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Business and Technology Insights

The Fourth Wave: Connected Machines and Responsive Factories are upon us

 
December 7, 2016

The American futurist Alvin Toffler, who recently passed away, didnt get everything right. Not many of us live in the underwater cities he described and human cloning hasnt become reality, yet. But his predictions about the digital revolution, and information overload a term he popularized, were spot on. Almost forty years ago his book the Third Wave, follow-up to the seminal Future Shock, predicted mobile communications, the ubiquity of personal computers, and their ability to communicate via a worldwide web.

He imagined that these technological revolutions would have fundamental implications for society and for businesses. In many ways what he described in the second half of the 20th century is what we are, in the first half of the 21st century experiencing and coming to define as advanced manufacturing a world where technology, data and human endeavor can be harnessed to improve what we already make and find ways of making new products that meet emerging needs. Combining these elements manufacturers are able to develop incredibly efficient factories, automate procurement chains, and create products that would have been uneconomical or even impossible with yesterdays technology.Logistics

One of the key pillars of this transformation, a central tenet of advanced manufacturing and a facet of the factory of the future, is the digitization of supply chains. Our research tells us that of the 70% of firms that have begun to digitize their supply chains, almost half began the journey more than five years ago. That means some organizations are more mature in their processes and technology, and have implemented capabilities that place them ahead of their competitors.

Several factors are driving this new wave of digital adoption. The pervasive nature of digital technology that Toffler foresaw is itself a force for change; but, companies are also responding to cost pressures and customers ever-increasing demand for customization. A majority of companies embracing the digitization of supply chains have developed a formal IT and business strategy to help them achieve their goals. Their objectives are to increase customer satisfaction, lower operating costs and improve inventory management. Reduced warehousing and transportation costs are other financial benefits that accrue.

Automated procurement within supply chains is also an important dimension of this new age approach to manufacturing. Fostering collaboration with suppliers and a focus on creating value rather than price, procurement automation changes the game.

What its proponents envisage is a factory of the future engaged in customer focused, connected and collaborative manufacturing. Achieving this advanced manufacturing requires a willingness to embrace end-to-end digitization. You find out how that can be achieved read my point of view here.

What we now see as new technologies such as the IoT, 3D printing, and robotics, have in fact been emerging for many decades. As they are applied in the real world of manufacturing they are generating vast volumes of data, what Toffler described as information overload and what weve come to know as big data, which we now have the ability to capture, and the computing power to analyze in real-time. The fourth wave is truly upon us.

TCS is a Platinum Sponsor of the Executive Summit at Oracle Modern Supply Chain Experience 2017. While companies understand the value of digital technologies, they struggle to develop strategies and a roadmap to leverage digital capabilities to transform their business models. Do join us for an insightful sessionwhichwill focus on attendees strategies and their perception of the challenges, opportunities, and impact digital technologies are and will have on their operations. Click here for more details.

Matthew Lekstutis is the Supply Chain Consulting Lead for Tata Consultancy Services. He has over 20 years of experience as an industry executive and advisor including COO level P&L management responsibility. Matt helps clients to capture business performance improvement opportunities and drive growth by enabling new business models and technologies across the supply chain.