BLOCK CHAIN MAKING GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS BETTER by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

When an E.coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets left 55 customers ill, in 2015, the news stories, shutdowns, and investigations shattered the restaurant chain’s reputation. Sales plummeted, and Chipotle’s share price dropped 42%, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since.At the heart this crisis was the ever-present problem faced by companies that depend on multiple suppliers to deliver parts and ingredients: a lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains.

Now, a slew of startups and corporations are exploring a radical solution to this problem: using a blockchain to transfer title and record permissions and activity logs so as to track the flow of goods and services between businesses and across borders.With blockchain technology, computers of separately owned entities follow a cryptographic protocol to constantly validate updates to a commonly shared ledger. A fundamental advantage of this distributed system, where no single company has control, is that it resolves problems of disclosure and accountability between individuals and institutions whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Mutually important data can be updated in real time, removing the need for laborious, error-prone reconciliation with each other’s internal records. It gives each member of the network far greater and timelier visibility of the total activity.

In a nutshell, this is a global system for mediating trust and selective transparency. Although much attention and money has been spent on financial applications of the technology, an equally promising test case lies with global supply chain relationships, whose complexity and diversity of interests pose exactly the kinds of challenges this technology seeks to address. The technology can reveal  hidden information and allows users to attach digital tokens — a unique, negotiable form of digital asset, modeled on bitcoin — to intermediate goods as they progress along the production, shipping, and delivery phases of a supply chain and as title to them passes between different players. This could give businesses far greater flexibility to find markets and price risk, by capturing the value that they have invested in the process at any point along the chain. What we end up with are dynamic demand chains in place of rigid supply chains, resulting in more efficient resource use for all.

Various endeavors have already started.Walmart is working with IBM and Tsinghua University, in Beijing, to follow the movement of pork in China with a blockchain. Mining giant BHP Billiton is using the technology to track mineral analysis done by outside vendors. And many more such examples.Advances in chip and sensor technology, which can translate data from the automated movement of physical goods, should greatly enhance these emerging blockchain systems. It could be especially powerful when combined with “smart contracts,” in which contractual rights and obligations, including the terms for payment and delivery of goods and services, can be automatically executed by an autonomous system that’s trusted by all signatories.

But this technology’s potential traceability and automation benefits don’t just pertain to things; it could also keep human beings in check. Staff and supervisors from different vendors can be granted special, cryptographic permissions, which, when placed into a blockchain environment, would appear as unique, traceable identifiers — preferably encrypted, to protect the employee’s personal information. This would allow all members of a supply chain community to monitor the activity of each other’s credentialed staff. This kind of provable, transparent credentialing will be especially important for additive manufacturing, which is central to the dynamic, on-demand production model of the so-called Industry 4.0 movement. These potential efficiency improvements, enabled by hitherto unavailable information, suggest blockchain technology could deliver vast savings for companies everywhere.

Please see the link for reference:

https://hbr.org/2017/03/global-supply-chains-are-about-to-get-better-thanks-to-blockchain

Questions:

  1. How is blockchain a global system for mediating trust and selective transparency?
  2. How is blockchain creating automation in industries?
  3. How is blockchain changing the rigid supply chains to dynamic demand chains?

Japanese start-up introduces the first humanless warehouse

Jobs performed by warehouse workers and forklift operators are now completed by robots in the first humanless warehouse in Tokyo. Mujin, a start-up company, has equipped its customer’s, JD.com, e-commerce warehouse with robots.

In an effort to augment existing industrial robot arms, Mujin is building robot controllers and camera systems. The controller’s technology based on motion planning and computer vision, strengthens robotic autonomous and intelligent action. The enhanced controllers lead to the elimination of manual robot training and overall higher productivity.

The 40,000-sq-m JD.com e-commerce facility is equipped with 20 industrial robots that complete tasks such as picking, transferring packages, and loading docks and trucks. Crates on conveyor belts, camera systems and Mujin robot controllers are all part of the humanless warehouse. The robots come with five workers who are needed to service the machines, compared to an estimated 400 to 500 workers that would be needed in the absence of the robots.

Mujin is targeting the predictability in the controller’s moves, and the development of automation technologies such as robot hardware, sensing hardware, AI algorithms, conveyor systems and sorting systems. That’s to say that the company aims to standardize a complete automation package that can automate warehouses without tailored components for customers.

