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Supply chain technology has come a long way in the past few years. Improvements in AI technology and deep learning programs can help supply chain managers accurately predict shortages, adapt to current conditions, and operate more efficiently.
Supply chain technology can also be used to improve the customer journey. Effective supply chain management leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to give consumers greater control over their orders. Emerging technology can also be used to reduce human error, increase operational efficiency, and improve security.
These breakthroughs in technology improve the customer experience and ensure that consumers get the products they want when they need them.
CX and SCM
At first glance, consumer experience (CX) and supply chain management (SCM) seem unrelated. However, as senior sales executive Sven Esser points out “the relationship between CX and SCM is symbiotic.”
Esser goes on to explain that effectively mapping the customer journey is an important facet of effective CX and SCM. Predicting consumer behavior ensures that supply chains are operating as efficiently as possible and that consumers have accurate information about shipping and order fulfillment before they check out.
Esser advocates for a model of SCM that gets to know consumers and uses AI analytics to accurately map and predict the typical consumer journey. This will help businesses connect with consumers’ personal needs and help supply chain managers shift to a more “customer-focused effort.”
Businesses can use AI analytics to map the consumer journey and improve their SCM through Google Analytics (GA4). GA4 is typically used by marketers who want to improve the materials. However, GA4 can also be used to track users from the referral page to the conversion or exit page.
Supply chain managers can work with marketing to get a better picture of the consumer journey and typical behavior. GA4 can be particularly useful for businesses that use the IoT to place orders or improve CX.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing industries around the world. Consumers and businesses can use the IoT to link devices and create “smart” networks between products and machines.
The IoT can also improve the efficiency of supply chains by giving businesses an up-to-date assessment of inventory and potential problems. For example, a business that runs an IoT-integrated warehouse will be aware of issues like faulty equipment and disrupted supply lines earlier than competitors who do not leverage the IoT.
IoT-integrated supply chains can improve the consumer journey directly, too. IoT technology makes it easier for customers to place and edit orders. For example, folks who utilize smart home devices like Google Nest or Amazon’s Alexa can place and edit orders with a simple voice command.
Emerging technology like AI software and the IoT is designed to improve operational efficiency and streamline the consumer journey. However, human error still threatens to derail business operations and supply chains.
Supply chain managers can reduce the risk of human error in the workplace by automating relevant processes. This is particularly important in warehouse management, where human error may result in injury due to repetitive motions or dangerous working conditions. Automated machines in smart factories and warehouses can take humans out of the firing line and ensure that customers have their orders fulfilled with minimal delays.
Supply chain technology can also improve post-sale communication with consumers. Consumers who have ordered expensive goods want regular updates on the status of their products. Businesses can send out automated emails when the customer’s product has passed production phases and is ready for shipping. Automated communication improves the customer journey by alleviating worries about order fulfillment without derailing operational efficiency.
Operational efficiency is at the heart of a successful customer journey. Customers can tell when all departments are working in unison and will benefit from quicker order fulfillment due to higher efficiency in the workplace.
Maximizing operational efficiency is particularly important for businesses that use Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management. JIT inventory management relies on accurate consumer forecasts and robust supply chain management to ensure that businesses get the inventory they need just when they need it. This can result in major savings, which can be passed onto the consumer or used to otherwise improve the customer journey.
However, for inventory management methods like JIT to work, businesses need to hyperautomate their operations. Hyperautomation allows businesses to “rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.” Hyperautomation relies on deep learning programs that can successfully capture and utilize massive data sets. This will improve the customer journey, too, as the same data sets can be used to present personalized adverts and products to consumers.
Emerging technology like the IoT can have a direct impact on the customer journey. Consumers today can place, edit, and receive orders using a network of machines and devices that are connected by AI algorithms. Recent upgrades to supply chain technology can also improve operational efficiency and reduce the risk of human error in factories and warehouses. This ensures that consumers receive their orders with minimal delay and at a lower cost.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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Manufacturers have had an uneasy past two years. Disruptions early in the pandemic nearly brought production to a halt in some areas, and now, supply chain shortages plague the industry.
