At ProMat 2017, the largest material handling, logistics and supply chain show and conference in North and South America, “Industry 4.0” was THE hot topic. But what exactly is Industry 4.0 and how will it revolutionize supply chains?
According to Markus Lorenz, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is the “current trend toward greater interconnectivity between automated equipment through data exchange to support intelligent, autonomous decision-making.”1 These smart autonomous machines will eliminate waste in the supply chain by enabling more streamlined processes that create higher-quality goods at a fraction of the cost. Within the Industry 4.0 framework, augmented reality (AR) and wearable endpoints—such as ring-style scanners and smart glasses—have proven particularly valuable.
Salesforce predicts enterprise wearables usage will more than triple over the next two years.
Here are three ways in which Industry 4.0 and wearables revolutionize supply chains:
Warehouses can drastically reduce picking errors and search time by equipping workers with smartwatches for hands-free access to context-sensitive information or smart glasses. These Internet of Things (IoT) devices not only scan materials, but also find them faster with digital navigation. Wearables can also improve worker safety by eliminating the need for workers to hold a handheld barcode scanner while handling materials in a potentially hazardous work environment. Workers can also access in-context help videos and best-practice content and even stream their point-of-view to an expert for assistance. AR-enabled remote support delivers tremendous value by enabling video collaboration between technicians in the field and subject experts in remote locations. Such collaboration not only ensures the work is done right, but is also more cost effective.
2. Problem Tracking
Plant managers and manufacturers face lots of issues the plant floor every day. Machine issues, blockages in flows, prioritization of processes and tracking malfunctions. With wearables, managers can access important information and get the most up-to-date data on the work completed. Information can be relayed back to tracking systems using attributes or via your applications deployed on these devices. Management then proactively sends maintenance to fix the issue, reducing downtime and maintaining productivity and efficiency. While technicians fix the machine or parts, management can change work schedules, move jobs or start a new production line.
3. Customer Satisfaction
Real-time data capture and inventory awareness has a monumental impact on operational efficiency, as well as a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Consider how logistics companies, like FedEx, boost customer satisfaction with real-time shipment tracking and alerts. With real-time data capture, problems that could delay a customer’s shipment across the supply chain can be caught and resolved immediately.
Billions of new connected endpoints will radically transform supply chain logistics for the better. However, as the number of internet-connected devices grows, so do potential management challenges. Today’s IoT endpoints need to connect using standard protocols that allow for unified endpoint management (UEM), analytics and security. To successfully deliver this context-sensitive information at the right time and place, each endpoint must easily integrate with existing security investments and enterprise systems, such as ERP, CRM and work order management systems. A UEM approach is essential, particularly for wearable devices that require low-touch enrollment and configuration.
UEM also allows for scalability. Pilots may only involve a small number of devices, but as businesses grow and initiatives change, deployments must easily scale to support a growing and diverse fleet.
Over the next decade, digital technologies within the Industry 4.0 framework will completely transform the supply chain. To make enterprise-ready Industry 4.0 a reality, organizations must invest in a comprehensive UEM solution, such as VMware AirWatch, to increase visibility and security, simplify management and improve operational efficiency through combined tools and processes.
Today’s innovators and early adopters already use AR, wearables, smart sensors, beacons and other connected things (even drones!) to reimagine workflows, transform customer interactions and build new innovations. In the comments below, let us know how your organization leverages these technologies.
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