How Predictive Maintenance is Changing Supply Chains

The aid of technology has changed supply chains in countless ways, with one of the most prominent drivers of change in recent years being predictive maintenance.

As supply chains get more complex, they require greater oversight and care. As such, with machines and robots and a variety of complex technology comes numerous benefits yet also potential points of weakness. If any of those key components in a supply chain malfunction or breakdown, they can bring it to a complete halt.

An article from GTI Predictive explains,

The cost of failing to manage supply chain systems effectively can be enormous . . . Taking all possible variables into account is critical to maintain steady prices and stay profitable . . . In 2018, supply chain interruptions occurred at a record rate of nearly 30%, costing billions in delays and wasted product.

This is where predictive maintenance comes in. It makes sure machines and robots in a supply chain are well maintained.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics explains just what predictive maintenance is and how it’s transforming supply chains.

What is Predictive Maintenance?

Achieving predictive maintenance comes by having a mindset and the technology to help fulfill it. That mindset involves emphasis on ensuring that machines and robots in a supply chain are actively maintained. Additionally, on the technological front, this approach is accommodated by IoT devices such as sensors that collect data and monitor conditions.

In turn, machine learning is the final component of predictive maintenance. It allows computers to analyze the data collected and makes predictions based off it. With that in mind, just what are the benefits this brings?

Proactive Supply Chains

Predictive maintenance means a foundational shift to how supply chains operate. They don’t have to be as responsive to what happens to them. Instead, predictive maintenance transforms a supply chain into being proactive. For example, it tracks machine health, resulting in machines that are in better condition. That is to say, a supply chain doesn’t have to wait for something to go wrong with a machine to provide it upkeep. Consequently, supply chains can tackle potential problems before they can even become problems.

More Data

With sensors continually attached to the machinery and robotics in a supply chain, data is regularly being collected. Above all, what this results in is a smarter, more efficient supply chain. In addition, as we’ve mentioned before, machine learning and artificial intelligence more generally does not perform well without a sufficiently large pool of data. By having big data to pull from, computers, via machine learning, can make more precise models and accurate forecasts. Therefore, predictive forecasting doesn’t only ensure better kept machines and robots but more knowledge to work with in general.

Less Disruption

By regularly scheduling maintenance on machines and robots as a result of predictive maintenance, the chances of either of them having issues becomes minimal. This is critical, as it means supply chains have a higher likelihood of running smoothly without disruptions. That in turn means more cost-reduction and improved earnings.

Supply Chain Dive explains this in their article on predictive maintenance,

The most common goal of predictive maintenance is improved uptime, with 51% of respondents in a PwC survey last year saying this was their organization’s reason for adopting the technology.

The Current and Future State of Block in the Supply Chain Industry Part Two

As blockchain technology is seeing considerable adoption in the supply chain industry, it’s important to see where it thrives and where it needs improvement if it’s going to continue its ascent. 

Blockchain technology is a revolutionary innovation for supply chains. Incredibly, despite how new it is, it’s already having a monumental impact upon them. We addressed this in our first ebook on blockchains. It covers just what blockchain is, how it works, and why it’s important to the industry.

Yet, given the recency of the technology’s invention, there remain concerns surrounding it. As such, it still requires a great deal of fine-tuning before it’s universally embraced. With that in mind, how well it does down the line is going to be dependent on how well it can adapt. With many demands currently being placed upon it, only time will tell if it will be able to.

This ebook explains what the current state of blockchain is in the supply chain industry, the technology’s strengths and weaknesses, and where it’s set to go in the coming years.

The Pros and Cons of Blockchain and Where it Will be in the Future
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5 Ways the Cloud is Improving Supply Chain Management

As the demands placed upon supply chains become greater, new innovative mechanisms will be necessary to respond to those pressures—here’s how the cloud is addressing them.

The expectations placed upon supply chains are higher than ever. As a result, there’s a need for even stronger supply chain management. In turn, more powerful management platforms are needed. And, in response, many companies are turning to cloud computing to help deliver their management needs. Unlike some other recent technological innovations, cloud technology is already delivering the results.

