Tag Archives: 3D printer

Happy New Year 2016! Looking forward to a sweet 16 year for Supply Chains

Happy New Year to all, I hope that your 2016 is already off to a great start. Looking forward to this year there are some exiting changes as well and continued progress in other areas. Here are some trends we are focusing on for 2016:

  • Retailers will continue to seek new solutions and services to empower their stores: in 2015 we started seeing greater efforts and emphasis on the role of brick and mortar stores. Written off as irrelevant, even a burden a few years ago, retailers’ views of their real estate assets has taken a turn. Brick and mortar stores’ role in the retail supply chain will continue to grow in importance. This momentum is due to the evolution of how stores are being leveraged by retailers. Embracing show rooming, leveraging stores as distribution centers, creating contextual experiences within the store to drive traffic to name a few indextrends, are all making stores matter again. Most significantly the redefinition of the store’s role allows traditional retail to tackle the pure eCommerce players. 2016 will continue to see this evolution of the store. Gaining improved inventory visibility, empowering store associates with greater information, enhanced operational data to allow more business processes to be tested and adopted are all areas where retailers will be seeking appropriate solutions. Look for retailers to lean on their solution and service providers to bring them the necessary technology and business processes that can allow retailers to continue to transform their physical assets. Solution and service providers must work with their retail clients to not only provide technology or business process solutions, but to also offer strategic insights and ideas. Technology is not the panacea but the enabler for new ideas and processes.
  • Logistics continues to feel the strain: Your supply chain is only as strong as your ability to minimize the friction associated with moving inventory and products throughout your supply chain. This burden falls on logistics – rail, ocean, air, trucks even bicycles and donkeys are all part of our logistical network. This past holiday season witnessed another situation where the strain on the logistics network can rear its ugly head. eCommerce retailer Jet.com had to apologize to some of their clients for falling short on being able to deliver products in time for Christmas. Logistic giants FedEx and UPS had to jump through some hoops to meet the delivery crush. Coincidentally, over the holidays,  eCommerce giant Amazon announced it is exploring adding an air cargo arm to their distribution assets. While eCommerce is growing at a steady 1o-15% year over year since 2012, the strain it is placing on logistics is disproportionate – due in large part to seasonal aspect of certain package delivery. The strain is also starting to pop up in places such as college campus mail rooms where they are being overwhelmed by services such as Amazon Prime. This trend is not going to disappear once the calendar flips to 2016. Transportation and warehousing will continue to feel the strain of keeping up with the accelerated evolution of supply chain in 2016. Look for continued efforts from service and solution providers to work with their customers to continue to find innovate manners to handle the crush of logistics.
  • Explosion of disruptive technologies continue to grow: Whether it is IoT (internet of things), robotics, drones, 3d printing or virtual reality to name a few, these disruptive technologies will continue to grow in importance within supply chains. IoT is already well entrenched within manufacturing and logistics, in 2016 look for this technology to grow in importance with regards to the retail supply chain. Robotics are also well know within manufacturing, but look for this technology to play a greater role in places such as customer service and inventory management in retail. Drones are getting much attention, somewhat negative, post holidays as those who unwrapped them as gifts are wondering if they need to register with the FAA, there was even a near disaster during a World Cup skiing race when a drone literally fell from the sky, click here for video. Reality is drones have a role to play in our supply chains – the genie is out of the bottle and properly leveraged they can reduce friction from our supply chains. As indextechnology giants Amazon and Google continue to push on how to leverage these machines to address last mile delivery. Additive manufacturing will continue to play a role in the manufacturing process, but will also create new business models. Companies such as Lowes are already experimenting with 3D printers in their stores, allowing customers to have custom products manufactured on site.  3D printing is already playing a significant role with manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing, but we are only at the cusp of how this disruptive technology will play in our supply chains. Finally virtual reality will continue to play a role in places such as retail – allowing customers to experience product as well as in supply chain design and CAD software. As mentioned above, we see warehousing and other logistics being strained as more companies look to add more of these assets, leveraging virtual reality allows for better testing and understanding of how these capex projects will turn out. Imagine being able to test and try out a full scaled model of a plant or warehouse via virtual reality. Look for these technologies and others continue to grow in importance within our supply chains.

