supply chain Archives - Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd

Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd Total Supply Chain Summit | Forum Events Ltd

Posts Tagged :

supply chain

How can manufacturers mitigate the lasting effects of COVID-19 and Brexit?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 and Brexit have had a lasting effect on a wealth of businesses. In particular, the manufacturing sector has been heavily impacted due to the UK’s withdrawal from the single market and the subsequent restrictions on imports and exports.

However, many manufacturers are optimistic at least in the short term, and a recent government business surveyshows signs of improvement. Manufacturers are the most confident of all businesses, with almost a quarter expecting to see turnover increase. What’s more, manufacturing was only second to information and communications when it came to increased turnover in June 2023.

Here, cable assemblies manufacturer GTK discusses how manufacturers can embrace this optimism and stay afloat in today’s turbulent landscape…

Streamlining processes

With production and supply chain efficiency stalling after Brexit and COVID-19 lockdowns, businesses need to find new ways to streamline their processes. One way to ensure more efficient production is to invest in better machinery and performance solutions.

Whilst updating your systems might be a significant investment, it can reduce overall costs. New technology allows for quicker production, less waste and fewer workers. Investing in new technology or even simple updates for your current machinery, connectivity solutions or production processes can help streamline your workflows, saving time and money.

Matt Eden, Engineering Director at GTK, says: “Having the option to automate time-consuming processes for high-volume work is important for business efficiency and profitability. We recommend that manufacturers who produce custom items have facilities that combine human customisation and process automation. For example, we have machinery that automates repetitive processes like wire cutting, stripping and crimping; however, our people are heavily involved in our custom production elements, like lacing and forming of cable looms.”

Maintaining supply chains

Supply chain disruptions as a result of both Brexit and enforced lockdowns had a negative impact on manufacturing output. This dip in production levels presented a serious problem for many businesses, with the majority searching for ways to adapt to our new normal.

Increased red tape surrounding imports and exports is causing frustration for many companies who trade overseas or who require materials from outside the UK. If international companies close their branches in the UK, this may present issues further down the line when they are faced with paperwork and barriers to smooth, fast trade.

Businesses are being forced to adapt to these new supply chains in order to thrive in this new climate. Paul Dearman, Head of Business Development at GTK, recommends that business leaders create strategies tailored to overcoming these challenges: “While we’ve had this in place for a few years, our Core Material Strategy has allowed us to mitigate supply chain issues caused by these recent events. We keep commonly used components and their associated tooling stocked in high volumes, so we can use these components in our builds without having to go through the red tape repeatedly.

“It’s not too late for businesses to put strategies in place that can create a workaround for these issues, whether that’s holding bulk stock, using alternative parts or working with local suppliers.”

Skills shortages

Free movement between the UK and EU ended with Brexit, with EU citizens now required to prove their settlement status to remain in the country. It’s estimated that this has created a shortage of around 330,000 workers in Britain.

The current points-based immigration system also limits the acquisition of skilled workers in the UK, with those wanting to move to the UK required to achieve at least 70 points through their qualifications and salary. They must also have the ability to speak English.

Immigrants were also one of the groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, causing a knock-on effect for businesses attempting to recruit further skilled workers. The Workforce Institute at UKG discovered that manufacturers at frontline facilities report being understaffed 38% of the time.

Some manufacturers are attempting to address this skills shortage by implementing automated processes. And while automated processes can help make jobs easier, they can’t replace the large number of staff needed to carry out work that technology can’t replicate. Ultimately, automation should be viewed as a way to assist current staff but should not reduce the overall hiring frequency within a company.

By streamlining services, implementing tailored strategies and combating skills shortages with automated systems, businesses can build a plan to avoid the lasting effects of both Brexit and COVID-19.

Image by Emir Krasnić from Pixabay

Road freight prices stable, despite inflationary pressures

The latest data from the TEG Road Transport Price Index shows that year-on-year haulage and courier prices remain stable, despite inflation pushing prices up elsewhere. However, the reintroduction of the HGV levy and staff shortages on the horizon means that stability might not last long.

The overall price-per-mile in June 2022 was 121.9 and is now 122.3 – a marginal 0.3% change. In the last month, courier prices rose 1.2%, while haulage prices increased by over 3%.

But if some economic forecasts are to be believed, even small increments like these could soon be behind us.  By the end of the year, the Bank of England is widely expected to raise interest rates to a 19-year-high of 6.25%. This might then lead to recession, reducing road transport demand and prices.

