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The definition of high-tech manufacturing is changing in line with advances in technology, to embrace such industries as aviation and oil and gas, says Dennies. At the same time, all manufacturers in that sector are coping with the trend toward "big data," which comes from all directions - suppliers, field services, manufacturing and the demand side. A company's ability to marshal all of that data into coherent form can result in a significant competitive advantage. "It's information you can act on," Dennies says.
Globalization is driving increasingly complex manufacturing supply chains, including an ever-greater reliance on outsourcing. The trend saddles companies with the responsibility for effective vendor management. Traceability and visibility become essential processes, both upstream and downstream in the chain. Dennies says the tight management of product is extending all the way to field services, including machines that are equipped with automatic "call-home" capabilities when they're in need of repair or replenishment.
For supply-chain managers, a new level of expertise is required. The change is driven by the new technology that is need to integrate all of the data. "In the future," says Dennies, "we're going to need systems to take that information and give [companies] intelligent action to move forward."
In the oil and gas sector, for example, technology that originated in medical devices such as heart valves is now being deployed to sense the pressure of materials flowing through pumps and pipelines. The systems can have a significant impact on the planning of product to be delivered to the market.
The first thing to do with all of that data is synchronize it, whether through a single platform or the integration of multiple systems. The key, says Dennies, is traceability. Companies must be able to monitor the flow of parts and products from the individual component level all the way to the customer and field-services team. The success of that effort "can have a drastic impact on manufacturing performance, the quality of product and the features that you're going to include in your next product," he says.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain planning, supply chain management IT, high-tech manufacturing
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