Latest Warehouse Management Trends by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Warehousing is being completely transformed by advances in technology and new workplace trends.The capabilities of warehouses to store, organize, track, pick and pack, and ship out inventory determine how efficient and effective the world’s biggest businesses can be. As e-commerce continues to grow and add to the billion-dollar retail business’ bottom line, those changes are happening quickly.

Big Data

The power of businesses to analyze massive amounts of data is matched only by their ability to collect it. “Big Data” is a term that refers to massively large data sets that businesses can analyze computationally to reveal larger patterns and trends that might not be obvious to the human eye. This power to collect data comes from advances in tools like barcode scanners and RFID scanners. Some of the biggest companies, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, use the humble but flexible and expanding-in-capability barcode scanner to collect information from every item that passes through their warehouses.

Barcodes hold more data than ever before thanks to maturation in the 2D barcode label space, and now warehouse workers can glean valuable information like origin, destination, photographs, price, stock levels, and more with just the scan of the code. As a result, businesses are better able to see what items are flying off the shelves at different times of year, how best to balance their inventory turnover ratio, and examine what operations could be streamlined to their fullest capacity.

Wearable technology

From wearable barcode scanners (on fingers, wrists, and perhaps eventually glasses) to devices that track movement over the course of a shift, companies are increasingly investing in technology that delivers them as much information as possible. Big data isn’t just about tracking inventory trends. If employees wear Fitbits and other devices, they can see how efficiently their employees move around the warehouse, when they may need to take breaks, what routes they could take to arrive at a shelf faster, and how their automated vehicles and equipment (more on that below) can join the stream of movement without disruption.

The rise of autonomous machines

Automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) are the next step in turning warehouses into ever-more efficient inventory management hubs. Everything from stackers, forklifts, pallet trucks, and even inventory-carrying robots like Kiva and Fetch robots are revolutionizing how work gets done in warehouses.

Advances are being made to move inventory from trucks to shelves, or around warehouses, around-the-clock. This boost to efficiency will result in untold multiplications of work output.And though these advances in technology may worry humans, it’s clear that at least in the near future, people will still be needed to handle more delicate tasks, as well as perform upkeep and oversight of the AGVs. Humans won’t lose their jobs, necessarily; the jobs will change.

Millennial management

The changing of hands from the Boomer generation and Generation X to Millennials will mark a change in how warehouses are managed and led going forward.

But as a generation that grew up with a lot of the technology and tools in use in warehouses today—smartphones and tablets, particularly those powered by Android; cloud computing; augmented and virtual reality—Millennials are uniquely poised to launch warehouses into the next generation of technology advances and efficiency.Additionally, Millennials will bring a sense of environmental and social consciousness to warehousing (the use of greener materials and more transparent supply chain management).

 Blockchain

Blockchain can potentially affect warehousing in a number of ways. In terms of how it’s currently being used, smaller companies are using smart contracts and processing payments in a clear and public way to avoid disputes. Larger companies with efficient warehouses will be able to more efficiently integrate blockchain practices and technologies that promote transparency, scalability, better real-time access, and lower costs per transaction.

Cloud computing

Now with the rise of a global supply chain and the need to track packages from origin to the doorstep, warehouses need to stay connected to every other link to the chain. Thus, IoT and cloud computing mean a lot. The best way to keep everyone on the same page is to use cloud computing, which updates seamlessly with every barcode scan, database change, reorder, and more.

 Rethinking the warehouse itself

Warehouses are going up en masse around the country and world. As humanity’s insatiable need for new and exciting stuff only increases, and ease of purchasing through e-commerce and via mobile devices adds to the deluge, companies are realizing they need more space than ever.

They also need it closer to major urban centers than before. The most troublesome and costly part of delivering a package to a consumer is “the last mile,” and warehouses are looking to close that gap by building closer to the people they’re delivering to. As new warehouses are being built and older ones retrofitted for new challenges, design changes include column spacing, ceiling height, and materials that promote sustainability. Finally, it’s possible that warehouses themselves won’t even be “in buildings.” Amazon has filed patents for some wild new warehouse designs, including in blimps, underwater, and underground. New trends in warehousing are emerging as quickly as new trends in technology and workplace efficiency are.