Building materials have seen some of the most dramatic shortages, with 94% of surveyed builders struggling to find framing lumber. Electronics manufacturers and those relying on them have struggled, too. The automotive industry stands to lose $61 billion this year due to semiconductor shortages.
Other materials and parts in short supply include palm oil, plastics, corn, steel, and chlorine.
The Causes Behind Manufacturing Supply Shortages
There are many factors behind these shortages, most of them sprouting from the pandemic. Economic downturns and worksite restrictions have stopped or slowed many processes like farming, mining, and parts production globally. Even as these obstacles fade, these producers of materials and parts find themselves with considerable backlogs, leading to ongoing shortages.
A surge in demand has compounded these supply issues. General manufacturing demand was already increasing, with U.K. consumers alone spending more than $1.6 billion online weekly in 2019. E-commerce skyrocketed further amid the pandemic, and on the commercial side, many manufacturers rushed to meet previous production levels, outpacing their still-struggling suppliers.
International travel restrictions have also made shipping slower and more expensive, exacerbating the crisis.
Strategies for Mitigating Supply Issues
While there is no silver bullet for these supply shortages in manufacturing, several steps can mitigate their impact. Manufacturers can also take this opportunity to prepare against future disruptions, avoiding similar situations. Here are three leading strategies for navigating these supply issues.
1. Improving Visibility
One of the most crucial changes to make is to increase visibility across the supply chain. Internet of things (IoT) technology and data analytics programs can give manufacturers more insight into stock levels and developing situations. They can then predict shortages and take steps early to account for them.
Real-time visibility can also help track shipments to give customers a better idea of when they can expect their end products. Over time, this data can inform more accurate predictions and reveal needed workflow changes. Manufacturers can then become more resilient against supply chain issues.
2. Diversifying Sources
In manufacturing, many facilities tend to source from a single supplier. While this minimizes costs, it also intensifies shortages when disruptions arise. Manufacturers can lessen the impact of slowdowns and other unexpected issues by diversifying their sources.
Much like how Amazon uses artificial intelligence (AI) to keep merchandise close to consumers, manufacturers can analyze data to find ideal nearby sources. Domestic or near-short suppliers will produce fewer disruptions in a crisis as there’s less distance and fewer regulations involved. Using multiple suppliers will further reduce shortages by removing dependencies.
3. Turning to Alternatives
Some manufacturers have found relative success in using alternative materials to account for shortages. For example, some construction material companies have switched to unconventional insulation materials in the face of petroleum shortages. Manufacturers may be able to adjust processes to use novel or less-common materials to maintain production.
If facilities take this route, being transparent with customers is crucial. End products may have different qualities or incur higher prices with new materials, so manufacturers must be upfront about these changes. They may cause initial disruptions but can mitigate persistent issues with conventional parts.
Manufacturing Must Adapt Amid Widespread Shortages
Given the prevalence and severity of these shortages, they won’t likely go away soon. It will take time for production to fulfill backlogs and meet demand. On the positive side, this increased demand indicates healthy industry growth, but manufacturers must prevent similar crises in the future.
Since these shortages are multifaceted issues, no one solution will fix them. Adopting a multi-step approach, including implementing new technologies for visibility and adjusting sourcing methods, is essential. The industry faces significant obstacles right now, but these will inspire positive change for the future.
*This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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The eCommerce industry is one of only a few business models that have thrived amidst the financial uncertainty of COVID-19. eCommerce did more than just weather the pandemic, it took advantage of the opportunity to accelerate industry growth by 4 to 6 years, according to an Adobe analysis.
While many assume eCommerce gains are relatively insulated, in actuality, the industry affects many adjacent ones, including artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. As the rest of the world struggles to catch up financially, eCommerce and related industries are thriving and rapidly changing. Here, we’ll explore how data analytics and manufacturing trends in eCommerce are changing industry operations.
