How Augmented Reality is disrupting supply chains. – Abhilasha Satpathy

With over one billion AR enabled smartphones and tablets already in use, companies don’t have to wait for low-cost augmented reality glasses to start reaping the benefits of augmented reality. Here are five ways that AR is transforming the supply chain into a nimble tool for global distribution:

1) Pick-and-Pack Services

Augmented reality is being used in warehouses to more efficiently locate products and pack them in outgoing boxes. One of the costliest parts of running a “pick and pack” service is training new workers to navigate a large warehouse and find the one product they are searching for. AR glasses can paint an imaginary line on the warehouse floor to simplify the searching and training. During the peak holiday season, temporary workers need to be on-boarded quickly. AR shortens the learning curve by providing new hires with constant feedback on their glasses about how they are doing and what can be improved. Field tests of AR pick-and-pack systems have reduced errors by as much as 40%.

2) Collaborative Robotics

Robots are the ultimate human augmentation. Workers sitting comfortably at their desks can wear AR glasses that let them see what a robot in the warehouse sees. AR glasses can now chart the paths of robots through warehouses and use their strength to lift and move heavy cargo. Dangerous or repetitive tasks, such as loading a truck, can be delegated to robots that operate with human guidance when it comes to how to best load the items to achieve the maximum load. Additionally, logistics robots are able to scan each product for damage, check its weight, and abide by any package shipping instructions. By connecting robots with managers, customers can be automatically alerted if any products that aren’t available before the truck even leaves the warehouse.

3) Maintenance

Fixing a problem before it happens is the most cost-effective form of maintenance. With many aircraft engines now transmitting usage data via Wi-Fi when they are on the ground, augmented reality is assisting maintenance crews in reducing engine downtime by comparing engine data with the past history of other similar aircraft with avionics systems. These algorithms then suggest maintenance before a problem is likely to occur. For planes that spend most of their ground time at distant locations, AR can also enable more experienced maintenance teams at the airline’s hub to see what local technicians are dealing with and provide timely live support.

4) Last Mile Delivery

In logistics, the last-mile of delivery to customers is the most expensive. AR can save money by cutting the time spent on last-mile delivery nearly in half. According to a DHL report, drivers spend 40% to 60% of their day searching inside their own truck for the correct boxes to deliver next. Instead of having to remember how their truck was loaded that morning, augmented reality is used to identify, tag, sequence, and locate every parcel. Combined with artificial intelligence, AR glasses can also navigate the driver to the proper door or building gate for delivery. These systems will record each and every delivery so that new drivers will benefit from past driver experiences. In the near future, every driver will be given a graphic overlay of each building they encounter.

5) Procurement

The distributed ledger capability of blockchain is being combined with augmented reality to bring transparency and traceability to procurement. The entire supply chain falls apart when customers can’t be assured of a product’s origin or authenticity. Each year, billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals are distributed to patients, and tens of thousands are dying. Using AR to identify and track each shipment from manufacturer to end user is a way to help solve this deadly problem. Recording each transfer of ownership on a blockchain can also assist in tracing the origin of fish or the source of harvested crops.

Big data drives the decision making behind the world’s distribution of products throughout the supply chain. Augmented reality is now poised to exponentially increase the speed at which data can be analyzed and acted on. The insights augmented reality bring to the supply chain can be used to power the next generation of the supply chain, which will feature autonomous vehicles and delivery drones.

References:

“5 Ways Augmented Reality Is Disrupting the Supply Chain.” Fortune, fortune.com/2018/03/01/5-ways-augmented-reality-is-disrupting-the-supply-chain/.

Questions:

  1. How does augmented reality help in reducing costs in supply chain?
  2. How is blockchain is being combined with augmented reality to bring transparency and traceability to procurement?
  3. How does augmented reality help in last-mile delivery?

UPS drones delivering vaccines

by Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant

Imagine last mile delivery of vaccines. UPS, collaborating with Matternet a drone technology company, launched the transport of medical samples using drones to WakeMed’s campus in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area.

Matternet’s M2 quadcopter, a drone that is battery powered and can transport up to five pounds can travel up to 12.5 miles. UPS will be able to fulfill on-demand and same-day delivery orders using Matternet’s technology.

Furthermore, UPS will be sending vaccines to franchised stores, from where contracted nurses by the 3PL’s clinical trial departments will deliver and administer the vaccine to patients.

UPS’s robust package tracking system, starting from shipping label inception to the precise minute of delivery, would open new opportunities for UPS in the medical field.

How can drone technology enhance medical services?

Are there drone-delivery limitations?

How do consumers benefit from delivery innovations?

Sources:

https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/ups-healthcare-drone-delivery-vaccine-last-mile/551421/

How robots are changing Supply Chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

One business area ripe for business process disruption enabled by robotics is supply chain execution, especially in order fulfillment processes in the warehouse. These processes typically involve a high degree of human involvement as well as a tremendous amount of movement throughout a facility. Now, it’s not as if robotics have been absent from these areas in the past; there are use case examples, but none at a large scale across supply execution. Those organizations that have introduced robots into their warehousing and fulfillment operations have delivered added value including productivity improvements, efficiency gains, the capability to better scale up/down with demand spikes and the ability to improve customer service levels.

