Long before it was popular, or long before the term was coined —which is the same—, manufacturers always envisioned a fully connected series of steps between their processes. Today, this could be translated into a fully connected supply chain, although it would be no less than an obvious tautology. However, as supply chain continue to grow increasingly extended, and as they become more complex, the issue of connectivity has never been more crucial: machine to machine, or M2M, technology. The substrate that serves as the connection for the Internet of Things (IoT) is also a critical point in regard to the apparent connection throughout the whole supply chain; expert David Kiger has also asserted that alongside these factors, it is as well the supply chain manager the one responsible for achieving a less costly performance. Nonetheless, in accordance with what supply chain manager experts say, machine to machine supply chain connectivity has indeed the ability to transform supply chain planning into real execution, thusly creating business opportunities for manufacturers where roughly none existed before.
M2M takes the planning —or the vision, so to speak— and provides it with perspective, thusly creating a real-time view of what is, in fact, going on. Traditionally speaking, the supply chain as the corporate world knows it has always been driven based on the ERP approach, which is arguably the best guess at consumption and production; however, it is not looking at what has been planned on being built and subsequently consumed what is definitively important, but to look at what is effectively being built and consumed. Machine to machine technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, ZigBee sensors, GPS chips and smart cards are able to capture and collect information on the identity, status —understood as condition— of any physical asset and, also, make such information available to other interfaces or software products, hardware products and devices with which either people or other automated systems can interact.
Machine to machine technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, ZigBee sensors, GPS chips and smart cards are able to capture and collect information on the identity, status —understood as condition— of any physical asset and, also, make such information available to other interfaces or software products, hardware products and devices with which either people or other automated systems can interact.
This technology, in short, allows supply chain managers to take a much closer look at the whole supply chain and see critical control points. Today, manufacturers can easily realize when and where a shipment is supposed to arrive and confirm whether it reached its destination. They can also know when particular good rolls off an assembly line or when a truck gets past a transportation point.
Machine to machine connectivity enhances information analytics
Manufacturers have always been able to monitor and control assets for years now. In this sense, programmable logic controllers and wireless connectivity is not something new per se; nonetheless, now they can perform predictive analytics against their information or, moreover, execute a previously conditioned monitoring action against it.
These new analytics enable manufacturers to concentrate and focus on the critical few points. This is much more understandable from another standpoint: think of Walmart, for instance: they have got tens of millions of transactions every single week. The framework allows them to pull out the ones that are, in fact, critical.
Thus, machine to machine serves as the perfect opportunity for manufacturers to increase production and reduce the costs commonly associated with it just by monitoring machinery —for not only production purposes, but also for other specific issues—. Businesses that rely on big machinery can fall, victim of the machine’s ineffectiveness all of a sudden: if the machine is down for at least one day, the business is actually losing tens of thousands of dollars, but if the business were able to receive an alert saying that something may be about to go sideways, the company can counteract in advance, thusly making the damage less severe.
This predictability is crucial, for it allows manufacturers to tailor and hold fewer outbound inventory in the supply chain, which, of course, comes in handy for reducing the costs. Today, businesses are not required to have that extra inventory just because they can accurately measure and count what is being consumed. This, of course, is a key factor to predicting shortages much quicker, which, as consequence, makes the business much more efficient.
Machine to machine enables product service automation
Manufacturers can make sure their product lines are working and performing the way they are supposed to and ultimately understand what is happening should things were to go south. Thanks to M2M and its full scope, companies can now be notified with instantaneous automatic notifications alerting them that something is being used improperly. Technical support can also be automatically notified so that they can start troubleshooting the issue as they get to the plant or the factory where the failure is taking place.
As described in previous articles, a vital component of the supply chain is the time factor. This way, time-saving is possible; however, let us not forget that an hour in downtime is measured in tens of thousands of dollars.
* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com