Increased online traffic and changing user patterns have led the eCommerce industry to employ sophisticated data analytics methodologies to predict consumer behavior. eCommerce stores worldwide make use of data analytics to provide product recommendations, perform market analysis, optimize price, and forecast demand.
Business analytics is nothing new, but its ease of use and popularity has increased in recent years. With many consumers worldwide still confined to their homes or local communities, more and more are turning to online shopping. Not only does this expanded consumer base mean more accurate analytics, but it also means more opportunities for business expansion, both in the eCommerce industry and beyond its confines.
Business analytics has become extremely important in business decisions because of its cost-saving abilities and adaptability. Specializations in the field include marketing specialists and business analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the business and financial professions will expand faster than average over the next decade, making an investment in data analytics an investment in your future.
As data analytics become more widespread, tools like Google Analytics, Supermetrics, and Glew.io are enhancing their user features and accuracy. Analytic usage across industries is easier when these resources are there to help bridge the gap. Each day, they’re becoming more and more accessible to businesses.
eCommerce in Manufacturing
Manufacturing is another sector that’s been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting trends in eCommerce. Some of the top eCommerce manufacturing trends include:
- Constant shifts in the industry, including shifts to online business.
- An increased number of D2C sales.
- Using real-time data integration to resolve and reduce order errors.
- Enhancing the customer experience.
- Streamlining the payment process.
Changing trends in manufacturing extend to all commercial industries. If you have a product to sell, increasing efficiency and providing a better customer experience can make all the difference for your business. With the introduction of driverless cars and automated inventory counts, administrative pressures are relieved and businesses can turn their attention to other matters.
The Changing Landscape of Supply Chain Management
When it comes to supply chain management challenges, businesses must understand the problems at hand to identify the most pertinent solutions. Some of the most useful solutions today involve implementing advanced technology, including robotic warehouses, blockchain, and digital supply chain twinning.
Decentralized distribution is also being piloted by companies like Amazon, which is experimenting with drones and has larger ambitions to produce a floating distribution hub. While not all of these innovations have taken flight just yet, as we look toward the future of manufacturing, the eCommerce industry promises much more in terms of automation and agility. Most consumers expect timely, fast delivery via the postal service, and robotics and automation offer the quickest path to meeting high consumer expectations.
Overall, eCommerce is shifting to a digital economy, making use of blockchain for enhanced security and efficiency, while employing more technological and data analytics tools. The rise of chatbots and automated business processes allow business owners to focus on important matters, rather than dealing with trivial mishaps and other time-consuming administrative tasks.
Keeping Up in a Fast-Paced World
Staying on top of eCommerce trends in today’s fast-paced world is not for the faint of heart. It is perhaps for this reason that over the years, business owners have repeatedly held a stagnant mindset when it comes to innovation and improving processes. There’s always an excuse to put it off for later.
However, the fact of the matter is that now is always the time for process improvements. Businesses that stick to the status quo and maintain existing workflows find themselves falling behind financially sooner or later. The risks of stagnation are much greater than the risks of innovation, especially in today’s competitive global marketplace.
The market is continually changing, your competitors are stepping up their game, and consumer demands are increasing each day. Customers expect a smooth on-the-go shopping experience, fast service, and tech-savvy business models. Even for in-person transactions, consumers prefer contactless payment methods and online inventory availability. Their preferences extend far beyond the eCommerce industry itself, meaning progress in fields like automation and artificial intelligence are essential to satisfy new and emerging consumer habits.
With a customer-driven focus, successful eCommerce businesses aim to increase sales through data analytics and boost efficiency through more streamlined websites and supply chain management practices. Don’t allow your business to get left in the dust — eCommerce or not, digital shopping trends are shaping industry operations across the board.
If your business is in need of help to rocket into the future of manufacturing through digital transformation or supply chain optimization, contact the operations management experts at USC Consulting Group. They have been shaping manufacturing operations for over 50 years.