Hunter Lowe from Select Hub emphasizes this,

Ask a supply chain executive about cloud computing, and they only want to know if it can deliver more speed, scale and accuracy. None of them care about the technology; all they want are results. Cloud applications and platforms are the growth catalysts that will keep improving supply chain performance…

This week’s article by Morai Logistics highlights 5 key ways in which clouds are making supply chain management better.

Flexibility

One of the most important things a modern day supply chain needs is the ability to adapt and grow. Not only that, but be responsive to the forces influencing it. By taking a cloud-based approach, managers gain access to easy scalability. Since clouds are hosted on the internet, they have no physical limitations placed upon them. What this means is supply chains can shrink and expand according to what’s required of them.

Low-Cost

Cloud technology, in comparison to the alternatives, is a fairly cost-effective avenue for supply chain management. First of all, it generally has an affordable installation fee, even for smaller businesses. Moreover, the subsequent costs associated with it are flexible due them being subscription fees that vary depending on the package a company selects.

In contrast, management softwares can have large implementation costs and be difficult to build upon. Not only that, but cloud’s save companies money down the line as well. By being able to host the latest and greatest technological advancements, cloud’s can make previous operational procedures cheaper via machine learning and automation.

Secure

This might be surprising to some, given the concerns about cloud-based security. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s not clouds themselves that are typically a security concern, it’s the practices around using them. As Gartner reported earlier this year,

Gartner estimates that the majority of cloud security failures will be the fault of the customers through 2023.

Gartner’s Peter Firstbrook further broke this down,

Organizations must invest in security skills and governance tools that build the necessary knowledge base to keep up with the rapid pace of cloud development and innovation.

With that in mind, with the necessary investment and skills, data security on the cloud is not only not a liability, it’s actually a strength.

Easy Integration & Connectivity

Supply chains today can be very large and unwieldy. Consequently, it’s critical that the systems used to manage them can tie together all their disparate parts. This requires systems with visibility, connectivity, and the ability to integrate the various networks that make up the supply chain.

Cloud computing is such a system. It allows for fast integration, can host a variety of different softwares and networks, and enables all this in real-time. Furthermore, as a result of being online, the cloud can keep all parties in a supply chain up to date on its latest developments.

Accessible

Finally, the concern with any new technology, especially one that will be as foundational as a cloud, is how complex it is. In turn, how this complexity might be a barrier to easy use. There needn’t be any such concern with cloud-based approach however. As an article from Supply Chain 24/7 explains,

In addition, there are numerous efficiency benefits, including simple and intuitive user experience, quick access to accurate and timely analytics, social collaboration tools, and much more – all of which can be accessed anywhere, at any time, and from virtually any device.

5 Impediments to Successful Artificial Intelligence Implementation in Supply Chains

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to be pivotal to supply chains going forward, however, there are several obstacles supply chain managers will have to navigate if they’re successfully going to utilize it.

The state of artificial intelligence in supply chains is still something that is very much unfolding. Both AI and supply chains are multifaceted and thus have elements where they work well together and elements where they don’t. For example, a subset of AI like machine learning has become a prominent feature in forecasting. However, AI being used for self-driving trucks is still years away. Regardless, AI is undoubtedly deeply intertwined with supply chains. It has to be carefully integrated into them in order to work well.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics explores 5 barriers that supply chains face when attempting to make us of artificial intelligence.

Lack of Data

AI only works optimally if it has access to large amounts of accurate data. If there isn’t enough data or the data is of a low quality, the results it produces will suffer. Take machine learning for instance, in order to make predictions or employ its algorithms, a computing system needs enough clean data to pull from for its predictions to be accurate. Simply put, not having a large pool of consolidated up to date data for an AI is like having a sports car without any fuel.

Segmented Artificial Intelligence

Supply chain managers know that one part of their job is to keep an eye on the big picture. Supply chains may be broken up into many individual processes and procedures, but they come together to make the chain. As such, it’s critical that AI implementation be holistic. Much in the same way AI needs access to data that is clean and plentiful, it also has to have access to data that is uninterrupted. If an AI only has data split into disparate segments of a supply chain to work with, then it will produce commensurately uneven results.

