By Laura V. Garcia
You know the hot topics, you’ve heard the buzzwords people love to spew and post hoping to sound relevant and “on top of their game.” But what do they really mean and more importantly, what do they mean for your business? In a world where something new is flying at us every day, but so much of the “new” is simply something old “re-imagined” to look or sound fresher, it’s hard not to be a cynic. Missing a meal is now intermittent fasting, a shake turned into a smoothie, and now a bowl.
Not so with deep tech, however, where true technological developments are coming so fast and furious that Vin Diesel would have a hard time keeping up. These are not old technologies tweaked for slight improvements; these are technological advancements that will transform companies and fuel a revolution. We’re looking at you, Industry 4.0.
Out of all the new technologies coming our way, there are three that are working cohesively for some pretty explosive, money-making changes; IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence) and Big Data. On a personal level, these three conspirators will have your phone telling you to pick up milk on the way home. In sales and marketing, they’ll create laser targeted, customized ads based on location, historical trend analysis, and even the weather.
In Supply Chain, the three amigos will increase your uptime, improve productivity, efficiencies, quality control and planning. You’ll know what to fix before it needs fixing, and with improved demand planning using in-depth historical data analysis, you’ll be able to lower inventory and perhaps finally achieve true JIT.
These are technologies you need to pay attention to, understand, and know-how they may impact your business. Read on, and we’ll help you do just that.
IoT and Industry 4.0
Simply put, the Internet of Things will connect the internet to almost any device as well as to each other. From coffee makers to machine components, devices will be able to exchange information, creating a massive network of connected “things.”
The uses are limitless, from increasing forecasting accuracy through deep trend and predictive analysis to improved logistics that ingrates traffic, weather, GPS, road and vehicle maintenance data. The IoT is already in play and industries such as manufacturing, transportation, consumer goods, automotive and healthcare have begun to see the changes.
AI and Machine Learning
AI and Machine learning are often used synonymously. They are not, however, synonymous. To clarify, AI (artificial intelligence) is a broad concept where machines are capable of human intelligence, learning, problem-solving, and in essence, mimicking human, rational decision making. Machine learning is a subset of AI where machines learn to learn through analysis of data and are programmed to look for and use data trends, as well as given samples or instructions to improve their decision making.
AI is making an explosive impact in many industries, but none quite as large as the one it’s making in manufacturing.
According to Landing AI, their machine-vision tools can detect and identify microscopic defects. Azure Machine Learning can increase your uptime by predicting and detecting when preventative maintenance is needed. Moreover, Fero Labs, a leader in predictive communication, is directly targeting KPI improvements through data analysis and machine learning.
Big Data is generally accepted to be data that is large in volume and consists of four characteristics known as the four V’s; volume, variety, velocity and veracity.
Due to the size and complexity of the data, it can not be processed using traditional processing methods. Therefore analytics and algorithms are used to discern the data into meaningful and informative information.
Not only can the data be used for improved forecasting, trend and predictive analysis, but for operations planning, it means ultimate adaptability and flexibility with a constant reanalysis of inventory, demand, costs, delivery performance, and margins.
The uses are more far-reaching than just supply chain, however. Marketing is levelling up, using big data to achieve laser-sharp targeted ads, such as IBM Watson Advertising’s WEATHERfx which uses AI for weather-based targeted consumer marketing.
Where’s the Data Streaming?
Transvoyant’s Continuous Decision Intelligence (CDI) uses the IoT, big data and machine learning to analyze and understand current and past behaviours throughout the logistical supply chain and under varying conditions, to predict and prescribe actions.
Thanks to AI, Fanuc’s lights-out factory in Japan has robots building robots and can run completely unsupervised up to 30 days at a time.
P&G (Proctor & Gamble) is using E2open’s Demand Planning solution, which uses machine learning for demand predictions.
Of course, we would be remiss not to mention blockchain. Unless you’ve beat Tom Cruise and no longer call planet earth home, you’ve heard of it.
Blockchain rose to fame in the tech industry with the rise of cryptocurrencies. Jump to today and it’s now considered a game-changer for every industry. Blockchain being adopted into Supply Chain, and specifically transportation and logistics, seems to be a foregone conclusion, with FedEx, UPS and DHL sharing a stage as well as opinions on the matter.
Standards bodies Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) and Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) are helping to forge the way and with members like Google, UPS, FedEx, and P&G, these guys have some serious muscle on their bench.
Although a future where we never run out of almond milk and your machines are always running may seem imminent, there are deleterious effects that need to be addressed before we get there; breach of privacy, loss of jobs and over-reliance on technology being chief among them.
All of these technologies are relatively infantile in their development, the rollouts aren’t likely to be smooth, and the challenges, both technologically and politically, will be plenty. At the rate that they are maturing, however, and with the payouts that are expected, the forerunners won’t just outpace their competition, they’ll leave them in their dust.
So, where’s your company going to be?