*This article is written by guest author Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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Most of the challenges supply chain players face in today’s market are related to the pandemic and economic shutdowns. Even so, they’re no different than what companies have dealt with in the past, or what will come after.
Understanding what those challenges mean for the greater market calls for a brief look at current events and existing obstacles.
1. Improving Resilience
The only thing constant in the market and supply chain operations is, interestingly enough, a wave of change. Whether it involves the shifting demands of consumers, raw material and supply shortages, or a global pandemic, something is always changing or evolving.
Despite this, many trends have skewed towards lean processes and a boost in agility. The problem is that in eliminating excess, many of the redundancies that would boost resilience have become less of a focus.
Until now, the tradeoff has been lucrative. By cutting many of those redundancies, operators have been able to conserve funds, reduce operating costs, and speed up mission-critical processes. If there’s less inventory on hand, there are fewer goods to sort, worry about, or waste. Unfortunately, the pandemic stomped hard on the entire economy, and not having those extra resources compounded all of the other problems.
The entire supply chain has learned an invaluable lesson about proper balancing, as opposed to leaning heavily on a single paradigm or strategy. Going forward, everyone will be focused on building strong supplier relationships, with multiple access points and opportunities. The goal is to bring some of those redundancies back, without destroying agile processes.
2. Building Out Flexibility
To keep up with market changes, supply chain operations need to be flexible. They need strong alternatives, with clear processes and sourcing adaptations.
How does this differ from resilience? Resilience involves creating a more secure operation, while flexibility is about developing alternatives and fostering relationships to support them.
If one supplier is experiencing delays, then an immediate shift to another, with a reliable supply, may be necessary. Taking that a step further, if that shortage is impacting an entire lineup of suppliers, then it’s time to find alternative resources — like a comparable raw material. A move like that cannot always happen quickly or in-the-moment.
Having those avenues in place before an event is the proper solution. The same could be done with regular operations, like a spike in product demands.
3. Unprecedented Visibility
Long before COVID-19, consumers were growing more aware of the environmental impact of their actions, and of the companies they’re doing business with. This has led to many operators moving not just to more sustainable practices, but also making more transparent moves in the market, and sharing them. The pandemic has certainly amplified that need, to ensure safe and healthy practices.
But end-to-end supply chain visibility is challenging, to say the least. That’s where modern technologies come into play, thanks to Industry 4.0. IIoT devices, supply-related blockchain applications, machine learning, and big data all have a role to play, and they’re already being used in the industry to great effect. They also provide a host of benefits, which affect even some of the other challenges like resiliency, flexibility, security, and so on.
More visible practices will become commonplace as supply chain operators work together to create a sustainable, open, and secure network.
4. Data-Driven Operations
The supply chain has always been powered by data, but digitization takes it to a whole new level. Successful management improves planning in operations, materials-sourcing, production, and distribution.
Machine learning and advanced analytics will highlight new trends, opportunities, and decisions directly related to the market. A predictive model might help account for a demand shift or shortages, before signs of change rear their head. Similar data might empower leaner processes that don’t sacrifice mission-critical redundancies.
That’s what Industry 4.0 is all about: smarter and contextually driven processes that utilize real-time market details to bob and weave with incredibly precise actions. It’s safe to say that no industry has ever seen anything like this before, which is why these technologies have taken root so deeply and rapidly in the modern world.
Many operators have already adopted and deployed data-driven practices in regular operations, so it’s more about discovering new ways to leverage the related solutions. Digital twins have become almost pervasive in the industry, but with the help of artificial intelligence, they can become so much more valuable.
5. International Relations and Trade Agreements
Without touching upon specific events, political or otherwise, the past few years of tumultuous global relations and trade agreements have posed some unique challenges.
In November 2020, 15 countries came together to ratify one of the largest free trade agreements in history — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). While the United States and India withdrew, the agreement still has a significant impact on foreign trade and the supply chain. It should help strengthen the economies in North and Southeast Asia.