Lack of AI Knowledge in the Workforce

Artificial intelligence is conceptually new. It’s also confusing for many. When introduced into a supply chain, supply chain managers may find that many along their chain having trouble adapting to its functions. This is entirely understandable given the often complex and changing nature of AI. With that being the case, supply chain leaders should be providing training for their workforce. Or, conversely, they can hire new personnel to make up for this knowledge gap.

Poor Understanding of AI Processes

Understanding how to use AI and what it’s there for is different from understanding what it’s specifically doing to produce its results. This leads to the “black box” problem—that being the results themselves being mysterious. If there isn’t a transparent AI operation in place, it will likely produce inexplicable results. These results then have to be accepted on faith.

As an article in Forbes highlighted earlier this year,

Black box solutions are controversial. With a black box solution, planners cannot see into the machine and understand how the forecasting engine is generating the forecast. They must trust the output. AI solutions are more likely to be black box than traditional solutions.

Measuring Success

The metrics used to gage success within a supply chain that adopts AI will change. AI transforms many functions in a supply chain. As a result, the indicators of success need to be adapted to these new supply chain realities. Moreover, the nature of AI and what it can do is in a state of continual development. Meaning measuring how successful it is can require continual adjustments of success markers with each development.

5 Steps for Moving Supply Chains Closer to Sustainability

The need for sustainability in supply chains is greater than ever—here’s how they can transition towards it in 5 critical steps.  

Sustainability is a word that’s growing more prominent in the world of supply chains. And for good reason. Not only does it make environmental sense, but is also makes business sense. Whether it’s a result of customer demands or governmental regulations or minimized costs and waste, sustainable supply chains have a competitive advantage in the long run. Conversely, not incorporating sustainability into supply chains can be a considerable shortcoming for companies.

According to Mckinsey,

One condition that can slow a company’s growth is poor sustainability performance, as measured in environmental and social impact. To make and sell goods, consumer businesses need affordable, reliable supplies of energy and natural resources, as well as permission from consumers, investors, and regulators to do business.

As such, this week’s article by Morai Logistics lays out 5 integral steps for companies to adopt to help them move towards sustainability in their supply chains.

Plan

The first thing any company has to do when moving towards sustainability is to put a plan in place. This is where they should review every aspect of their supply chain, leaving no stone unturned. Through this review they can identify where their chain is weakest in terms of the sustainability of its operations. In turn, this will allow the companies’ leaders to strategize and create an overview of the changes that need to be made.

Keep Your Expectations in Check

As important as it is for companies to be ambitious with their transition to sustainable supply chains, they still need to be realistic. By setting goals that are unattainable, the whole endeavour can feel deflating and ultimately a failure. Rather, leaders should make sure to communicate to all along the supply chain that having a greener supply chain can take time. Furthermore, that some of the benefits of a sustainable supply chain can take some time to become evident. With that said, this is no reason to not hold any actor along the chain entirely responsible for maintaining sustainable practices.

Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Like with any business undertaking, goal setting is critical. Companies need to gather data, reports, and other forms of feedback on sustainable supply chains so that they have hard numbers to compare themselves to. Through this feedback, supply chain managers can formulate metrics through which they can assess success and failure. It is only through these KPIs that they can know whether their sustainability effort is heading in the right direction.

Train and Educate

Whenever any kind of transition or evolution in business practices takes place, education and training has to follow. Thus, if a supply chain is going to successfully go green, it has to have training and education programs in place. Sustainable practices are going to be different. With that in mind, even the more seasoned professionals along supply chains may need assistance when making adjustments.

Evaluate

The final step for companies to have an optimal transition to sustainability is for them to make sure they are continually evaluating their results. Trial and error is part of any adjustment period. It’s up to supply chain managers to incorporate flexibility into their supply chain sustainability plans. This is so that they can make changes to their chains without being disruptive. Moreover, it’s through constant review that companies can establish best practices while discarding or adjusting the practices that don’t work.