Every year at this time it is always interesting to look back and see what the prior year held for us and more fun to look forward to the coming year. As I have become more of an optimist as I have grown older (is that normal?) I am looking forward to 2016 and some of continued evolution of these technologies and trends.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

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Filed under Current Events, Supply Chain

Top 3 things to look for in 2014

When it comes to the supply chain space and solutions, there are three trends I am looking for in 2014:

  • Software providers will strive to offer full supply chain solution suites. Mega vendors such as SAP, Infor and Oracle have been ahead of this game, just by their sheer size. A growing number of service providers such as JDA and Logility will continue to push in this direction –looking to offer their own supply chain solution platform.  Practioners will seek service providers that can address larger and more inclusive supply chain challenges, rather than simply optimizing pieces of the overall puzzle. They recognise that optimizing parts of the supply chain can often times lead to unintended consequences in other parts of the supply chain. This does not mean that software providers that do not offer a full end to end solution will fall out of favour. These bolt-on solutions will continue to allow for targeted supply chain problems to be addressed. However, these solution providers will have to continue to demonstrate how their solution will be interoperable within the overall supply chain solution network. If you are already engaged with a mega vendor, lean on them to understand how their solution suite can address your larger supply chain issues. When it comes to vendors with smaller solution footprints, ensure that they can seamlessly tie into the solution ecosystem.
  • Expect innovation from the non-usual suspects. Innovative solutions as well as thought leadership will not come only from best of breed providers or consultants, but also from such sources as 3pls and contract manufactures. These players will bring their unique perspective to the supply chain, and drive innovation and thought leadership from the manufacturing and transportation position….think about 3D printing from your contract manufacturers like Flextronics or Jabil and how they are applying this technology and how that innovation can impact your supply chain. Or how your logistics provider like DHL, FedEx or UPS will drive aspects like same day delivery or multi-channel retailing. Other logistics providers who can empower you to drive your supply chain into emerging marketing such as the likes of Agility or Imperial Logistics. Innovation in the supply chain had become more democratized; do not hesitate to look to all your service providers for innovative thinking.
  • It will not be about big data but about actionable data. The notion of large amounts of accessible data will not diminish, on the contrary the amount of data we have access to for our supply chains will only continue to grow. But the vendors that are equipped to provide actionable data is going to be more important than big data. For example vendors such as IRI and Neilson can already provide large quantities of consumer data. Other business intelligence vendors have the ability to take massive data to cleanse and harmonize data. But practioners need to look for the vendors that are focusing on identifying that actionable data. To borrow a phrase from a conversation with SAP – “the haystack keeps getting larger and larger, and you are still looking for that needle” Solution providers will start focusing on identifying the actionable data, rather than just big data. Just because we can start looking at every last piece of data does not mean we should be doing so. Solution providers that offer the intelligence to find the key pieces of data within that haystack will be the ones that gain in relevance.  Companies like Zyme are focused on the hi-tech space will be able to give companies like Barnes and Nobles a better understanding of what data they need to be aware of for products such as the Nook tablet. Work with your service providers to go deeper than just looking at big data – understand what types of data they are comfortable with and what industries they have deep knowledge of.

2014 should be another interesting year in the space…but then again isn’t every year that way?

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Disrputive technology, available at Staples

We are currently being reminded that disruptive technology is all around us…phones, digital cameras, MP3s, steam power are just some examples. There is a new device that might prove as disruptive – the 3D printer. Now you can purchase one at your local Staples!

Wow. Yes I might be showing my dorky side. 3D printers have the potential to be a mini personal factory. A factory that could churn out anything a computer program can offer. Think about the possibilities. You forgot a part for your kid’s bicycle? Go to the Trek web site and download the specs to your printer. Last minute gift for your significant other? Head off to RedEnvelope and find a nice gift that you can “print” out. Your Christmas gifts might come via an email…to be manufactured by your 3D printer.

3D printers will have a drastic impact on supply chains as well as consumers. With a retailer now offering this technology to the masses, we are about to experience some major disruptions.

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Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Technology