Supply chain operators must remain mindful of these changes, along with any on the horizon, and how they might impact the market, relations, and partnerships. Parsing some of these events is a challenge by itself. There is no straightforward answer, unfortunately, but it does highlight the need to maintain a team of experts for understanding and dealing with them.
6. Trade Disruptions
Despite being a mission-critical component of the modern supply chain, the trans-Pacific trade lane has been disrupted in various ways. From ocean rate spikes due to trade tariffs to physical disruptions, much like the Suez canal mishap, there’s an ever-growing need to plan for these events and make up for when they do happen.
It’s impossible to predict some of these events, which is why resilience and flexibility are so important. Supply chain operators will need to form strong partnerships to resolve issues quickly and create new opportunities.
Looking to the Future
The entire supply chain faces formidable challenges, and there are no guaranteed solutions. But that doesn’t mean there’s no way forward. Modern technologies like IIoT and advanced analytics, alongside data-driven operations, can certainly alleviate some of the growing pressure. So can the improved resilience and flexibility of all parties.
Preparing for the future will keep everyone on their toes. But the good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As the pandemic hopefully winds down, many challenges will become more manageable, as well.
This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in the IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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If you find yourself attached to your legacy software and hardware in your manufacturing operation, you’re not alone. Old habits die hard, as they say, but the technological revolution sweeping industries right now necessitates changes and updates. It might be time to update your legacy systems; but how do you know if it’s really the right time to invest?
Digital systems and advancements in tech from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things (IoT) are powering new possibilities in business. In manufacturing, IoT alone offers powerful solutions through data gathering, supply chain innovation, product and performance assessments, and much more. These connected devices drive insights that would be impossible otherwise, making their integration a valuable investment for most manufacturers.
With benefits like this stemming from new tech, it’s likely time to leave your legacy system behind and adopt new tools. Recognize the value of an update, then explore these tips for updating your legacy system.
Recognizing when it’s time to update
Facing economic problems in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has come to play a more vital role in all our lives than ever before. From supply chains to individual office workers, the need for adaptive, connected systems is pressing to meet the needs of our global economy and correct problems where they occur. If your tech isn’t serving you at any point in your process, it’s time to update.
Begin with a process map. This is an illustration of your systems that highlights objectives, histories, successes, and failings. With a map laid out of your tech and tools, you can assess a visual model of your process to more easily explore how to make beneficial improvements.
From there, you can ask a series of questions regarding your legacy systems:
- Does our process generate useful data?
- What process information are we failing to gather?
- Is there still sufficient support for our legacy system?
- Where are we experiencing stalled growth or spending money to maintain our system?
- What are our options in the world of digital advancements?
By answering these questions, you’ll map out the flaws of your legacy system and begin to understand how modern tech can improve your productivity and workflows. From supply chain and production transparency to factory floor safety, tools like IoT and AI can revolutionize your process. Once you understand the need for an update, then it’s time to take the necessary steps to implement one.
How to update a legacy system
How you go about updating your legacy system depends on the nature and goals of your particular business model. In manufacturing, this often means ramping up production while eliminating downtime and inventory management issues.
Fortunately, modernizing your system doesn’t have to be difficult. You can achieve a clear plan for advancement in three simple steps. These are: assessing your current system, considering digital solutions, and creating a strategy.
Developing and integrating this plan, however, is typically more challenging. After all, you’ll face the issues of adapting your legacy system to new tools while training your team to make full use of a data-powered, streamlined process. These tips can help you take your plan to update your legacy system from a recognized need to a streamlined, revenue-boosting process.
1. Define the data you need to gather.
When it comes to data, the more the better. That said, there are some vital metrics you’ll want to track to understand how you can improve your process. Look for software and tools that can help you monitor metrics like job cost, labor hours, materials costs, machine downtime and efficiency, and rate of error.
