The Digital Supply Chain Company

10 Technologies Reshaping the Integrated Supply Chain Management Ecosystem

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Today’s economic outlook is creating a strain on even the largest organizations. From the tight labor market and skills gap to the disruption of supply chains and extended lead times, costs to maintain facilities and plant assets are continuing to rise. The integrated supply chain for parts and critical spares is quickly emerging as a burning platform. Recent innovations have increased the capabilities of organizations to tackle MRO and FM spend with the same rigor as direct materials. What previously was a very local, site-based decision can be managed centrally and used as a tool to support business processes and measure performance against desired business outcomes.

Here, we review ten technologies that are being leveraged to improve integrated supply management.

1. AI and Machine Learning

Quickly and efficiently cleanse and enrich part data; inventory/demand forecasting; nonstock
sourcing: Artificial Intelligence is speeding the sourcing, selection and transaction process in FM and MRO integrated supply chain management. A highly transactional business, FM and MRO supply chain automation is supported by AI’s self-learning. AI solutions can help automate various supply chain processes such as demand forecasting, connecting to production planning and enabling predictive maintenance.

Unifying data dynamically by layering real-time awareness over the historical picture, Machine Learning (ML) takes it one step further by using up-to-date information to trigger immediate action. Historical data could include spend data on materials, service or labor costs, production/maintenance schedules, and previous consumption pattern data. Condition monitoring provides additional IoT sensor data that, when used with Machine Learning to detect maintenance patterns can predict failure and trigger immediate action. Machine Learning then would allow for Predictive Maintenance with IoT to be automated, creating a work order ticket for a technician to inspect an asset prior to failure. As ML is fed more data and the confidence rates improve, the parts for the repair could be ordered and delivered before the tech even arrives.

2. Advanced Data Analytics

Leverage data (work order, procurement, inventory), derive actionable insights, and improve decision making: In today’s digital economy, data drives real-time agility, allowing organizations to respond to supply chain disruptions as they evolve. Advanced analytics based on continuous intelligence from multiple datasets and real-time information establishes intelligent analytics pipelines that break down the silos inherent in MRO and FM supply chains and allows for supply chain optimization. Data analytics are increasingly being used in dynamic pricing and replenishment. A purpose-built analytics tool can take any manner of data and use it to help sourcing specialists pinpoint where best to drive efficiencies in supplier consolidation, cost reduction, and productivity

Advanced Analytics when combined intelligently with ML drives insights to immediate action, enables better visibility into integrated supply chains, and provides customers greater control to better future-proof their businesses.

3. APIs

Plug-&-play system (ERP, CMMS, Suppliers, Freight Carriers) connectivity to seamlessly and safely share data among internal and external systems and stakeholder groups improves visibility: Application Program Interface, both the vertical and horizontal integration of platforms, is not new technology, but the application is proliferating. APIs are essentially a set of functions and procedures that allow applications to access data and features of other applications. They offer a true plug-&-play solution to integrate for secure and easy passage of data between systems, enabling customers to access cutting edge technology in real time, without having to start over or build it from scratch.

We are now seeing more and more companies that are willing to use open APIs to integrate platforms. Some MRO and FM ordering apps utilize APIs in combination with robotic process automation (RPA) to connect with major shippers and LTL carriers – automating the status update process and triggering notifications to mobile technicians in the field when the parts they need are shipped, the expected delivery date, and when they’ve arrived. These types of notifications would then allow technicians to plan their maintenance work orders around the delivery schedules of the needed materials. APIs also allow for simple integrations between EAM and CMMS systems and between purchasing and ERP systems. This results in greater transparency, improved efficiency, elimination of waste in the process, and speeding the process.

4. Internet of Things: IoT

Advanced demand signaling and visibility to asset and facility conditions, allows us to better align supply chain with maintenance planning. The Internet of Things has advanced so rapidly, and costs are dropping so quickly, that it has become a ubiquitous technology. Almost any single asset can be monitored at all times. Having that visibility into one asset in advance will predict (and prevent) failure and allow for better planning in the MRO and FM integrated supply chain. While this level of connectivity is not as common in a complete end-to-end supply chain process, the IoT for maintenance and facilities sits at the intersection of enterprise asset management and supply chain management. This means customers have the parts available and the ability to intercede before it becomes a catastrophic loss. It also translates into improved asset utilization and higher uptime, greater customer focus, better end-to-end supply chain performance, superior supply availability, superior visibility, and improved reliability.

5. Mobile Procurement Technology

Extend systems functionality: Mobile procurement platforms and applications have quickly become the norm, as consumers have become accustomed to ease of use and access to information at the tap of a finger. B2B customers are no different. They want to be able to identify and order parts needed to repair and maintain their facilities and production lines, without having to leave the shop floor and walk to a storeroom window, desktop, or terminal. Great strides are being made in supply chain mobile apps and mobile procurement tools to give the maintenance users an easier way to get the supply they need to do their jobs. Progressive facilities management and maintenance organizations are utilizing persona-based mobile procurement tools and ordering apps with supplier call-in, will call, and buy online / pick up in store options available. These apps allow organizations to track spend while technicians benefit from real-time inventory availability incorporated via API. This allows them the convenience to call up any item in the app and know exactly where it is inventoried or the availability and pricing for ordering. More maintenance programs are beginning to integrate these types of mobile procurement platforms for the user-friendly app interfaces, ease of navigation, B2C experience, and the ability to drive compliance to negotiated contracts, since the technicians no longer need to shop with p-cards.