In the past few years, UK logistics companies have been focusing on cutting the well-publicised driver shortage. One tactic in this fight is tempting people into becoming drivers with greatly increased salaries and signing-on bonuses.

This led many HGV mechanics to make the switch to driving jobs, which means hauliers have traded one skill gap for another. Over half of the businesses surveyed by Logistics UK have struggled with hiring enough fitters, technicians and mechanics.

Unfortunately, the end result here could be out-of-action vehicles impacting a supply chain just re-finding its feet.

From August 2020, HGV operators benefitted from the suspension of the HGV levy as they recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the levy is set to return on 31 July, with a new focus on emissions, weight and time spent in the UK.

Even as diesel prices have fallen to a quarter of July 2022 prices, the reinstatement of the levy will be a challenge to many operators. It’s another factor that may cause some to reevaluate their pricing strategy.

Lyall Cresswell, CEO of Integra, said: “It is, perhaps, surprising that prices have remained so stable given the multiple challenges facing the industry right now. In addition to ongoing inflation, they now have to contend with the return of the HGV levy and mechanic shortages.

“The problem for the industry is that many operators have paid mechanics higher salaries to become drivers and they’ll now struggle to attract new mechanics – particularly if they can’t afford those high salaries.

“All told, it might be difficult for logistics companies to keep absorbing costs, particularly if demand is affected by slow economic growth.

“However, the silver lining right now is significantly lower diesel prices. The industry has long been calling for lower prices and now they’ve finally come, which will at least help with everyday business costs.”

Kirsten Tisdale, Director of Logistics Consultants Aricia Limited and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, added: “I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: there’s no greedflation in road transport. Yes, both the indices for spot haulage and courier have risen compared to last month, but haulage continues to show year-on-year deflation and courier is only at 0.8% inflation.

“Of course, diesel prices have come down. But until fairly recently, even though the price was coming down, diesel was still inflationary when comparing it with a year previously: because of the speed with which it rose.”

Achieving supply chain sustainability: The whys and hows

By James Humphreys, specialist in green manufacturing at Katana ERP

Businesses are placing more emphasis on reducing their environmental impact and embracing ethical responsibility. Supply chain sustainability is a critical component of this effort. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of sustainability and examine how companies are integrating it into their supply chains…

With the planet facing more frequent and severe natural disasters, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our current manufacturing supply chain practices are not sustainable. The effects of climate change, such as droughts, floods, and storms, interrupt supply chains across the globe, while manufacturing itself is largely to blame for these catastrophes. According to the EPA, the industrial sector (including manufacturing) made up 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2021.

However, there are steps that companies and individuals can take to improve supply chain sustainability and mitigate the risks of climate disasters. This means taking a hard look at current systems, and what we can do to minimise the negative effects on the planet.

What is supply chain sustainability?

The sustainability of a supply chain is crucial in promoting environmentally and socially responsible practices.

It involves ensuring that companies prioritise the welfare of the planet and people while producing the goods that we enjoy. It is a collaborative effort where companies choose suppliers who share their values and employ ethical methods. For instance, a clothing company may opt for a cotton supplier that uses organic farming methods, which avoids harmful chemicals and conserves water.

A major factor of sustainability is reducing waste and pollution.

One solution is implementing a closed-loop system where a company recycles and reuses its own materials to reduce manufacturing waste and minimise the need for new resources. A tech manufacturer can recycle old electronics to make new products instead of sending them to landfill. Plastic bottles are often gathered after use and remelted into new containers.

Finally, it is crucial to ensure that every stakeholder is treated fairly, enjoys the experience, and stays safe. A fair and safe supply chain operates with transparency, integrity, and respect for everyone’s rights. It ensures workers are treated fairly, get a living wage, and have safe working conditions.

How to make your supply chain more sustainable?

Making your supply chain more sustainable can involve a range of strategies and actions that aim to reduce the environmental and social impacts of your operations. Here are some steps you can take.

1. Assess your current supply chain

Start by mapping out your supply chain and analysing the environmental and social impact of each stage. Identify areas of improvement and prioritise actions based on their potential impact and practicality.

2. Set sustainability goals

Establish measurable objectives and targets for reducing your environmental impact and improving social responsibility. Consider using established frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals or GRI Standards to guide your goal-setting process.

3. Engage with suppliers

Work closely with your suppliers to promote sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. Encourage them to adopt eco-friendly and socially responsible policies and practices. Consider establishing a supplier code of conduct that outlines your expectations and standards.

4. Reduce waste and emissions

Implement measures to reduce manufacturing waste and greenhouse gas emissions in your supply chain. This often means using more efficient transportation methods, minimising packaging, or investing in renewable energy sources.

