Beyond the digital supply chain

We had a great privilege to arrange the third Friction Free Roundtable Meetup this time together with Alfa Laval at the city of Lund in Sweden. The Friction Free Roundtable is a forum facilitated by Jakamo where supply chain executives and leaders from the manufacturing ecosystem meet peers to share new ideas, supply chain trends, visions, concepts and ways of working in the modern business ecosystem.

The meetup was planned around three topical issues: 1) How are the megatrends affecting our business and supply chains? 2) Which are the main risks in the supply chain and how to mitigate those risks? 3) Which are the most crucial new capabilities in supply chain management to improve in the future?

The participants highlighted that climate change, the shift in the global economic power and technological breakthroughs are the most significant supply chain trends to follow, plan and react for a manufacturing company. Companies, which have built a strong combination of hardware and software capability, will have a competitive advantage. In the future, the products need to fit with the new environmental and sustainability standards. The regulations are tightening all the time, therefore the suppliers need to reach higher and higher compliance standards.

The shift in the global economic power and the political unpredictability are risks that every globally acting company should have on the table in management meetings. How the tension between the US and China affects our supply chain? What kind of damage is Brexit causing on our supplier base? One topical risk is cyber-attack that any company can undergo. There are several examples of how the whole supply chain can become paralyzed when one company of the chain suffers from a cyber-attack.

The clock rate is speeding up constantly, especially when looking at the technological breakthroughs, and it happens in cross-industries. What manufacturing companies should investigate carefully is how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could help them for example in demand forecasting, capacity planning and no-touch ordering. 3D printing is becoming more and more common all the time and some companies have started to use digital twin solutions to simulate their solutions with real data.

From a technology point of view, it’s important that companies invest now in software which is capable to connect with other software through application programming interfaces (API). The connectivity capability plays a huge role in the future because those companies are going to win the game who can smoothly connect with the ecosystem around them, including on a software level. Connectivity between different software ensures company ownership of relevant and real-time data which leads to better decision-making and increased the speed of business.

As a summary, there are many different supply chain trends what to follow for a manufacturing company. Acting as an executive it’s crucial to identify which of those trends will effect on my business and how heavily. By knowing how the industry is developing, it’s possible to answer these three questions related to capability development: 1) Which are the gaps that need to be improved on an organisational and inter-organisational level (processes)? 2) Which technologies and solutions should be implemented? 3) What kind of skills and competencies should be adapted for the personnel?

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