The most familiar example of robotics in the fulfillment process is at Amazon. Thee-commerce giant acquired Kiva Systems (now known as Amazon Robotics) in 2012 for $775 million. Since then, Amazon has continuously expanded their use to upwards of 80,000 robots across 25 distribution centers. Through their deployment, Amazon has been able to accelerate delivery times and reduce fulfillment related costs. According to a note published by Deutsche Bank, the deployment of the robots equates to a roughly $22 million per year savings in facilities where they are in use, or an estimated 20% reduction to operating costs. If Deutsche Bank’s estimates are close, Amazon has proven that there is tremendous value to be gained through the use of robotics within the fulfillment center.

For some, a Kiva-type model will work quite well. These utilize fast-moving robots that shuttle entire racks of inventory from a segregated section of the fulfillment center to a picking station, where a picker selects the inventory needed to fill an order. After a pick, a robot returns the rack to back to the floor and moves on to the next pick. A rack-to-person model is best suited to high throughput facilities where speed is the most important element. The benefits include the ability to rapidly move product to picking locations and accelerate fulfillment cycles. However, the rack-to-person model also has its drawbacks. For example, it requires some facility modification to create a segregated area where the robots can safely operate and it requires a guidance mechanism to ensure that the robots operate within the appropriate spaces. These systems are not necessarily collaborative because humans aren’t allowed to work in the same aisles where the robots are operating.  One final drawback is that with these models, half of the movement is spent returning racks after a pick, essentially retaining 50% of the wasted movement in the process.

References:

Santagate, J., & Santagate, J. (2018, January 25). NextGen Supply Chain: The Robots are Here. Retrieved from https://www.scmr.com/article/nextgen_supply_chain_the_robots_are_here

Questions:

  1. How are robots disrupting supply chains?
  2. How are robots increasing operating efficiencies?
  3. How are robots helping in warehousing and fulfillment operations?

 

 

Disruptive Innovations and their applications in Supply Chain Management – by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Procurement and supply chain are at the cusp of a disruption with AI, IoT and blockchain technology. A digital transformation is ensuing with the promise of greater efficiency in business processes, operations, transparency and security.

Spend analysis

Spend analysis used in strategic sourcing, needs a shift from the traditional descriptive analytics model to more predictive and prescriptive analytics. Organizations can develop tools to enhance their spend analysis with public domain data — from social media, weather data, demographics, suppliers, competition and logistics to name a few — to help uncover insights that can save money and improve supply chain.

 

Supplier lifecycle management

The traditional supplier lifecycle management platform, when augmented by big data from the public domain, can offer meaningful information on suppliers and supply chain risks. An IoT solution can be employed to track the quality of the product at various stages of the supply chain thus improving the efficiency in the process and providing the metrics for supplier evaluation.

 

Strategic sourcing

Supplier bids are collected using online sourcing events, but a large part of the sourcing evaluation and award process is manual in nature. Using blockchain for through all steps of the process — proposals, quotes and bids — or auction, can offer greater efficiency and transparency.

 

Contract management

A blockchain platform and its smart contract framework coupled with IoT and AI, can help facilitate greater efficiency in compliance and obligation management. AI can help develop smart wizards to build contracts based on responses to specific questions and can further be enabled for pattern recognition to identify changes to standard clauses or introduction of non-standard clauses.

Order management

The traditional order management system is internal to any organization and facilitates the fulfillment process. Blockchain platform powered with AI and IoT can drive greater efficiency in orchestrating and streamlining purchase orders, shipment details, trade documents, goods receipts, quality assurance documents, returns and accounting.

Logistics

The logistics industry is an early adopter of AI, IoT and Blockchain, and is already reaping great business benefits. IoT in the logistics ecosystem can provide great insights on inventory management, shelf life, storage temperature, delivery routes, real-time tracking of freight and more

 

Reference:

https://www.ibm.com/blogs/blockchain/2018/04/digital-transformation-next-gen-procurement-and-supply-chain/

 

Questions:

  1. How are AI, IOT and blockchain transforming the logistics industry?
  2. How is blockchain helping in order management?
  3. How can AI help in contract management ?

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 ?

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.

References:

https://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/the_emerging_role_for_drones

 

Questions:

  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?

Interstellar Drones

In a recent article on the website, DailyMail, the development of extraterrestrial drones is discussed. On a distant Jupiter moon, Europa, there is believed to be oceans. NASA scientists and engineers are working to develop submersible drones that can gather data and detect microbial life by operating in these icy waters. A major requirement for these drones will be for them to operate autonomously and manage their own resources. Only time will tell if these drones will accomplish the mission NASA hopes for.