2. Explore scalable, secure solutions.
With an understanding of the data you need to track, explore tools that can help you get there. Machine tools, connected systems, and sensors can all offer invaluable insights into the performance and function of your process. The world of industrial IoT gets better all the time, with 5G wireless connectivity allowing for more and better communication of data in real-time. Scalable data collection is one element of your digital transformation journey you should not neglect, so find tools that allow for growth.
3. Keep it simple.
Updating your legacy system can lead to problems if it mires your workflow in too much complexity. Fortunately, modern software solutions allow manufacturers to streamline their insights into a single, comprehensive dashboard. With the ability to track all your key metrics in one place, you can more easily gain insights and generate ideas for flexibly adopting new solutions.
4. Focus on communication.
When it comes to manufacturing performance, communication is key. Systems must be able to interact and communicate from various sites and among suppliers and departments. Without a comprehensive communication network for real-time data transfer, your updates won’t be as effective as they could be.
5. Don’t neglect employee feedback and training.
Any new system can be difficult to manage. Prioritize employee success to ensure the effectiveness of your new tech, and don’t neglect to gather employee feedback from the very beginning stages of your legacy updating process. Learn where workers encounter challenges, features they’d like to see implemented, and problems they face in adapting to new systems.
By following these strategies when it comes time to update your legacy system, you can take your modernization efforts through the assessment to the implementation stages successfully. As a result, you can power a more transparent, productive manufacturing business with the tools in place to support your workers. Such an approach will lead to the agility your business needs to adapt to the rapid changes of a constantly developing world.
Building an agile business
When it comes to adapting legacy systems, maintaining agile methodology can best serve manufacturers. This framework focuses on collaboration, individual solutions, and ongoing improvement. As such, you’ll be able to work with stakeholders, suppliers, workers, and colleagues to produce high-quality products while retaining flexibility.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved the need for such an adaptive approach to manufacturing. By recognizing the importance of updates and following these strategies for implementing a better system, you can resolve the issues of your legacy platforms that are holding you back in the data-driven world.
Don’t let your legacy system drag you down with cost and implementation barriers. The right tools and strategies are available to enhance your manufacturing processes, if only you apply the proper planning, tools, and collaborative efforts.
If you need help analyzing and updating your legacy system, turn to the subject matter experts at USC Consulting Group.
This article is written by guest author Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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When you think of shipping and transportation, perhaps the last thing you consider is the threat that cybercrime can pose to the industry. However, as technology advances and systems become increasingly connected to online networks, cybersecurity is a necessity of modern shipping logistics.
Meanwhile, all kinds of digital attacks are increasing against a wide variety of industries. In this dangerous landscape, shipping companies must build strategies and implement processes that increase the safety of their digital systems.
From the rising threats to the evolving role of cybersecurity in shipping logistics, here’s what you should know.
The Rising Threat
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down economies and causing widespread financial uncertainty, hackers took it as an opportunity to increase their malicious efforts. As many as 90% of surveyed IT leaders said they experienced an increase in cyber attacks due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, 93% said they had to delay key security projects in order to manage remote-work transitions.
This demonstrates the vulnerability of online global systems. Threats like the Kwampirs malware are running rampant and IT leaders are caught off-guard while attempting to deal with other pressing concerns.
But what does this have to do with the shipping logistics industry?
All kinds of new and highly connected technologies are propagating in the fleet management market. These innovations consist of sensors and monitors in the form of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, AI route-improvement software, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that improve driver safety through assisting with difficult and repetitive tasks. These in-vehicle monitoring systems bring location tracking and enhanced driver analytics to fleet management, creating altogether safer roads.
But what happens if these systems get hacked?
June of 2017 was a preview of exactly that. When 80 logistics and transportation ports were struck by ransomware, shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk lost $300 million. Meanwhile, many deliveries were held and drivers forced to idle. The attack disrupted a complex supply chain and the effects rippled through various markets.
