Make productive assets part of the supply chain

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) responds to increasing demands placed on goods makers as the e-commerce landscape evolves.

By Bhagat Nainani, Oracle Corp. November 21, 2017

As the e-commerce landscape evolves, supply chains face increasing pressure to keep pace. With the growth of the on-demand economy, needs for shorter shipping times and realistic fulfillment promises will force companies to optimize supply chains for better customer service.

Enter the supply chain hero—the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Smart Factories and connected products are becoming a critical component as companies adopt what are also identified as Industrie 4.0 capabilities within the supply chain.

About 20.4 billion connected things will be in use by 2020 across all industries, said research firm Gartner. With that level of device enablement, enterprises will have the supply-chain data needed for a holistic view of operations and real-time insights. By implementing IIoT technologies, enterprises will gain in asset visibility. More efficient operations will free resources for innovation.

A major challenge supply chains face, though, is how to bring together the siloed data of separate business functions. While adoption of IIoT is an opportunity for actionable insights, all too often data is stagnant. Upon implementation, organizations should ensure that their demand-driven processes and devices are integrated into a single, unified, digital ecosystem, to get a dynamic and responsive supply chain. By adopting IIoT technologies, organizations have capabilities to more easily collect, evaluate, and interpret product and customer information, and receive the closed-loop feedback that leads to good decisions. 

IIoT in action

As technology advances, businesses must meet higher customer expectations. Supply chains play an important role. IIoT implementations support the application of analytics to production and logistics processes. Predictive intelligence can impact all aspects of the supply chain, from manufacturing to fleet management to predictive maintenance, as well as deliver:

Asset management as a predictive driver. The goal for any supply chain is zero downtime and the ability to integrate what’s happening in production to other areas of the organization. For example, connected equipment helps track health and utilization of assets in the field, allowing operators to get diagnostic information directly from the device before sending technicians onsite for repairs. By having the ability to receive real-time data on how machinery is operating, manufacturers can diagnose a problem or even predict the possibility of breakdowns before a catastrophic incident takes place. Predictive maintenance and proactive anomaly detection capabilities help enterprises stay competitive without having costly outages. They enable delivery of the right products at the right time. Enterprises respond to business opportunities so as to optimize production, without mistakes that might prove costly down the road.

Improved delivery estimates. Implementing IIoT into fleet operations allows enterprises to track their vehicles on the road, reduce unnecessary costs, and improve the customer experience with improved estimated time of arrival (ETA) forecasting. IoT enablement supports real-time insights into fleet monitoring and interaction with the environment, such as tracking driver behaviors and having performance data for predictive maintenance.

Strategic logistics processes and efficiencies. Smart, connected equipment supports improved logistics forecasts. The more data is integrated and analyzed, the better a company’s understanding of each aspect and of key indications of each phase in the loop. More appropriate incentives based on measured market attributes lead to new revenue opportunities and an aggressive market approach. Leveraging IIoT in asset tracking, freight and shipping companies can collect data on movements in novel ways, rather than having to rely on barcode scanning to determine locations.

Closed loop product lifecycle management (PLM). IIoT enables companies to get first-hand data about product usage. Connected products provide insights into how customers use products and react to quality issues. This information can then be fed back into the product design and quality process to affect next-generation products. IIoT capabilities involving so-called digital twins, i.e., a virtual representation of a physical asset, can test and analyze product behavior prior to release.

As supply chains implement and integrate IIoT technologies, businesses become more agile, quickly adapting to a fast-changing industry landscape. IIoT, including smart devices, the cloud, mobility, analytics, and other exciting technologies, is increasingly found in the industrial landscape because it improves productivity in industrial, business, and supply chain operations.

Bhagat Nainani is group vice-president, IIoT applications, Oracle Corp.