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With the growth of  blockchain as a viable mechanism to oversee supply chain processes, it’s worthwhile taking a look at how it currently stands in the industry and where it is going.

Blockchain has been talked about as a potential breakthrough technology for supply chains for a while. Yet, in the past couple of years the wait for the potential of the technology to meet the reality of technology has threatened to stall enthusiasm around it.

However, with the recent waves of progress surrounding the technology, including the launching of multiple blockchain platforms for supply chains, there is renewed interest afoot. Despite that, the question remains: can blockchain live up to its promise of being the transparent, secure, and democratic platform the industry is seeking?

This eBook covers just what blockchain is, how it works, its utility for supply chains and the impact it’s having and set to have on them.

How Blockchain is set to Transform the Supply Chain Industry

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

The Internet of Things - 5 Ways it's Advancing Supply Chain Management

The growth of the internet of things (IoT) has enabled significant advances in supply chain management—here are 4 of the most notable advantages it has afforded managers.

The world of supply chain management touches upon technological innovations and vice versa. As such, it’s no surprise that the internet of things is having such a notable impact upon supply chains. The growth in IoT has been nothing short of staggering and its applicability near-ubiquitous in terms of the multitude of fields it’s operative in. With that being the case, it really is hard to overstate the size of the market that IoT has and is set to have.

The following summation by Tech Jury of where IoT is headed over the coming year really highlights this,

Morgan Stanley predicts the industrial IoT market size to reach $110 billion by 2020. According to Accenture, IIoT could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The top drivers of IIoT growth include improved operational efficiency, improved productivity, creation of new business opportunities, reduction in downtime, and optimization of asset utilization.

With that in mind, this week’s article by Morai Logistics takes a look at the 4 most prominent ways in which the internet of things is benefitting supply chain management.

Makes Asset Monitoring Easier

One of the biggest things IoT allows for in supply chains is the monitoring of assets. By having monitoring devices like smart sensors that can be constantly connected to the internet, the state of a supply chain’s asset can be be continually checked upon.  Specifically, these sensors can inform managers of the damage done to the packaging as well as the environment the asset is in—temperature, moisture level, etc. Such monitoring is critical to optimal supply chain management as it ensures the thing central to a chain—the product—is always being examined and thus is in good condition.

Improves Asset Tracking

Building upon asset monitoring is asset tracking. Using the same kinds of multipurpose IoT devices mentioned above, such as smart sensors, supply chain managers can not only track the condition of their assets but also see where they are. In turn, this means managers can overcome a number of obstacles they have. The most important of these being misplaced or lost assets. But more than that, it gives managers another view of their supply chain route. Consequently, these routes can be further optimized if needed.

Allows for Predictive Maintenance

Nothing hampers a supply chain quite like the breakdown of equipment. With just one cog in the supply chain out of order the whole things comes to a halt. With IoT such a circumstance can be avoided. Rather than reacting to equipment failure or running routine maintenance, managers can conduct maintenance with precision. With sensors on the equipment, they can know exactly when their machinery needs maintaining. As a result, managers can minimize inefficiencies and avoid supply chain collapse.

Boosts Supply Chain Transparency

The customer demand for transparency in supply chains is as high as its ever been. Nevertheless, given the complexity of supply chains, its not always easy to enact. However, this is where technology comes to the rescue. Namely, IoT. Managers can have the many links in their supply chains monitored, tracked, and examined. IoT devices like surveillance cameras and smart sensors can make following supply chains easier than ever. Consequently, IoT can help boost both customer satisfaction and supply chain integrity.

Technology - 5 Technologies Changing Supply ChainsWith advances in technology influencing supply chains in a large variety of ways, it’s worth knowing just what those technologies are and how they are generating change. 

Business fields of all kinds are in the midst of a great transformation driven primarily by technology. As such, technological innovations are coming fast and heavy and companies are having to adapt to them at a rapid pace to keep up. It’s no different for supply chain companies. Technological advancements are reshaping the way supply chains operate. With that being the case, it’s critical that companies keep track of them in order to stay competitive.

