Internet of Things (IOT)

More than the sum of the silos

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Modern technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, cloud, artificial intelligence and block chain are frequently viewed as independent entities. However, in combination the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts or in this case the sum of its silos. Collectively, they comprise the basis for infinite possibilities in the area of supply chain optimization for production companies and are an important enabler of Industry 4.0.

The balance between supply and demand constantly changes and companies are compelled to continually modify their supply chain model. Producers know that it is necessary to focus more on speed, accuracy and nimbleness if they want to continue to be competitive and want to embrace Industry 4.0, a model that depends on collaboration and cooperation. Building trust – and the corresponding transparency – turns out to be essential for successful collaboration in the supply chain.

Under the influence of the technologies mentioned above, the supply chain is becoming more and more transparent. Information is shared more easily and more effectively across the chain, which makes it possible to anticipate any incidents and malfunctions. Data are converted to insights, which are then directly deployed in the supply chain, production, distribution and field operations for effective internal cost control, for example through preventive maintenance and inventory status. But also externally, where thanks to the right weather data, a company can already have a response ready for impending extreme circumstances, such as severe rainfall and other disasters.

Managing proactively

The transparent supply chain is based on combining the cloud, IoT and cognitive computing, all of which have reached a certain level of maturity, in addition to being affordable, ubiquitous and accessible. Rather than being reactive, through a combination of real-time data, end-to-end (sensor-based) insight and cognitive technology, parties within the chain can manage based on circumstances and developments. This management may also be automated to a greater or lesser extent.

Thanks to blockchain, companies can handle sensitive data in a secure manner within partnership agreements with multiple partners. Depending on the role and on rights, information can be shared regarding the production site, the supplier, any malfunctions and the impact this may have on production and any commercial agreements. Specific performance indicators can be defined within the chain.

Industry 4.0

The other example of infinite possibilities involves Industry 4.0. A combination of technological building blocks can also enhance existing activities within a production environment. Cloud, IoT and cognitive are augmented with robotization and 3D printing. A coherent whole of adaptive and intelligent technologies also ensures far-reaching optimization of the process. Here we see merging increasingly taking place, in terms of both technologies and the parties involved and collective business cases.

The fact that IBM was awarded the title ‘2018 Manufacturer of the Year’ says a lot. Much more than simply a producer of physical products, we are valued for the fact that, from a central position, we stimulate upcoming technologies and consolidation, and in so doing stimulate digital transformation. This has made the fourth industrial revolution a reality. The embedding of technology and industry-specific knowledge is also an example of this. For example, all the competencies and know-how of the baby boomer generation can be made available via Watson. Ask the system a question and you get the answer. What is interesting in this context is the vision of analyst Adrian Gonzalez, after his visit to the IBM Supply Chain Summit.

New worlds

Combining independent technologies opens new worlds of possibilities. Those who are open to this discover that one activity or possibility lays the basis for something else. This means that initiatives become more independent of the underlying technology, which, after all, becomes available anytime, anywhere via the cloud. The emphasis then falls on exactly what you do with it! Download the IBV Study Orchestrating tomorrow’s supply chain here.


Business Partner Manager Netherlands @ IBM for Asset management, Internet of Things, Supply Chain and AI.

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