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December 14, 2020

COVID-19 has severely impacted businesses worldwide and continues to hamper supply chain continuity. In fact, supply chain experts across manufacturing industries are realizing that the resiliency of their supply chains is inadequate, as business requirements and models shift towards uncertainty during a crisis. Findings of a study conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) and sponsored by Kinaxis on supply chain planning shows that supply chain resilience is the topmost priority for industries regardless of their supply chain maturity (see Figure 1).

However, the current set of supply chain elements—where organizational functions operate in silos, with no real-time end-to-end visibility due to disconnected and disparate systems and little to no cognitive capabilities—are no longer enough to build a resilient supply chain in the post COVID-19 world. So, what can organizations do to address this?

Building a resilient supply chain is not only about ensuring product supply continuity, but also about responding quickly and with agility to evolving situations and disruptions. The key is to embrace a neural manufacturing framework – an intensely networked set of partners aligned to a common purpose, where value chains are responsive, adaptive, and personalized, with intelligence built on the 'edge' of the networks. This can enable the supply chain to sense, perceive, and act and make intelligent decisions while responding to disruptions. To illustrate such resiliency, consider a control tower, which connects major supply chain functions such as research and development (R&D), planning, manufacturing, logistics, and finance with suppliers through digital technologies such as the cloud, internet of things (IoT), blockchain, and robotics. Such connectivity builds end-to-end supply chain visibility. In addition, the control tower enabled by cognitive capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can sense and perceive information flow from different supply chain functions and can provide prescriptive and predictive actionable insights. Similarly, digital twins can provide intelligent information about manufacturing operations which can flow seamlessly into the control tower. This helps build a futuristic and robust supply chain system with connected functionality for improved collaboration, combined with cognitive capabilities across product design to the post-sales process.

Organizations that leverage the control tower to enable real-time end-to-end supply chain visibility can collaborate effectively to mitigate risks and make timely market decisions. Neural manufacturing is key to building a complete supply chain that can connect all functions, from R&D to post sales. This is facilitated by digital technologies and embedded cognitive capabilities (see Figure 2), which will ensure seamless information flow across the value chain, thus building in resiliency into the supply chain.

 

Impact of a resilient supply chain on products

A resilient supply chain can help firms build COVID-19 friendly products. For instance, an engineering team (R&D) working on a COVID-19 friendly model of a compact SUV for the rural market can identify demand signals through sentiment analytics gathered from consumer preferences through crowdsourcing. They can build vehicles fitted with health and hygiene features such as an inbuilt sanitizer slot and an integrated app to track COVID-19 hotspots. Cognitive technologies such as AI and ML can prescribe the risk and opportunities for the volume of sales. A control tower connected to every function of the supply chain can sense this information and alert engineering teams on the new features required and the opportunities and risks associated with it. At the same time, the engineering team can quickly simulate feasibility using a digital twin. The control tower can also sense potential changes in design and alert the manufacturing and procurement teams. This enables the manufacturing team to quickly simulate impact on factory resources, manage assembly lines, and identify the cost of production to accommodate new changes. Simultaneously, the control tower can equip procurement teams to collaborate with suppliers on the availability of materials and cost, while enabling the finance team to simulate revenue and margin impact analysis.

A step-by-step approach to building a resilient supply chain

Enabling the right digital technologies to support supply chain processes is key to building a resilient supply chain. An integrated solution can be built by partnering with suitable IT product experts who can provide the right digital technologies to create an adaptive digital core that becomes the neural fabric for a manufacturing firm. However, the first step here is to assess the current state of an organization’s supply chain capabilities, identify gaps to be filled to digitize the supply chain, and then layout a roadmap to create the neural fabric for the firm. Such a roadmap can deliver short-term results alongside long-term goals to win customers. The bottom line: A resilient supply chain built on neural technologies not only helps businesses stay relevant in the current scenario, but also guarantees future success.

Anil Gaddi is a Managing Consultant in Innovation and Transformation Group an industry focused innovation & consulting services unit and part of the Manufacturing Industry vertical of TCS. He is responsible for playing a key role in driving thought leadership for the engagements of TCS through consulting, innovative solutions and service transformation. Anil has over 17 years of experience in IT consulting in highly respected IT companies. He brings valuable experience in providing Supply Chain Planning solution using various package tools. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical and Masters Diploma in Business Administration.

Ajai Chaudhary heads the SAP Transformation team for the UK and Ireland for Manufacturing at TCS. He currently drives business transformation initiatives for SAP S/4 HANA for TCS' customers. Ajai has more than 28 years of rich experience in implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) in the automotive, industrial, and process manufacturing sectors for global customers. He has worked with a wide range of international customers, supporting SAP implementation and the digital transformation of ERP solutions as a solution architect, integration manager, program manager, delivery manager, and strategic advisor. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering and a Management degree (Symbiosis, Pune) with a specialization in Financial Management.

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