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.

3D Printers and Embedded Electronics

In the article “Engineers 3D Print First Fully Functional Drone With Embedded Electronics & Aerospace-Grade Material”( http://www.3dprintpulse.com/?open-article-id=5863467&article-title=engineers-3d-print-first-fully-functional-drone-with-embedded-electronics—aerospace-grade-material&blog-domain=3ders.org&blog-title=3ders)  a recent 3D printing innovation is explored. Normally, embedding electronics in 3D prints is a challenge due to the high temperatures used during the printing process (160C). However, Philip Keane, an NTU PhD candidate, modified and embedded commercial grade electronics at key stages throughout the printing of the drone. The drone design is able to support 60kg of suspended weight, and “stands as the first fully operational quadrocopter to be 3D printed in ULTEM 9085 – a high strength, lightweight FDM material certified for use in commercial aircrafts – all in a single step”. While it does state in the article that the “entire process proved to be meticulous”, it did have a successful ending. In total, printing the drone took 14 hours, with 3 individual pauses to embed the necessary electronic equipment. Now that embedding electronics within 3D prints is an option, what future innovations are coming? Only time will tell.

Smart Bulbs at Risk?

In a recent article on the website, govtech.com, the idea of cybersecurity for smart light bulbs is discussed. With regard to ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol, researchers have found major security flaws in smart light bulbs. Tests conducted on Phillips Hue light bulbs showed that they were able to be ‘infected’ with a code that can spread from lightbulb to light bulb. This is done by having a drone fly within a close proximity and transmit to the light bulbs and then control them remotely. How will companies in the IoT business combat these potential security breaches? Will this slow the growth of the IoT industry? What negative impacts will be felt?

A New Hope

In a recent article on the website, sfchronicle.com, the development of a new type of commercial drone aimed at upgrading the construction industry is discussed. As of late, 3D Robotics has seen huge losses in its consumer drone products and hopes that its shift to the commercial sector will aid in its turnaround. Their new drone, Site Scan, is marketed as a technology that will move the construction industry out of the paper era and into the digital era. Will 3D robotics be able to make the transition? What challenges may they face? What must they do differently from their last drone to be successful?