February 7, 2017 – As a consequence of globalization, the industrial Supply Chain today is significantly fragmented, often geographically: any physical product, even of medium complexity, is typically realized with the contribution of different companies distributed in various countries.
Such fragmentation of the supply chain is arguably an obstacle to the responsiveness of enterprises to demand fluctuations.
Only the spread of ICT technologies can help in overcoming the physical fragmentation an “logically” regrouping the Supply Chain.
The information gathered in real time on the industrial machines and plants are made available to data analysis engines and business systems, that can be integrated at the enterprise level allowing the virtual consolidation of the fragmented supply chain.
The suppliers, dealers, partners, and all the stakeholders involved in the value chain can thus align in real time to demand fluctuations, maximizing customer satisfaction, while reducing inefficiencies and wastes.
For all these reasons, the time-to-market can be significantly reduced; the trend may be the possibility to adapt the production level in a centralized and semi-automatic mode, at the simple click of a button.
The solutions and infrastructures enabling the Smart Manufacturing can be the cornerstone for the integration of new industrial technologies and the implementation of innovative business models.
Thanks to ICT, machine manufacturers can propose, for example, machine-as-a-service models to their customers, ranging from outsourcing of maintenance processes, to the actual payment of the machines depending on the use. The remote availability of all the machines operating data makes such models possible.
Finally, the Smart Manufacturing can stimulate the Additive Manufacturing.
The benefits of 3D Printing in industrial context are known and discussed by time: it is a phenomenon that can potentially revolutionize some productions, allowing to simultaneously reduce both stocks and the risk of stock-outs; this can help in succeeding the goal of mass customization. It is easy to see how ICT is a key component of the 3D Printing, both from the point of view of the control and maintenance of the process (eg. integration of video cameras), and from the standpoint of design of the components to be produced (eg. integration with Computer-Aided Design tools).
In conclusion, ICT technologies applied to Supply Chain management are essential for a business strategy oriented to the customer and are functional to enhance the ability to react to demand change.