“Fast, good, or cheap; pick two.” That used to be the motto for manufacturing, as the reality was you'd have to compromise on at least one of the three. However, today's technological advances like drones and 3D printing combined with advanced data collection make the inventory strategy of Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory more feasible than ever before. As a result, manufacturers now have the possibility of making their supply chains fast, good, and cheap.
“This is nothing less than a paradigm shift in industry: the real manufacturing world is converging with the digital manufacturing world to enable organizations to digitally plan and project the entire lifecycle of products and production facilities,” observed Helmuth Ludwig, CEO, Siemens Industry Sector, North America.
The improved planning is one aspect of Internet of Things (IoT), the one that the supply chain execution solutions company PINC, explains in this way: ” IoT is all about gathering raw event streams from sensors, filtering, interpreting and putting this data in context to make it meaningful.” But IoT has even greater potential for improved efficiency when it enables reports and responses to issues to happen in real time.
What better way to get that real time view than from the air? That's why PINC launched its Aerial Sensor Platform and Supply Chain Drone – PINC Air an autonomous real-time location system (RTLS) built into a drone. The drone can survey assets spread over large area in order to get an accurate inventory or to locate particular items when they are needed With the option to carry to carry a range of sensors, like GPS, RFID, OCR and Barcode readers, the drone brings greater accuracy and efficiency to yard management systems (YMS). The video below shows the supply chain drone in action.
IoT connections also bring new JIT possibilities to customized manufacturing when combined with 3D printing. One business that combines the two is Normal. It manufactures custom-fitted 3D printed earbuds in its New York City store within 48 hours for $199. While customers are welcome to visit the store, they don't have to come in to get fitted. Thanks to IoT, all they need to get measured for a custom fit is a smartphone. Ear measurements work with photos uploaded through Normal's app. They need to put in pictures of both ears.
Such customized fit was possible without onsite 3D printing, but it would have entailed a much longer delay between the measurement and the delivery of the final product at a much higher cost. Keeping the product to under $200 price point keeps them affordable for more people, which increases the potential market share for Normal. Plus, the promise of delivery within two days is a major selling point for people who generally want what they want right now.
What would have been an unreasonable expectation just a few years ago is now business as usual, thanks to the brave new world of supply chains made better, faster, and cheaper by IoT.