A McKinsey article pointed this out, stating,

For all the effort that companies devote to improving the performance of their supply chains, relatively few have unlocked the full potential of digital technologies.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics pinpoints 5 technologies that are having a significant impact on supply chains today.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is perhaps the most talked about technological innovation in supply chains and elsewhere. And for good reason. It is having an impact on supply chains in a variety of ways already and that impact is set to grow. It can be used for forecasting internally and externally.

This means AI can track the state of inventory, the health of machinery, have the latest information about weather patterns or conditions, and much more. Moreover, in a time when data and the insights that can be gleaned from it are paramount, AI can analyze that data and provide precise recommendations based off it.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is soon to be responsible for over a trillion dollars in spending annually around the world. In turn, as devices that can connect to the internet grow more developed, the need for them by businesses will also grow. With that said, in the world of supply chains, IoT is making its presence felt. It can link operations, assist the effectiveness of automated processes, and make real-time tracking of products easier.

Thus, whether it be live security cameras or real-time trackers on merchandise, IoT has a lot to offer supply chains. Through IoT, supply chains have the potential to be more transparent and encourage stronger relationships between businesses and clients.

Blockchain

Blockchain technology, with each passing year, becomes more inextricably linked to supply chains. There are several reasons for this. For one, blockchain meets the strong demand for transparency in supply chains. By being able to follow the product on its journey through the supply chain and validate its movement each step of the way, blockchain ensures clarity to the process.

Additionally, blockchain also affords supply chains security, as it has no central authority, has immutable data, and allows for real-time tracking. Finally, blockchain also helps drive down costs since it gets rid of middlemen and speeds up product movement.

Cloud

Cloud-based supply chains are proving to have a number of advantages over traditional supply chains. Firstly, they make supply chains more efficient by making the most out of automation and data, reducing waste. Second of all, clouds allow for seamless scalability, avoiding the headache of antiquated operational expansions. In addition to that, scalability also means supply chains become more cost-effective as they grow. Since the expansions themselves no longer add costs.

5G

The incredible increase in internet speed 5G is set to bring with it will enhance supply chains considerably. Consequentially, all the previous technologies mentioned here are dependent to some degree or another on the internet. Furthermore, in many cases, such as with real-time tracking and visibility or data collection, faster internet means better performance. Thus, rather simply, 5G will be a big leap forward for supply chain companies, as it will allow them to achieve many of the outcomes they want faster and more effectively.

Supply Chain - Overcoming Extreme Weather

A critical component of supply chain management is planning around risks that can compromise the chain, and few risks are more disruptive than extreme weather.

In a time when the ill-effects of climate change are being felt around the world more than ever, supply chains have to mitigate for those effects to function year-round. Of course, what makes extreme weather so troublesome for supply chains is that it’s unpredictable and can come in many forms. With each form—flooding, storms, freezing temperatures, etc.—coming with its own host of problems. It’s imperative then that supply chain managers help form their chains with the possibility of extreme weather in mind and plan accordingly.

Resilinc spoke about this and the importance of planning around disruptive weather in their blog,

Bad weather tests the agility and resiliency of even the best supply chains. However, companies that manage weather-related disruptions as part of their event-monitoring best practices and supply chain risk management strategies tend to fare better than those that don’t take preventative measures, Resilinc’s work with customers shows.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights some of the key ways that supply chains can navigate the risks of extreme weather.

Have a Back-up Plan

At times the weather event that hits a supply chain will be too great to overcome. No amount of resilience can overcome a hurricane, for instance. This is when it’s crucial to have an additional plan in reserve. So, in practice this could look like a warehouse being impacted by bad weather. And, in response, those in charge of the supply chain having some spare carriers ready at another warehouse (at a separate location) with the same product.

While this is an additional cost, considering the physical and reputational damage bad weather can inflict, it’s a necessary one. Not only that, but, in the long run, a potentially cost-saving measure too.

Embrace Technology

There’s a variety of technology that helps supply chains work around or anticipate extreme weather. Foremost amongst this technology is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning. Via machine learning supply chain companies can gain access to data regarding internal and external risks, including weather.

