1660318085730 Nerminmohamed

Supply chain improvements top list of manufacturing initiatives

April 19, 2021
In this Big Picture Interview, a new survey reveals that the pandemic has accelerated digital technology adoption, especially 5G.

In mid-2020, ARC Advisory Group and Wind River collaborated on a survey of manufacturing leaders to better understand the challenges industry faced during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain production as a result of disruptions to their supply chains and operations. That report, “Industry 4.0 and 5G in the COVID Pandemic,” is available at http://plnt.sv/BPI-2104. Nermin Mohamed, the Head of Telco Solutions at Wind River, talked with the Plant Services editors earlier this year about some of the findings in this report.

PS: In the research report section on next-generation process improvement initiatives, “supply chain” stood out as a leading response. When you look at the data, how do you explain that particular result?

NM: I think the interesting part of that question is really the fact that so many of our respondents are working on all projects in all five areas, so it’s almost 70%. However, supply chain management or optimization came on the top of that, and the reason for that is the pandemic.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the power of supply chain optimization to enable organizations to anticipate, sense, and respond to unexpected changes and minimize this impact. As we head into the post-pandemic world, end-to-end visibility and collaboration across the supply chain is critical to ensuring that the network will continue to function as intended. Otherwise, in the absence of this automation and optimization, manual intervention could be needed to adjust the disruption, and typically this is an inefficient and costly approach.

PS: You said COVID-19 was exposing cracks that were already there in the global supply chain, and exposing a problem that was already there more broadly. Do you think the pandemic has exacerbated those issues as well, and made things worse than they already were?

NM: The latter, actually. I think the supply chain problem has been over there, and looking into supply chain optimization was an initiative that’s being pursued by all industrial manufacturers. However, COVID-19 has sped things up.

PS: The report also mentioned that these types of improvements are something that can’t be realized overnight. Do you think manufacturers are thinking more long-term now or have more patience for something that won’t be realized in a short period of time, given the pandemic?

Big Picture Interview

This article is part of our monthly Big Picture Interview column. Read more interviews from our monthly Big Picture series.

NM: Actually that was another surprising result from this survey because, like you mentioned, manufacturers are taking their time in order to change and adapt to new technologies. However, when we interviewed them, the survey results showed an acceleration of the adoption of 5G and Industry 4.0 and going aggressively after this process improvement. I can share some data points from this survey that shows that 81% of these industries are expecting to adopt 5G within the next 5 years, and 50% next year.

This is actually a surprise for me, because it takes time to adapt to new technologies and see what ROI is expected. But these data show that things are changing, and these companies are trying to pull forward to target this for their long-term initiatives in order to have it earlier than it was already planned, and it appears that they’re accelerating the digital transformation.

PS: Do you think that your respondents are being realistic on their predicted adoption timeframes?

NM: I think so. People from the survey are very confident in the ability of 5G and the intelligent edge as well to not only solve basic supply chain problems, but also drive innovation and product production efficiency and security. Recent research data shows that 180 5G networks were deployed with more than 220 million subscribers by December 2020.

When we talk about all these initiatives from industrial and manufacturers, optimized supply chain came on top. However, they’re looking at other multiple projects and more complex projects than we ever expected. They indicated the fact that they’re engaged in at least three to five improvement initiatives that are quite complex in order to guarantee the SLA and reliability. Key from their point of view is using 5G and intelligent edge in order to solve these problems, guarantee the SLA, guarantee real-time, improve customer satisfaction and internal confidence, and provide competitive advantage as well as profit margin for them.

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