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IoT and the Supply Chain

A couple of days ago I was out for a drive and got to thinking about the computer, or computers in my car.  Was there just one highly sophisticated computer or several smaller ones dedicated to a specific task?  Out of curiosity I searched Google to find out how many computers the average car or truck contains.  I guess was there might be as many as 10 – 20 computers in one form or another in my car.  Was I ever wrong!  The actual answer is: 50 – 100+.  Lower end vehicles have roughly 50 computers or more accurately, computers and microprocessors.  Luxury or electric cars may have over 100 “computers” to run and monitor a wide array of systems.

IoT and the Supply Chain

Using cars from a couple of decades ago versus today’s modern vehicles gives us an interesting comparison to today’s Supply Chain.  Here’s a true story.  Twenty years ago we were waiting for a shipment of critical parts coming from the East coast to our manufacturing facility in Utah.  The shipment was several days late and everyone was scrambling trying to locate the truck.  It was finally found at a rest stop in Wyoming where it had been sitting for a few days.  The driver was nowhere to be found! We guessed he’d gotten tired of being a truck driver and just walked off the job.  A new driver was summoned along with a set of keys and the shipment was finally delivered a week late.

If a driver was to walk away in route today the trucking company would know within a matter of minutes or worst case, hours.  With GPS trackers, shipments monitors etc. the location and condition of the shipment is tracked from the original loading of the trailer to its’ unloading at the destination.  The trucking company knows how many hours the truck is in operation, how much gas is used, the temperature of a refrigerated load, virtually anything can be monitored and measured.

If we expand the transportation of a load of product to the entire supply chain, we begin to see the tremendous impact that IoT has on the Supply Chain.  With IoT, we have any detail we wish to track; from original ideation to final delivery.

At Apps Associates our SCM clients are reaping the benefits of IoT in all stations of their Supply Chain.  Here’s a hypothetical case that shows a little bit of what can be done.  For brevity, let’s just focus on the initial stages of the Supply Chain; Ideation to Production start-up.

An electronics company has an idea for a new cell phone with an advanced camera.  Unlike the competitor’s cameras mounted high on the back of the camera, their idea is to place the lens on top of the phone and add a sliding bar to the side of the phone.  The sliding bar will allow the lens to  go from wide angle to zoom by sliding the bar back and forth.  A pop up screen would also be added for ease of use when taking selfies and low angle shots.

Using Oracle IoT and SCM applications, the process of managing the initial steps in the Supply Chain might look like this:

Ideation Phase:

Using Oracle Innovation Management, the idea of a sliding bar to control the zoom function is captured.  It is then compared to other ideas being evaluated for the new phone.  Based on idea analysis captured over the past 6 months, the sliding bar idea is favoured by the product development team.  This leads to a formal Product Proposal.  The idea can now move ahead.  Next step; create a detailed list of requirements, challenges to be overcome and opportunities this new idea might present.  With the formal proposal being track by Oracle we can gather financial estimates, identify milestones the new sliding bar camera has to meet, and all other details pertinent to the phone as it move forward.

With Oracle Social Network the team can freely collaborate on the proposal with the focus being on the business.  A real win/win for the business, keeping people focused while openly collaborating from any location connected by the internet.

As the sliding bar camera continues its way through the ideation phase we want to see how the new phone will perform in the marketplace.  Will it carve out a new niche?  Will it cannibalize existing sales?  Oracle Sales and Operations Planning will help answer these and other questions from the development team.  All projections can be modelled and shown with advanced analytics.  The embedded analytics highlight strengths and weaknesses, often at a glance!

As we prepare to move into the production phase, we’ll need to check on Supplier and Production capacity using Oracle’s Supply and Demand Planning applications.  Our sliding bar phone is projected to increase sales by a significant amount.  Some sales of our existing phone but overall strong growth is expected.  Can our suppliers keep up with demand?  How much re-tooling is going to be required?  Can production have enough capacity?  The fine balance between Supplier capacity and Production capacity can be modelled and action taken to ensure sufficient inventory is available when and where it is needed.

Initial Production:

As millions of new phones are going to be built on the production lines at our various facilities spread across the world; high speed, smooth production throughput is needed.

IoT Product Monitoring has highlighted an issue at the assembly work station.  The phone case slips slightly to one side as the camera is mounted in the frame.  IoT highlights the degree of slippage and analytics show that it exceeds the allowed tolerances.  Further, IoT is projecting a failure rate that increases to 58% if corrections are not made.

IoT has not only identified the failure and the percent of non-conforming devices, IoT even creates a maintenance Work Order to deal with the issue.  All of this has been done automatically with no need for human intervention.  This is saving time and reducing down time.

IoT is so powerful that it can create a ‘digital twin’ of the assembly machine which the maintenance team uses to virtually view the machine and the identified failure.  As they model the failure they see that the clamp holding the case in place can slip if the arm inserting the camera into the case is not perfectly aligned.

The supply chain is long and complex for many of the products that we produce and purchase.  The above is just a very small slice of overall Supply Chain for many products being produced today.  Apps Associate working with Oracle SCM Fusion and IoT applications are making the Supply Chain more flexible, smoother, and intelligent to manage.