Every connected, automated and personalized experience is powered by data that provides real-time visibility and actionable insights. Across the board, data is the brains of the operation—whether it’s aligning store-level inventory and compliance data with centralized systems or sharing patients’ progress with healthcare providers.
A flood of smart products is being enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), along with predictive and prescriptive data analytics. Intelligent vending, connected homes, autonomous vehicles, global supply chains and smart manufacturing plants all get their “smarts” from embedded sensors, cloud software, firmware and an entire ecosystem of technology and process innovations.
Likewise, investments in intelligent digital supply chains will continue to drive impactful transformations from the factory floor to the customer’s door. Analytics-driven breakthroughs, such as Automated Optical Inspection (AOI), are making headway in providing predictive models that facilitate innumerable operational efficiencies in manufacturing and quality control processes.
Real-time data also plays a pivotal part in supply chain planning, sourcing, procurement, logistics and transportation. In Jabil’s 2018 Supply Chain Technology Trends report, IIoT is named, along with big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, robotics and manufacturing automation, as having the strongest investment potential.
Image courtesy: Jabil
These data-driven innovations set the stage for true supply-chain network optimization, which is essential for navigating current uncertainties and constraints across global supply chains. With network optimization, companies can perform a series of what-if scenarios to identify different supply chain models based on final product and raw material deadlines, final product definition and supply chain details.
The ability to produce and deliver products closer to end-customers is the holy grail of distributed manufacturing. In additive manufacturing circles, the mantra is “ship data, not parts.” By storing inventory in the form of raw materials and digital files, companies can consolidate Bills of Materials (BOMs) and supply chains, as well as final assembly considerations.
Maintaining digital product inventories closer to the point of consumption also will have a profound effect on how companies address spare parts and maintenance-repair-obsolescence (MRO) strategies. Instead of storing quantities of spares in multiple geographies, robust Additive Manufacturing Networks can be leveraged to produce spare parts closer to the locations where they are needed, as they are needed.
Having 3D-print farms closer to end-users is perhaps the most disruptive idea yet, as it completely changes how products traditionally are brought to market. In addition to slashing production time and costs, this distributed manufacturing model offers greater flexibility than traditional methods when producing and designing parts ideally suited for specific applications.
Advancements in retail automation, connected healthcare and autonomous vehicles will all benefit from emerging distributed manufacturing models. For some organizations, the biggest hurdles are determining how best to integrate any or all of these five drivers into their product strategies, development lifecycles and manufacturing methodologies.
A common challenge across all industry sectors is balancing the need for groundbreaking technology with the realities of what it takes to plan and implement properly. It’s certainly not trivial to venture into personalization, automate previously manual functions, add much-needed connectivity or decipher data in new and powerful ways.
Equally daunting is rethinking traditional manufacturing models to benefit from distributed, digital workflows. Look to develop unique partnerships across the manufacturing ecosystem to accelerate digital transformation and innovation without introducing undue risk or cost. Pragmatic partners then can lower barriers while leveraging cross-domain expertise and industry experience to clear any hurdles and maximize emerging business opportunities in the digital age.