Improvements will continue to be made in the field of warehouse automation as Japanese companies, following JD.com, will be testing out the new technology.

What level of engagement do workers have in a fully automated warehouse?

How are robots enhancing productivity in a warehouse?

What technologies can aid the integration of robots in a warehouse?

Source:

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/30/the-worlds-first-humanless-warehouse-is-run-only-by-robots.html

What Does Food Packaging Have To Do With Big Data And The Internet Of Things?

Chris Wilder – Forbes tech

There are several types of packaging available for brands to interact with their customers. The conventional package is simply the first option available for brands to promote their product. It’s important for brands to ensure a package that articulates the brand values and promise. Going further there is the hybrid packaging that combines rigid and flexible materials. The active packages are those that offer further information about the company and things like nutritional facts to customers in the form of a QR code. Interactive packaging goes even further by offering extra care to products sensitive to particular environmental conditions. Finally, we have the IoT effects over packaging where current businesses are combining RFID labels with other technologies to enhance the supply chain and logistics in the food industry as well as the freshness and endurance for certain produce.

Original article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/moorinsights/2015/10/01/what-does-food-packaging-have-to-do-with-big-data-and-the-internet-of-things/

5 Robotics Stocks to Watch (the Droids You’re Looking For)

According to an article posted on September 10th, 2015 in The Street, (http://www.thestreet.com/story/13281861/1/5-robotics-stocks-to-watch-the-droids-you%E2%80%99re-looking-for.html) robots could soon be doing much more than just assembling your car or cleaning house, they could also be included in your investment portfolio. The Boston Consulting Group believes that the rapid growth in the robotics industry will be due to several factors. Currently robots perform roughly 10% of all manufacturing tasks, but they believe that number will jump to 25% by 2025. By the same year, they estimate that automation will cut manufacturing costs by 18-33% and increase productivity by 30% in countries such as South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, and the US. They also state that it’s not only the reduction in labor costs that’s increasing the trend in automation, it’s that the actual price of robots is decreasing over time. For example, the cost of an advanced robotic spot welder has dropped 27% since 2005, from an average of $182,000 to $133,000. The firm believes that price will continue to decrease an additional 22% by 2025. All of these factors and more are a clear sign to investors that the industrial robotics industry is going to experience rapid growth. The article projects that there are 5 robotics stocks to watch due to the growth in the automation industry. Those stocks are Google (GOOG), Yaskawa Electric (YASKY), ABB Ltd. (ABB), iRobot (IRBT), and Ekso Bionics Holding (EKSO). These companies are expected to see rapid growth through mergers and acquisitions in the robotics industry, and because they are currently industry leaders in robotics and focus on robotics innovations. Will the robotics industry actually grow like it is projected? How risky are some of the 5 stocks mentioned? Would you invest in any of these specific stocks?

Industrial robotics market likely to reach $41.17 billion globally by 2020

An article published on September 8th, 2015 in the Control Engineering Asia magazine (http://www.ceasiamag.com/2015/09/industrial-robotics-marketT-likely-to-reach-41-17-billion-globally-by-2020/) describes how the industrial robotics market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4% globally from 2013 to 2020 and will reach a market size of $41.17 billion in 2020. The market size in 2012 was $26.78 billion, but the reduction of duties on refurbished goods in the Asia Pacific and rapid growth in automation demands are causing the increase in the market. The use of industrial robotics in alternative applications is expected to grow such as in the electronics and healthcare industries. Among the different types of robots- articulated, cylindrical, SCARA, and Cartesian- articulated had the largest share of the market in 2012 at $12.97 billion. Although cylindrical robots are expected to grow at a faster pace at a CAGR of 6.5% through 2020. The robotics market is also segmented into many different industries including the automotive, electrical/electronics, metals, chemical, rubber and plastics, machinery, food and beverage, and a variety of others. Of these industries, the automotive sector had the largest share in the market in 2012 at $7.37 billion. However, the food and beverage industry is expected to see the highest growth rate at a CAGR of 6.9% through 2020. Lastly, robots are segmented by the function that they perform including soldering and welding, material handling, assembling, disassembling, painting, cutting, milling, etc . Of these functions materials handling had the largest section of the market. What is the future of the industrial robotics industry? What industry benefits the most from robotics? How would you justify the costs of a robot? Will there eventually be more robots in industry than humans?