Reference: Myers, E. (2018, August 14). 7 New Trends In The World Of Warehousing. Retrieved from http://www.systemid.com/learn/7-new-trends-in-the-world-of-warehousing/.

Questions:

  1. How does cloud computing help in warehouse management?
  2. How is the rise of autonomous vehicles helping inventory management?
  3. How is wearable technology and big data enhancing operational efficiencies in warehouses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How disruptive technologies are improving food supply chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

One of the lectures in my Logistics class, got my interest in understanding how we as professionals interested in the supply chain industry can do our bit to improve the efficiencies in the food supply chain area and I decided to do some reading on the same. I decided that since it’s the need of the hour, maybe I can share it with others too.

IOT enabling better decisions

Internet of Things (IoT) or sensors can continuously capture large amounts of relevant information, while the decreasing cost of storing data in cloud solutions, and the increased possibilities of analysing these big amounts of data, creates new insights and the basis for better decisions. For example, the sensors can capture data in biological processes, such as aquaculture. Advanced analytics on these data may create new insights and better decisions. They may contribute to improved fish health and fish welfare, reduced mortality rates, improved feed efficiency and a more sustainable seafood production.Moreover, IoT enables the entire food and beverage industry to monitor raw goods and products all the way through the value chain, and use the information to ensure safe and sustainable products at the consumers’ tables.

Use of blockchain

Blockchain and other digital technologies will enable the communication of information from sensors directly to the consumer at the purchasing moment. Digital assurance may contribute to making the story true and trustable and an effective defence against counterfeiting and food fraud.For example, the food service industry may log and blockchain temperature information of products throughout the supply chain, from the ready meal producer to the consumer in the convenience store. In addition to the value of this information to the consumer, this may also contribute to longer shelf lives, improved cooling chain performance and reduced food waste. The flip side of making this information fully transparent to the consumer, is of course that the consumer will also know if the cooling chain was disrupted.

Shorter value chains

Thirdly, the platform economy may disrupt the supply chain and impact the retailers by connecting the consumers more directly to the food producers, as short value chains or direct purchase become consumer values in themselves. The decrease in transaction cost and the growing e-business in the food market, may increase the power of consumers, as a larger variety of products and producers may be made available at a lower cost. In addition to deep customer insight, platforms and social media creates open innovation opportunities, by involving customers directly in product development. Through engagement, sense of belonging and loyalty your customers may increasingly become part of your brand.

Transportation Automation

Transportation planners are on the frontlines of the latest supply chain disruption — and they’re making significant progress in more ways than one. Although many think of autonomous vehicles when it comes to the next generation of transportation, supply chain managers have a myriad of applications for advanced robotics and automated systems:

  • Smart Traffic Management: The city of Nanjing, China recently introduced a traffic flow management system that incorporates real-time data as well as predictive analytics and forecasts to help travelers plan their routes on a day-to-day basis. Such a system is easily extrapolated to the supply chain by providing information on traffic delays, detours and even weather conditions.
  • Enhanced Safety Mechanisms: While some are concerned with the safety issues presented by autonomous and driverless vehicles, others focus on human drivers. New systems can estimate a driver’s fatigue by monitoring various vital signs to help avoid accidents on the road.
  • Aerial Drone Delivery: Remote-controlled aerial drones are already popular among consumers, so it makes sense that they’re being considered for product deliveries and shipments.

 

References:

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ie/Documents/ConsumerBusiness/2015-Deloitte-Ireland-Food_Value_Chain.pdf

(n.d.). How Are Digital Technologies Transforming Food Value Chains? Retrieved from https://www.mygfsi.com/news-resources/news/news-blog/1330-how-are-digital-technologies-transforming-food-value-chains.html

Nichols, M. R. (2018, April 25). 5 Technologies Disrupting the Supply Chain. Retrieved from https://www.manufacturing.net/article/2018/04/5-technologies-disrupting-supply-chain

Questions:

  1. How is IOT changing the food supply chains as we know it?
  2. How can transportation automation help improve the efficiency of food supply chains?
  3. How will shorter value chains enhance the efficiencies of food supply chains world over?