6. eCommerce

Access and leverage the global marketplace, including legacy and local suppliers efficiently:
Slow, imprecise, and prone to error, labor-intensive, paper-based ordering and payment systems are notoriously hard to manage. Many transactions are non-contractual, leading to higher and unpredictable prices. They often are decentralized, increasing the potential for over-ordering. Companies that invest in eCommerce solutions or partner with third-party providers that have developed eCommerce expertise can optimize the process, minimizing input errors that take time to reconcile and avoiding late payment costs. Online marketplaces and eCommerce solutions enable buyers to search for suppliers and shop for supplies in external B2B catalogs that aggregate multiple suppliers under a common front-end user interface while retaining visibility to the purchase and product type. This streamlines the integrated supply chain management and procurement process and increases the number of transactions being influenced by procurement without sacrificing visibility and control.

7. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Reduce back-office costs and shift focus to strategic integrated supply chain management. Robotic process automation is a fundamental strategy for procurement organizations because it reduces the non-value added time that procurement professionals spend on tactical execution. This allows them to focus on more strategic initiatives. The strengths in MRO and FM supply chain management – deep category expertise, market insight and integrated processes – are enhanced by robotic process automation. RPA tools cut costs, eliminate keying errors, speed up processes and link applications. It has proven to be very effective in simple use cases where third-party automated data integration poses a challenge. RPA can also be applied to data normalization and enrichment, streamlining and reducing the cost of master data management. Robotic process automation enables procurement teams to get more spend under management, identify more areas for efficiency improvements, and drive compliance
to sourcing strategies. Procurement automation enables teams to assume a more strategic role in creating sustainable value and can provide organizations with a real competitive advantage.

8. Sourcing Automation

Integrate, automate, and digitize the way customers find, evaluate, work with, and transact with their suppliers. Organizations who make procurement automation a priority as part of an overall digital transformation strategy are able to leverage technologies like AI and RPA to manage spend in real-time, predict demand, and predict sources of future supply in addition to being able to run sourcing events faster. According to The Hackett Group’s 2019 report on Smart Automation, digital technologies can improve productivity for procurement organizations by 33% while improving agility and overall effectiveness.

Automating the procurement and integrated supply chain process enables sourcing efficiency by codifying processes to ensure the lowest total cost of ownership, considering supply reliability, product quality, innovation, compliance, and other factors in addition to pricing. Establishing machine-driven sourcing decisions delivers quality and efficiency no human could hope to achieve for speed and transparency in ordering, forecasting, maintenance scheduling, and more. Combined with procurement automation, this means sourcing can improve response times, better leverage the market, enable secondary market sourcing, and increase RFQ effectiveness.

9. Additive Manufacturing

Functional equivalents on parts with extended lead times and for aged assets where parts are no longer commercially available. Additive manufacturing (3D printing) enabled by 3D scanning is allowing the re-engineering of otherwise obsolete parts to extend the life of production assets. This technology is having a disruptive and transformative effect, because you could theoretically eliminate or minimize certain inventory and significantly reduce lead times by making the parts on-demand. 3D scanning enables the capture of a digital version which can be reverse engineered or re-engineered and then printed in hours. No expediting fees. No delivery fees. Usage has evolved beyond prototyping and is growing, as the technology has advanced so rapidly companies can now print at OEM production capacity – as fast as most other mainstream manufacturing processes with metal.

10. Remote Inventory Security Systems

Last-Yard Logistics & Inventory Security technologies provide end to end transparency with point-of-use vending, secured lockers, and automated unmanned storerooms. Any supply chain involves various parties from one end to the other. For MRO and essential facilities GNFR, it’s thousands of suppliers in such a fragmented supply chain that traceability, automation, and security are virtually impossible without a digital supply chain. Innovative technologies such as blockchain, intelligent lockers, point-of-use vending systems, and optically-enabled unmanned storerooms can significantly impact and shift the very nature of the supply chain. The ultimate in last yard fulfillment, these technologies ensure line workers and maintenance techs can access the consumables, protective equipment, and supplies they need near their work locations. They offer the added benefit of tracking material use by individual, department, and project, lending important insights into productivity and efficiency and inventory control.

To drive improvements in integrated supply chain, facilities management and enterprise asset management strategies, companies need to invest in, develop, and implement advanced digital technologies and leverage a digital ecosystem of partners to become more adaptable. Increased
digitalization, driven by the rise in consumer expectation and empowered by the democratization
of Industry 4.0 technologies, will result in a more resilient and agile integrate supply chain. Digital Supply
Chain technologies will connect the supply chain ecosystem to improve visibility and risk management
and enable collaboration by sharing real-time end-to-end information that enables supply chain professionals to pivot faster and, in some cases, predict changes in supply or demand.

As specialists in supply chain services and technology, SDI empowers companies to harness the game-changing potential of Industry 4.0 with our ZEUS Digital Supply Chain platform. In addition to powerful data analytics, frictionless eProcurement, and intelligent storeroom technology, we leverage procurement automation and robotic process automation to provide value-added efficiency improvements and enhance the overall customer experience.

To learn how the digital supply chain enables greater agility, speed, and transparency, contact us today.

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