This means having the latest information about the weather as well as the most precise predictions possible regarding it. Thus, through this technology supply chain companies can potentially avoid extreme weather by anticipating it. Or, at the very least, they can start planning for the weather as soon as possible.

Flexibility

A supply chain needs the ability to maneuver whatever comes its way. This is true in general but especially so with extreme weather. There will be instances where the weather isn’t so bad that the supply chain is completely brought to a halt. Rather, more often than not, the weather will require supply chain adaptations to still function. These can be as simple as taking a slightly altered route.

This point was emphasized in a Supply Chain 24/7 article about El Niño,

The key to riding out a situation like El Niño is to have a supply chain that is flexible enough to adapt. With an efficient and accurate inventory process, you’ll know what must be shipped by air and what can wait the extra week to arrive via ocean.

Robust Infrastrucure

Even with great technology, planning, and flexibility, each facet of a supply chain needs to be strong enough to deal with harsh weather conditions to some extent. For example, a supply chain’s warehouse should be able to withstand strong wind without being breached. Or, its production facility should have a variety flood-proof installations so that a flood has minimal impact upon it. In turn, when the products are being transported they might need to be temperature controlled. All in all, each step of a supply chain needs to have resiliency. So it can handle whatever weather conditions it might face.

5 Supply Chain Trends to Watch Out For

With supply chain companies having to continually respond to the needs of their respective markets, it’s critical that they stay cognizant of the many structural and operational advances being made in order to remain competitive.

Customers’ expectations about what supply chains should look like in terms of responsivity, transparency, and flexibility are greater than ever. As a result, supply chains are evolving faster than ever to meet and surpass those expectations. In turn, this evolution means monumental changes to the technology, management, and operations of supply chains.

Globecon Freight pointed out the scale of these changes in an article earlier this year,

Supply chain management is undergoing a significant transition that will change the face of shipping and logistics.

This week’s article by Morai Logistics identifies 5 prominent trends taking place and set to take place in the world of supply chains.

Digital Transformation

The need for supply chain operations to be digitized is stronger than ever and will only grow going forward. If supply chains are going to take advantage of the many technological innovations today and in the coming years, they need the infrastructure for it. That means making their operations digital. By undergoing a digital transformation, supply chain companies can lay the groundwork to make their technological progress iterative, not singular. Technology will keep advancing and it’s crucial supply chains keep abreast of it.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

Both AI and automation are set to greatly boost efficiency, lower costs, and drive profitability in supply chains. They can work individually or hand-in-hand to improve a range of supply chain processes. These include (but aren’t limited to) warehouse management, forecasting, data collection, equipment maintenance, and waste reduction. AI and automation are only going to become even more powerful, adaptable, and precise in the future. Thus, it’s inevitable that their presence will only grow in supply chains.

Transparency

More than ever before, customers expect to know the state of their product from beginning to end. This means that supply chain companies need to ensure that their chains are as transparent as possible. This is set to be achieved in a variety of ways, including blockchain, transparency mapping, tracking materials, and third-party certification. Blockchain in particular is primed to play a major role in supply chains going forward, as it is a database that’s data cannot be altered. Moreover, the data that’s entered in a supply chain blockchain needs to be verified by everyone in it.

Real-Time Tracking

Building off the demand for transparency but also the continual need to be able to check on the integrity of a supply chain is the advent of real-time tracking apps and devices. These can be wearable devices that employees wear, helping them with a variety of tasks that are then instantly available for review. For example, a warehouse employee can use a device to input data regarding inventory. This data in turn can be viewed by the inventory manager. Additionally, apps can be made available for customers and those overseeing the supply chain, so they can see the data being collected along it to make sure it’s proceeding smoothly.

Customer-Specific Supply Chains

A generic, one size fits all supply chain is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Supply chains are growing increasingly segmented for the sake of customers. In order for customer needs to be met more precisely than before, supply chain companies are recognizing that each supply chain should be uniquely geared to them. In practice, that means dealing with customers directly (a direct-to-customer approach). It also means setting up supply chains to be pliable enough to proactively respond to customer interests.