A lot of people talk about how new technological advancements in automation, 3D printing, and AI are going to improve manufacturing but lead to a new kind of worker being required to fill manufacturing jobs. However, few people address where this “new kind of worker” is going to come from. According to the article “For the Manufacturing Industry, School is in Session” by Adina Solomon, there is an expected need for 3.5 million manufacturing workers in 2025 but only 1.5 million of those jobs are projected to be filled because of an anticipated proficiency gap in the labor market of about 2 million jobs. Below are examples of how two groups of people are working today to try and address this problem and prepare the next generation to fill these new manufacturing roles that are much different from those of the past.

In Indiana, Seymour High School has started a business called OWL Manufacturing (based on the school’s mascot) which is run by students at the school. Students working at the business elect to take this as a course and spend their time working in a manufacturing environment for school credit. The purpose of the business was to give students a hands-on learning environment where they can learn about how the manufacturing jobs of today are different from the days of their parents, teach them valuable skills to be used in a manufacturing role, and build excitement for a career in manufacturing. Since its launch in 2016, they have gone from 17 to 43 students working in all sorts of roles and many of the graduates who went through this program either went straight into a manufacturing role or are attending secondary schooling with the intent of getting a career in manufacturing. While this program is currently unique to the state it would not be surprising to see more pop-up. This is because the Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, signed an executive order in 2017 to create the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship whose goal is to help support and create programs like OWL Manufacturing to educate and raise interest for the manufacturing jobs of the future.

More information on OWL Manufacturing can be found here: https://sites.google.com/prod/scsc.k12.in.us/shsowlmfg/home

More information on the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship can be found here: https://www.in.gov/dwd/apprenticeship.htm

In North Carolina, businesses have been stepping up to the plate instead of schools. A consortium of companies from the state have come together to form the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP). The goal of GAP is to recruit high school students into an apprenticeship while they are in high school and then, once the students graduate, provide them tuition at a local two-year college where they can get their associates degree while working full-time in a manufacturing environment. Throughout the entire four year program the student works in a manufacturing environment giving them hands-on experience in the career for which they are getting an education to pursue. The other primary purpose of GAP is to educate current students and their parents about how jobs in manufacturing are changing in order to counteract some of the stereotypes that manufacturing jobs are “dirty and physically difficult”. The other benefit of this program is that it offers students who want a career in manufacturing a cheaper route than completing a four-year degree and accumulating student loan debt.

More information on GAP can be found here: https://gapnc.org/

 

Source: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2018-10-24/manufacturing-goes-to-high-school-to-find-future-workers

 

Questions:

  1. What are other states doing to try and tackle this issue? Are there other programs similar to these out there right now?
  2. Will these types of programs be enough to cover the 2 million job gap that is currently expected? Are these programs and ones like it making a significant enough impact?

How will apprenticeship programs like GAP change the way younger generations view secondary education? Will we see less enrollment in the standard four-year degree and an increase in trade schools or associate degrees?

Grocery shopping with Robots

173 supermarkets across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia are introducing a robot called Marty on their sales floors. Ahold Delhaize USA, the parent company of Giant Food Stores, has reported positive pilot feedback from customers and employees after bringing robotic and A.I. technologies close to everyone in the grocery store aisles. 

Will robots replace humans?

The answer to this question is, no. Marty is programmed to autonomously roam around the store, communicate potential hazards to customers and alert employees through the PA system. Freeing up employees’ hands and time from walking around the store preforming routine checks, such as looking out for spills on the floor, team members will have more time to engage and assist customers.

As shared by Nick Bertram, president of Giant, “As much as [Marty] replaces that task, it doesn’t replace those people”.

Making the robot more humanlike, Marty is 6’3″ with googly eyes that attracted customers’ and employees’ attention. More robots will be rolled out in the first six months of 2019.

 

Will robots replace humans?

How can robots enhance your shopping experience?

Can robotic and A.I. technologies be part of everyday life?