As we come to increasingly rely on connected tech and even fully autonomous vehicles, the threat of cyberattack can be dangerous both financially and physically. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to better ensure supply chain cybersecurity.
Initiatives to Enhance Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is needed in virtually every industry in today’s highly digital world. Securing your systems, however, can be difficult without the right professional assistance and reliable data services.
But finding the right help can be a challenge in its own right. Information systems professionals are in high demand, especially in the manufacturing and supply sector, where experts with the right skill set can earn their piece of a $2.17 trillion market.
Additionally, all kinds of IT personnel can build a better approach to secure shipping logistics through strategies like the following:
1. Assess compliance standards across the board.
A variety of data security standards are present across industries, such as HIPAA in healthcare or PCI-DSS in retail. Ensure all third-party suppliers and vendors meet relevant standards to facilitate safer information transfer.
2. Secure your software.
Software can be a vulnerability in supply chains. Protect yours with firewalls, VPNs, Transport Layer Security (TLS), and more to better ensure the safety of your networks and equipment.
3. Limit and monitor access.
Every user should maintain their own strong passwords and clearances. Data systems like blockchain can be helpful in securing information behind individualized user authorization keys, complete with immutable timestamps recording access to the system.
4. Educate your employees.
Avoiding a data breach can come down to simply educating your employees on avoiding links from unknown senders. Ensure all shipping logistics workers understand the importance of strong private passwords and maintain an awareness of common phishing practices.
5. Continuously run vulnerability assessments.
Risk assessments should be run at consistent intervals to help keep systems updated and functioning with the protections they need. Your assessments should include all IoT devices and networked equipment that could present an access point for an attacker.
When it comes to securing the digital systems throughout your shipping logistics processes, each of these strategies can mean the difference between a data breach or a prevented hack. Ensure your current systems are protected by a thorough baseline of SSL and VPN usage. Then, keep your employees educated in digital hygiene.
Evolving Roles in Cybersecurity and Logistics
With a comprehensive and consistent analysis of your data systems, you can mitigate the potential of a costly cyber attack. As our use of tech increases, cybersecurity will continue to play a greater role in shipping logistics.
Much like how a barcode system is now essential to inventory management, digital tools and AI technology are essential to managing supply chains with a modern edge. Systems like delivery and route management software can be the perfect way to increase your shipping efficiency, but the payoff won’t be nearly as great if your systems are compromised by malware.
Roles within shipping logistics are changing in consideration of the virtual shift. Understand the shifting nature of the industry and implement cybersecurity best practices like these to better protect your supply chains.
This article is written by guest author Beau Peters. View more of Beau’s articles here.
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Lean manufacturing and Industry 4.0 are in some ways a case in contrasts. The former is a production methodology designed to reduce operational costs through a combination of process efficiencies, a lighter footprint and smart time management. In short, it’s a system of minimizing waste and maximizing productivity through the barest of essentials. According to a recent research report spearheaded by IndustryWeek, lean manufacturing systems is a major priority among manufacturers in the U.S. today, behind only quality management systems.
Industry 4.0 is next-generation technology, which relies heavily on state-of-the-art equipment, tools, data, and analytics to make automation possible. Here, it’s out with the old and in with the new, made possible by investing in industrial practices and smart technology that expedite production and reduce human error. Often, it’s assumed that Industry 4.0 can replace the human element altogether.
So if lean manufacturing aims to reduce operational expenses, while Industry 4.0 typically requires added spending, are the two mutually exclusive? Not necessarily. It is possible for them to coexist when Industry 4.0 tech is leveraged strategically as a supplement to, not a replacement for, your staff.
Originally appearing in the Lean Enterprise Institute’s blog Lean Post, a classic case in point is a company called Denso, which since its inception, has tried to prioritize its people first and foremost. But the company is now also taking advantage of technology to augment their workers’ ongoing performance.
