Real-time Big Data and Analytics  - Mobility  -  the Internet of Things  -  Social Media  -  3D Printing  - Drones  -  Self-driving Vehicles.

What do all of these things have in common? They are all associated with the digital disruption of the supply chain. They are technologies that are contributing to the Industrial Automation of today and will have an impact into the future.

They are also terms we should all be acquainted with. If we can keep an eye on the technologies responsible for replacing repetitive jobs in the supply chain we will be better prepared to be part of the revolution rather than part of the fall-out. Autoware is an example of a company which is automating and increasing the efficiency of processes in the supply chain.

The company has helped other companies produce 800,000 desserts, 14 million vials, 8 million bottles of beer, 5 million packets of pasta, 900,000 packets of mouthwash, and much more. Smart manufacturing is enabling it. When a company requires a product to be mass produced, Autoware employs their Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and facilitates it.

Whilst technology plays an integral role in improving the efficiency of the supply chain, digital implementation has disrupted the industry from end-to-end.

Luigi De Bernardini the CEO of Autoware is dedicated to developing ‘Wireless, autonomous production operation architecture for cognitive manufacturing’. He says the supply chain from four decades ago does not exist anymore. Now, supply chains are logistics, manufacturing, and the autonomous delivery of the product - all in one. He writes:

“Delocalization of production and globalization have created new challenges in managing supply chains, introducing new complexity in logistics and quality control. The main challenge has become finding the right combination of low production cost, necessary quality of products or semi-finished goods and reasonable transportation costs, guaranteeing at the same time the availability of the products when needed.”

No replacing work - just jobs

A law firm named Littler Mendelson P.C. has tackled the tough topic of whether automation in the supply chain is a good thing. They put together a report named: “The Future is Now: Workforce Opportunities And The Coming TIDE. A Call to Action”.

Industrial Supply Chain
Source: Pixabay

‘TIDE’ refers to the ‘technology-induced displacement of employees’. Top law and engineering firms agree - automation is and will continue to replace jobs. But, it won’t replace ‘work’ altogether. That is, if companies can meet workers halfway. The report states:

“The accelerating pace of automation will likely lead to productivity increases on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution, while displacing tens of millions of American workers from their current occupations. Too often, news reports dramatically focus on AI and robots as job killers. Unfortunately, the debate over whether jobs eliminated will outnumber jobs created ignores two related and no less important questions: 1) With the fast-paced arrival of innovative and transformative technologies, will workers whose jobs are most likely to be disrupted have the skills and training required for the new jobs being created? 2) Will employers be able to fill existing vacancies as this unstoppable transformation occurs?”

Bernardini agrees that smart manufacturers that utilize an automated supply chain must change to accommodate the digital future. He concludes:

“The hard work done in the past to optimize the supply chain in a delocalized environment is almost useless in the new world enabled by the usage of the technologies that have become available and affordable. A new approach -- and especially a cultural shift -- is needed in considering the end user as an active and driving part of the supply chain itself.”


Works Cited

“Digitalization Is Disrupting the Supply Chain.” Is Writing an Essential Skill for Engineers? | Automation World, www.automationworld.com/digitalization-disrupting-supply-chain.

Selko, Adrienne. “Automation Eliminates Jobs Not Work: New Report.” IndustryWeek, 22 June 2018, www.industryweek.com/talent/automation-eliminates-jobs-not-work-new-report.

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