Adapting supply chains to 4IR

July 2020

How we produce goods and access services today is almost a world apart from how it was done fifty years ago.

Goods that were produced in a region were consumed in that region with modest surpluses traded globally. Services were limited to professionals who had exclusive access to customers and invested their entire working lives to their craft. 

Advances in manufacturing and logistics have allowed us to accelerate globalisation to a point where we now expect imported wines on our supermarket shelves and drive Japanese cars at an affordable price.

Local companies like the Mackay GP Superclinic can now support their patients remotely thanks to digital technologies while other small businesses, such as 2Censor, can work with experts from around the world, aided by data and the internet of things.  

Digital technologies have not only accelerated globalisation, they’ve created new markets made up entirely of electronic information. A mobile application developed in Dysart can be accessed by users around the world in a matter of clicks and film companies are slowly ditching cinemas for video streaming. 

These are just a few examples of how supply chains are adapting to the fourth industrial revolution. Although supply chain disruption is a key feature, more opportunities are being generated for professionals who can apply these new technologies to their area of expertise.  

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Digital and physical production has merged to create new supply chain referred to as Industry 4.0

 

Physical production won’t  be replaced any time soon, but if manufacturers don’t adapt to new technologies, they won’t remain competitive. Let’s look at a couple of ways 4IR is affecting supply chains.

 

Big data and predictive analytics

Data and analytics play a key role in the supply chain by generating insights from the data organisations produce. Big data is used for real-time decision making while predictive analytics are used to foresee future events like the failure of a machine or how to optimise a processing facility for the best output.

Companies that are able to capture, store and make sense of big data are sought after by organisations. In the logistics sector, big data helps businesses manage their inventory and create detailed customer profiles to develop more targeted marketing, while in agriculture everything from rainfall to crop yields are calculated to help farmers make informed decisions about their resources. 

 

Cloud Computing

Online data centres store the large amounts of data needed to automate production and decrease the time needed to manage it. It’s also the principal ingredient for business intelligence solutions like software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) which are used to access and deliver remote services.

Think about the cost of scaling your IT today? Cloud computing gives small businesses a competitive edge by lowering costs and making even the most sophisticated software packages available to anyone with an internet connection. Automation and 24-hour customer service is also made possible thanks to remote servers being able to work when you’re not able to. 

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