Must be purposeful about IoT utilization
Headquartered in Japan, Denso specializes in automotive components and is perhaps best known for being Toyota’s largest parts supplier. Many companies these days are using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to improve processes and enhance output. But as Denso North American Production Innovation Center Vice President Raja Shembekar discovered, IoT is all too frequently not put to its full or proper use. In other words, without proper planning, it has no real problem-solving application, at least among the competitors he observed.
Not being strategic and intentional about IoT implementation — and how it can support workers on the shop floor — raises the risk of not obtaining the intended result: improving output, quality, or ideally both.
“Not being strategic and intentional about IoT implementation — and how it can support workers on the shop floor — raises the risk of not obtaining the intended result.”
Concerned that Denso could fall into this tech trap, Raja built a small team composed of quality assurance managers and IoT aficionados to identify where production shortcomings existed and how, if at all, IoT capabilities could potentially fill in the gaps. They found just the thing by placing tiny sensors on cooling fans, which are used to maintain the temperature of brazing ovens for producing aluminum heat exchangers. The placement of said sensors on the fans enabled maintenance workers to swap out fans before they broke, forestalling production issues and avoiding lengthier timelines for parts to be ready for sale.
In short, IoT was able to provide workers with the insight and intelligence they needed to take action as it pertains to installation, supporting their roles. Raja noted that the maintenance team was skeptical about the sensors accurately forecasting when the fans would fall apart, but they played along.
“They took the fan out [and] the blades on the fan had disintegrated,” Raja recounted. “They were totally shocked that they had no idea this was happening and we could provide that prediction.”
As noted by Manufacturing.net, there is a risk in jumping aboard the Industry 4.0 bandwagon, simply because it’s the “in” thing to do. Organizations must first assess what their problems are and whether Industry 4.0 investments can actually solve those issues. This requires a complete assessment of current business processes as they exist and what desired outcomes are if they’re not being realized. Additionally, if Industry 4.0 can optimize the supply chain, as an example, manufacturers must make certain that their supply chain infrastructure can support the adjustments or installations that game-changing technology may entail.
Another way for lean manufacturing and Industry 4.0 to be cohesive is by getting to the bottom of the following question: Does the adoption of machine learning, IoT or some other form of computer-integrated technology supplant or support your team?
Workers expect job losses from AI, just not theirs
The answer will differ for everyone, but what is known is today’s workforce has a love-hate relationship with artificial intelligence. In a 2018 survey conducted by Gallup, approximately 75% of respondents said they anticipate more jobs will be lost than created as a result of AI’s increased adoption. However, only about 1 in 5 — 23% — were worried that their own job was in jeopardy.
While the increased implementation of AI has led to job losses, whether it does or not depends on management philosophy, according to the Lean Enterprise Institute’s blog. A mechanistic approach to business decisions relies heavily on technology, sometimes to the exclusion or replacement of actual workers. From an organic-systems perspective, however — which Raja ascribes — tech takes a backseat to employees who are on the front lines of warehouses, factory floors, and assembly lines.
“Technology provides data that allows the associate and the team leaders at the gemba [factory floor] to provide a far higher level of decision making,” Raja told the Lean Post.
Raja went on to state that at Denso, the addition of Industry 4.0 tech has helped workers make smarter, more well-informed decisions about how to continuously improve and enhance production through PDCA, meaning “Plan-Do-Check-Act.” The goal at Denso is always to leverage tech so it provides work crews with actionable information about the current systems in place so they can react accordingly, not to take those decisions away from them. As Manufacturing.net recommended, it may be worthwhile to perform trial runs of innovative technology to see if it supports or supplants your workforce and where adjustments can be made. In essence, better to “try before you buy.”
For optimal gains when marrying Lean philosophies and Industry 4.0 principles, utilizing an operations management firm may be best. USC Consulting Group has the expertise and experience to help you achieve results by leveraging your existing technology and ensuring that it aligns with your manufacturing philosophy. Please contact us today to learn more about our offerings and how we may be able to help.
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