In the first part of our 2022 digital supply chain technology series, we discussed sustainability and cloud-first strategy trends. Now, we’ll review why analytics and smart mobility are discussion topics again. Plus, there is a bonus update on digital twins from our 2020 trends blog.
Supply chains are complex and interconnected. We saw the ripple effects during the disruptions of the past two years from product shortages to logistics issues to labor woes. Companies leveraged everything they could from technology to new business models to stay open, and even thrive. Let’s look at how analytics, smart enterprise mobility and digital twin technologies support adaptability and flexibility.
Augmented Analytics Drive Innovation
Companies are data creators. Industry leaders harness the power of that data using analytics to turn it into actionable insights for driving a proactive approach to operations. Many firms are upgrading to augmented analytics which is defined by Gartner as “the use of enabling technologies such as machine learning and AI to assist with data preparation, insight generation and insight explanation to augment how people explore and analyze data in analytics and BI platforms. It also augments the expert and citizen data scientists by automating many aspects of data science, machine learning, and AI model development, management and deployment.”
The results range from improved forecasting to optimizing supply chains in disruptive environments because the information is available to almost everyone versus being kept in a silo of experts. SAP notes that “modern analytics is about bringing context to data and automating the uncovering hidden insights.” However, it is nearly impossible to very difficult to analyze and augment if you’re relying on spreadsheet reports and standalone planning tools.
Moving from data points to business and operational intelligence requires a migration to smart systems that easily capture and process these enormous real-time data sets. By routing the information through augmented analyses, you can drive better critical decisions based on actionable insights. SAP says, “with augmented analytics, answers to queries come in the form of ready-made data visualizations, like charts, graphs, and maps – so users don’t have to create them themselves.”
Augmented analytics support processes and applications such as automation, digital twins and predictive maintenance. Some of the calculations even happen on the edge, or on a device, versus in the cloud. For example, a self-driving car uses data from its environment to complete various actions, including parallel parking or slowing its speed. Another example is alert notifications and automations, such as if A occurs, then an email, text, etc. is generated for key contacts (or triggers another action).
Analytics in Manufacturing
These analytics and their associated algorithms drive optimized performance based on condition monitoring, real-time insights and root cause assessments. And, 80% of manufacturers agree intelligent automation will help their business improve results (Source: 2020 IBM Institute for Business Value). Below is an example of live data visibility that can be applied in multiple ways, such as linking sensor data with business data for better production analytics and insights.
Maintenance and production teams feed this information, such as indicators and thresholds, into prediction models that use machine learning to detect problems. By reducing potential failures or nonconformance, plants can run closer to full capacity.
The Next Generation of Smart Mobility
Mobile solutions continue to be adopted to improve efficiency and safety. With the pandemic, there was the rise of remote monitoring and mobile applications are an important component for reviewing and completing tasks. The technology empowers your workforce to deliver operational excellence by providing the information they need in the field or at the office. These solutions also support better communication between all stakeholders. We’re going to look at two innovative programs for the supply chain.
In the warehouse, scanning packages is a common practice during inbound and outbound processing as well as movement within the distribution center. However, these systems are not always integrated with our business programs or still require multiple screens to flip through to get a task completed. Serialized warehouses also must accommodate the high-volume data exchange required to capture regulatory information generated daily.
Fast Scanning for Serialized Warehouses
Traditional warehouse management systems (WMS) have been very beneficial for optimizing operations. Yet these solutions are not necessarily built for handling this specialized data. By integrating track & trace technology, such as SAP Advanced Track & Trace for Pharmaceuticals (SAP ATTP) with your WMS you can have global serial number management down to the bin level without sacrificing efficiency. Mobile solutions need to be smarter to handle this multiple scanning environment.
Intelligent warehouses implemented fast or rapid scanning as a more efficient to scan multiple labels in one operation. This solution simplifies transactions for goods receipts for a large volume of items, including mixed product pallets, while capturing the serialized data. Fast scanning connects your warehouse with business systems through tailored applications and data sharing between operations and enterprise.
Mobile Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is taking mobile technology to the next level by enabling visual multiple barcode scanning. It is ideal for users performing intensive scanning operations by providing a better user experience and improving productivity.
This smart mobile technology has the capability to overlay product information instantly on scanned items as well. Mobile AR applications improve the performance of logistics and warehouse operations, such as pack, unpack and ship. You get real-time validation of stock or products while the real-time visualization makes it faster and more efficient to find specific products, such as recalls or expired stock. The adjacent screenshot from an example scan with product details and an action overlay.
Both smart mobile applications help optimize operational efficiency in the supply chain. The user-friendly interfaces improve worker adoption by making the solutions easier to operate and learn. The technology has multiple options ranging from low code, no code and open source that works on most platforms, such Android and iOS, and other mobile devices.
Bonus Trend: Digital Twins Move Beyond the Manufacturing Walls
Digital twins have been traditionally used in manufacturing and maintenance environments. We touched up on the concept in our 2020 blog about the age of automation. On a basic level these 3-D interactive models help production by providing a visual view of component work instructions on the line. At a higher level, the models support areas such as product research and development (R&D) and operational risk assessment.
Yet, the use of these virtual recreations is expanding, driven in part by the pandemic when remote monitoring and other remote tools became more important. A Markets and Markets study projected that the digital twin market would grow to $48.2 billion by 2026 from $3.1 billion in 2020.
In supply chains, it is the virtual representation of your assets, distribution centers, logistics systems, operations and inventory. This digital replica allows you to simulate and test various scenarios to reduce loss and risk to optimize your operations. For example, you can analyze shipping to different ports or through different routes for optimization as well as determining contingency plans. This technology supports both short- and long-term planning as well as execution.
Digital twin projects have also expanded to construction, government (i.e., city planning), oil & gas and utilities. The technology reduces the need to send workers or teams to sites for data collection or visual inspections. It also enables companies to test various conditions and try out new configurations without the expense of changing or risk of damaging the equipment.
Leveraging Analytics and Smart Mobility
The trends of analytics and smart mobility paired with sustainability, digital twins and cloud-first strategies support intelligent enterprises that seek to be competitive and successful in the experience economy. Access to real-time information from the source provides business context from the C-suite through each line of your business. By embedding intelligence at every level of your organization, you can confidently make decisions that benefit your operations. How will you apply these trends to transform your business?
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