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/a-googly-eyed-robot-is-coming-to-172-grocery-stores-across-america/ar-BBSkHRq

https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/robots/a25896081/marty-giant-robot-grocery-stores/

Autonomous robots and drones – Streamlining Supply Chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Five examples of how autonomous robots and drones can work to streamline the supply chain and make it more efficient :-

  1. Perform product development tasks: When autonomous robots are set up to perform continuous, repetitive tasks, product development, and prototyping activities can benefit from around-the-clock testing for fatigue, damage tolerance, and quality. This frees up product development professionals to work on more important tasks.
  2. Enable better inventory management and easier cycle counting: When handled by aerial robots, these tasks produce more accurate supply-demand reconciliation and replenishment needs, ultimately reducing on-hand inventory.
  3. Enhance warehouse operations: Autonomous Drones can be used in various warehouse operations, from inbound logistics in time-critical situations; carrying materials from storage to the factory; transporting directly from receiving to shipping; or efficiently scanning inventory and significantly reducing labor costs.
  4. Improve accuracy on mundane tasks: Robotic process automation in standard sourcing processes can reduce effort and time requirements and improve the accuracy of mundane tasks.
  5. Reduce cross-docking times and speed up shipment deliveries: Autonomous vehicles with self-guiding abilities can reduce cross-docking times and improve accuracy and rates of picking, packing, sorting, and labeling of items. This, in turn, increases perfect order rates and potentially drives higher customer satisfaction levels.

References: https://www.supplychain247.com/article/5_ways_to_streamline_supply_chain_logistics_operations_with_robots_drones/Drones

Questions:

  1. How is robotic process automation reducing effort and time requirements of mundane tasks ?
  2. How are robots enabling better inventory management ?
  3.  How do autonomous drones enhance warehouse operations ?

SELF DRIVING VEHICLES-Disruptive Innovations transforming the Future of Supply Chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES

News headlines continue to spread the word about self-driving vehicles, often emphasizing the potential for passenger cars to gain mass traction. Supply chain and logistics professionals, however, are considering the ways this new technology could dramatically alter their operations.

Driverless trucks have the potential to reduce labor costs and increase efficiency—after all, a driverless truck can travel straight to its destination without breaks for sleep and food. And self-driving vehicles could also be used to transport items inside warehouses and other facilities.

“Self-driving vehicles unlock new levels of safety, efficiency, and quality within the logistics sector,” Hewitt says. “They will transform the supply chain by autonomously loading and transporting all shapes and sizes of products.”

The ongoing commercial driver shortage appears certain to intensify in the near future, especially if the economy improves. Waggoner cites the possibility of the United States being 175,000 drivers short of demand in a few years. This shortage will likely play a major role in debates over the viability of driverless vehicles.

“The worsening driver shortage will put pressure on pricing and capacity,” he says. “That may not be enough to accelerate their implementation, but driverless trucks could help alleviate the problem.”

No matter the obstacles, supply chain executives see the move to self-driving vehicles as inevitable—a matter of when, not if.

 

References:

https://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/6-technologies-guaranteed-to-disrupt-your-supply-chain/

Questions:

  1. How will the shortage of commercial drivers affect the supply chains?
  2. How will the driverless vehicles affect the logistics?
  3. How will the driverless vehicles enhance safety and efficiency of supply chains?

 

How Increased Global Volatility in 2019 Will Change your Supply Chain

As we move into 2019 it is easy to see that this is going to be a challenging year as there is more volatility than normal because of the geopolitical climate we are in. From the trade war with China, tariff increases, and a less stable US economy on top of the standard sources of risks – natural disasters, labor disputes, etc. – 2019 is going looking to bring new challenges to supply chains and procurement teams. According to the article “Global Volatility & AI: How It Will Affect Your Supply Chain” by Rajesh Kalidindi, these additional risks are going to lead to several changes in how a procurement department and supply chain are run.

Firstly, you are going to see a shift towards scenario planning from procurement, or in other words “What If” analyses are going to be in higher demand for helping make procurement decisions that mitigate the impact of these growing risks. Next, you are going to see a shift in procurement priorities from straightforward, consistent cost reduction to ensuring continuous supply and limiting price increases – especially as tariffs, wages, and interest rates continue to rise. In order to help achieve these changes, organizations will begin to rely on predictive and AI-enabled technologies to fill the gaps in their current capabilities and what is being asked of them. This is the first step I moving towards AI-led business. Those who already have this technology in place with begin using it in conjunction with product design to provide new insights into New Product Introduction (NPI) that will enable companies to optimize the life cycle of their products by addressing supply risks from the get-go. All of these changes will lead to a need for new procurement and supply chain employees with greater digital literacy. All of this will lead to changes in the way supply chains and procurement departments look, and it all starts with the increased market volatility being seen in 2019.

 

Source: https://www.industryweek.com/technology-and-iiot/global-volatility-ai-how-it-will-affect-your-supply-chain

 

Questions:

  1. How long until we see the majority of supply chains using AI-enabled technology?
  2. With the onset of AI-led business, how will the role of a procurement officer change in a company?

What will happen to those companies that are behind the trend of predictive and AI-enabled technologies? Will they become insignificant or still have a role to play in the market?