Supply Chain Technologies-The promise of supply chain improvements generated considerable interest and discussion at the recent Oracle Modern Business Experience conference in Las Vegas. That’s because several emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things, predictive analytics, augmented reality, and blockchain distributed ledgers have the potential to transform supply chain operations.
Still, supply chain veterans cautioned against jumping on these emerging technologies without adequate planning, realistic goals, and the right tools. There remains a sizable gap between what companies want to do and the “domain expertise, data science skills, and application development experience” required, commented one interested party, “and it’s very difficult to find all of those skillsets in one person.”
Internet of Things
Supply chains and IoT are a natural fit. But many IoT projects fail because they’re focused “too much on internet and things, and too little on business outcomes,” said Harish Gaur, senior director of IoT and blockchain SaaS applications at Oracle.
The first step is to establish KPIs that determine the project’s business success. The next is defining the kind of data you need to collect for those KPIs, Gaur said, including real-time data from IoT sensors but also data from asset management, finance, manufacturing, and database systems.
Two strategic elements of deploying IoT technology in supply chain management are the “digital thread” and “digital twin.” The digital thread is the connection of specific assets, data flows, and work processes that produce a business outcome, such as when unexpected downtime by an assembly robot triggers a recalculation of the production schedule. Digital threads map out how IoT data can be used effectively. “The data eventually has to drive workflows inside your enterprise applications,” Gaur said.
The digital twin is a 3D recreation of a machine or business process. It provides a 360-degree view of the asset’s physical functioning and interactions with other entities. The digital twin is crucial to validating an IoT implementation by representing devices monitoring machine operations or steps in a supply chain.
Physically installing IoT technology involves tactical decisions about the most appropriate and cost-effective hardware devices and communications gateways. An emerging factor is what’s known as edge computing—how much data processing can and should be done at the device level versus passing it off to applications in the cloud.