Autonomous Vehicles transforming supply chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Last Mile Delivery and Distribution Center Implications

The final mile of delivery is usually a bottleneck in the delivery process, both to suppliers and distributors alike. They result in delays frequently, even with the close proximity of the product to the end consumer. Thus, companies have begun experimenting with autonomous vehicles, that could deliver goods to the end costumer without the presence of a driver within the vehicle. Self-driven vehicles seem to affect coordination by decreasing costs and delays. They may to incredibly affect distribution and production centers as well. A common hone has been to construct these in cheaper areas, where good roads and human resources were available. With a move in customer prerequisites that presently call for speedier deliveries, these huge centers will have to be built closer to the end buyer. These centers will also have to be smaller in size, since companies want to be present near the end consumer at various places rather than being present in limited or central locations. This would increase the cost of real estate, warehouse costs and operational costs. However, these costs can be offset by the reduction in costs due to the implementation of these autonomous vehicles for the last mile deliveries. These vehicles can operate for longer hours, are less prone to accidents due to human errors, thus increasing operational efficiencies.

No drivers for long hauls

It is most likely that these autonomous vehicles will see their implementation in long distance travel first. Since driving on highways is more predictable than on city roads, it requires for lesser skills to navigate. Currently, a large chunk of the transportation costs arise from having to pay drivers. Also, drivers can only drive for a certain number of hours at a stretch and then need to rest. Thus, the vehicle lies idle for that duration. Hence, driverless vehicles would reduce these costs and improve efficiencies.

Corporations are also looking into “platooning”,  in which a group of trucks would travel together over long distances.  The lead vehicle would fix a speed and direction and the following vehicles would just have to follow it.During the last leg of the travel, or the last miles, these vehicles would go in their separate directions respectively. This would not only reduce the costs of having drivers, but also reduce the risk accidents and fuel costs.

Reference:

Impact of Autonomous Vehicles in Your Supply Chain – Bâton Global. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.batonglobal.com/post/impact-of-autonomous-vehicles-in-your-supply-chain.

Questions:

  1. How will autonomous vehicles change supply chain as we know?
  2. How will driverless vehicles solve the last mile delivery issue?
  3. How can driverless vehicles be used to reduce transportation costs?

 

 

Manufacturing at the Speed of Light

Manufacturers are always looking for new ways to make their operations more efficient. One innovative new solution to do this might be using light manufacturing techniques. Light manufacturing techniques are useful for very small objects (think microns or nano-meters in length), which makes them excellent for the electronic industry where people are demanding smaller and smaller electrical components. As the demand for smaller electrical components increases, the cost of manufacturing these components also increases as the precision required by existing machines increases. There are two methods currently being used or researched that could make the process of manufacturing electrical components faster and, more importantly, less expensive.

The first technique is called “optoelectronic tweezers”. This method use optical traps (light) to move small objects into place and assemble the component in liquid and then freeze dries the liquid to allow the manufactured component to be removed. According to the article “New Approach Uses Light Instead of Robots to Assemble Electronic Components” this method could reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of making circuit boards and other small electronic devices. One of the benefits of this method is that it allows for massive parallel assembly meaning you could assembly multiple components at the same time, which improves the time it takes to manufacture bulk shipments of components.

The second technique, called “intense pulsed light sintering”, uses high-energy light to fuse nano-materials in a matter of seconds. The benefit compared to using lasers which accomplish the same thing is that the area of effect is nearly 7,000 times greater in the intense pulsed light sintering method than the typical laser method. The other benefit to this method over the existing pulsed light fusion technique is that it does not require as high a temperature to perform. Pulsed light fusion requires temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius whereas this new method only requires temperatures up to 150 degrees Celsius. According to the article “Faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing”, engineers at Rutgers are currently developing this method for use in the manufacturing of thin films.

 

Questions:

  1. When will these methods be available for manufacturers to start implementing into their processes?
  2. What other areas besides circuit boards and thin films could this technology be used in?
  3. How big of a bottom line impact could this technology have for manufacturers making these electronic components?

 

Source: https://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/news_releases/2017/new_approach_uses_light_instead_of_robots_to_assem/

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093836.htm

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?