 

 

Tracking Hershey chocolates with Blockchain

by Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant

Imagine being able to trace cacao “bean to bar”, as expressed by the head of addressable media and technology for The Hershey Company, Vinny Rinadli. Such granular reporting will be possible as a result of the Hershey Company joining AdLedger, a blockchain-based consortium founded by IBM, Tegna and blockchain company MadHive in 2018.

AdLedger is a nonprofit consortium spearheading the development of shared ledger technologies for the digital advertising market. Blockchain technology would not only be advancing supply chain tracking capabilities but would also be enhancing advertising through readily available data and intermediary transaction documentation.

Starting with cacao farmers, moving to intermediaries and factories, all the way to tracking end consumers, blockchain technology could fundamentally change the way chocolate companies operate.

How can blockchain technology advance digital advertising?

Where can blockchain be applied?

How can companies use blockchain technology?

https://cointelegraph.com/news/hershey-chocolate-company-joins-blockchain-advertising-consortium

https://www.investing.com/news/cryptocurrency-news/hershey-chocolate-company-joins-blockchain-advertising-consortium-1818980

Blockchain digitally transforming B2B processes

by Maria Hartas, DCMME Graduate Assistant

A blockchain pilot program has successfully been completed between Elemica, the leading Digital Supply Network for Process Manufacturer, and crossinx, a network for financial business collaboration solutions. The pilot program aims to redefine B2B processes and support multiple industry digital transformation.

The program consists of the two companies existing as nodes on a public blockchain connecting structures data with unstructured data. Additionally, two global chemical companies partook in transferring invoice, purchase order, delivery tender, and proof-of-delivery documents and data.

Further testing blockchain capabilities could enable a many-to-many connection of companies. Connecting to a digital network, supply chain data can be shared with all trading partners regardless of the network each is connected to. As expressed by crossinx CEO and founder Marcus Laube, the goal is “To use the blockchain to automate document exchange along the supply chain and make it more transparent. This is the basis for our Supply Chain Finance solution”.

A many-to-many connection with blockchain could lead to the:

  1. Ability to decentralize and free-up from intermediaries the exchange information between different stakeholders
  2. Simplification and enhancement of existing business processes
  3. Development of auto-ordering based on IoT information
  4. Automation of PO confirmations
  5. Creation of auto-invoice based on Pickup or PoD
  6. Auto-matching of invoices
  7. Ability of auto-payments
  8. Extension of technology to other complementary decentralized networks and from IoT devices

The pilot program will continue to push blockchain applications before full adoption of the technology.

  1. Can you think of alternative ways to solve potential Supply Chain Finance bottlenecks (manual order creation, invoice matching, payment generation/confirmation, and so on)?
  2. How can multiple shareholders avoid intermediaries in sharing documents and data?
  3. What are the benefits of blockchain technology in creating a shared network?

Source: https://www.supplychain247.com/article/automating_multi_tier_processes_elemica_crossinx_deliver_blockchain_pilot/news

 

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?

Sources:

https://www.ccn.com/koreas-biggest-power-utility-is-developing-a-microgrid-on-a-blockchain/

 https://tokenpost.com/South-Koreas-largest-electric-utility-KEPCO-to-develop-future-microgrid-using-blockchain-technology-747

 

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?

Blockchain: Solution for a safer airspace?

In a recent article on the website, Security Intelligence, the idea of blockchain is introduced. Security is becoming more of an issue as more and more businesses and individuals are using UAVs. Concerns range from privacy to terrorism. Drones can interfere with large aircraft, take pictures of private spaces, and even deliver explosives and other weapons with devastating effects. Fortunately, technology is being developed to regulate this industry and the se of UAVs. Blockchain can help to organize information, regulate airspace, and protect drones and individuals by providing a type of virtual air traffic control system. How ubiquitous will blockchain become? What other technologies may compete with blockchain? How will agencies like the FAA enforce the use of blockchain by users?