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After all, what is more connected — no, interconnected — than the supply chain? From one end to the other, the supply chain is quintessentially about linkages, partnerships, networks, relationships — connections.
I’m reminded that years ago, someone suggested that “supply chain” wasn’t really the right label; it sounded too linear for what businesses really do. “Supply web” was more appropriate, they said, given that many of the partners in any of your transactions have their own relationships with still other partners of yours.
That kind of pervasive, all-encompassing association is what the internet of things is all about. IoT is connection on steroids. And it is revolutionizing manufacturing and supply chains.
Understand, we’re not talking about the ability to turn on your car’s engine from your smartphone or ensuring that the conference room temperature is just right before everyone arrives. Yes, you can do that, but we’re more concerned with your car’s sensors ordering the new water pump that you’re about to need; we’re more interested in systems that forestall shutting down assembly lines by alerting you to imminent equipment failure. That’s connection that counts.
To be sure, IoT is not entirely new, certainly not in manufacturing. For many years, manufacturing equipment has used sensors, data collection and reporting, and embedded systems.
For example, so-called “smart factories” that make vehicle parts can use sensors to spot defects. That information, in turn, can be fed through the supply chain in real time to immediately order new parts without the need for human interference or interrupting operations.
But for things to work ideally, systems may need to be rebuilt from the ground up, with connectivity and networking at the heart of the manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem.
If anything has bedeviled optimal supply chain management in the past, it is operational silos. That’s why it’s key that IoT be made a part of every aspect of manufacturing and supply chain.
We explore that kind of connection — no, interconnection — in this issue. For instance, our cover story by Bill McBeath, chief research officer at ChainLink Research, illustrates how IoT is bringing unimagined change to the convenience store world. Walk into Seattle’s Amazon Go store, pick up whatever you need and walk out. All checked out, all accounted for, all paid for, all done. Lends an entirely new meaning to “convenience” and “in and out,” doesn’t it?
On the back end, of course, order fulfillment and replenishment automatically begin.
Application outside the shop-and-go world? Maybe not tomorrow, but the technology likely will find its way into “sentient buildings” — dwellings, offices, hospitals, etc.
And then there’s our piece on the upcoming Internet of Things World forum. It amply details the world of possibilities that IoT is making available to you and your enterprise.
Success often turns on connections — just think what interconnections can do for you.
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