5. Adopt circular economy principles

Consider adopting circular economy principles that aim to keep resources in use for as long as possible and minimise waste. This could involve using renewable materials, designing products for disassembly, or implementing recycling programs.

6. Ensure compliance with regulations

Stay up to date with relevant environmental and labour regulations and ensure that your operations and suppliers stick to them. Conduct audits and adopt third-party certifications to verify compliance.

7. Monitor and report on progress

Regularly monitor your progress towards your sustainability goals and report on your performance to stakeholders. Use data and metrics to track your impact and identify areas for improvement.

What are the business benefits of a sustainable supply chain?

A sustainable supply chain can benefit your business, the environment, and society. Here are some key advantages.

1. Reduced costs

Adopting sustainable practices such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, and responsible sourcing can help reduce manufacturing costs in the long run. For example, reducing packaging and transportation can lower shipping costs, while energy-efficient manufacturing can save on electricity bills.

2. Improved brand reputation

A sustainable supply chain can enhance your brand reputation and help you differentiate yourself from competitors. Consumers are increasingly conscious of sustainability issues and are more prone to supporting brands that prioritise responsible practices.

3. Increased customer loyalty

You can build stronger relationships with customers who share your values by demonstrating your commitment to sustainability. This can lead to an increase in customer loyalty and repeat business.

4. Mitigated risks

A sustainable supply chain can help you reduce risks associated with environmental and social issues such as climate change, resource scarcity, and labour abuses. By proactively addressing these issues, you can avoid legal, financial, and reputational risks.

5. Enhanced innovation

Adopting sustainable practices can spur innovation and creativity within your organisation. By challenging traditional business methods, you can identify new opportunities and develop innovative products and services.

From raw materials extraction to product disposal — every stage of the supply chain can potentially harm the environment. However, with sustainable practices, businesses can reduce their ecological impact and protect the planet for future generations.

Meetings and events industry experiencing less supply chain headaches

Two-thirds of organisations are no longer experiencing issues with their supply chain, according to the Meetings Industry Association’s (mia) latest research.

The June 2023 edition of mia Insights found that the previously well-documented supply chain issues have eased in the last three months for more than half (58%) of the 112 event venues and suppliers surveyed.

This shift follows a turbulent recovery period for the business meetings and events sector with half (51%) of organisations having changed their approach to working with suppliers since the pandemic to be more diligent and flexible with terms.

Contrast to these developments, recruitment challenges remain high on the agenda as three quarters (76%) of organisations currently look to fulfill vacancies. Concerningly, half (51%) reveal that this is due to current staff shortages, while a similar proportion (47%) highlight a skills shortage within their organisation.

The report, which also explores event enquiries and organisational costs, also highlights the ongoing threat industrial action presents to the sector, with five days of rail strikes in May and June forecasted to have cost the sector £179,665,500 in cancelled business.

Kerrin MacPhie, chief executive of the mia, said: “Despite the challenges that remain for the sector, it is positive to see supply chain issues easing for many organisations and that 70% of event professionals are feeling confident about how the sector will perform over the next 12 months.

“These findings continue to provide us with an essential snapshot of the sector’s current position, and staffing issues once again remain at the forefront for most. This ongoing surveillance is essential to help shape our support for the sector. Last week, for example, we launched our student membership in response to our recent findings, which has been developed to help inspire the next generation of event professionals and protect the sector’s future pool of available talent.

“Despite positive developments in key areas for the sector, we are acutely aware of the challenges that remain unphased, as well as the consensus from venues and suppliers that government isn’t doing enough to support the sector. It therefore remains our role to ensure that the challenges we face and the opportunities our sector presents are recognised and valued at the top-level, which is something we continue to work hard on behind the scenes to provide vital representation of all things business meetings and events.”

To read the full mia Insights report, click here.

Image by 정훈 김 from Pixabay

Navigating the Future: Emerging trends in supply chain and logistics

As the backbone of global commerce, supply chain and logistics sectors are in a constant state of flux, shaped by technological advancements, economic shifts, and consumer behaviours. As we move further into the digital age, several key trends are emerging that promise to redefine these critical industries.

Firstly, the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is revolutionising supply chain management and logistics. AI can optimise inventory management by predicting demand based on historical data and market trends, reducing stockouts and overstocks. Meanwhile, ML algorithms can improve route planning for logistics, taking into account traffic patterns and delivery priorities, thereby enhancing efficiency and reducing delivery times.

Secondly, sustainability is becoming a crucial factor. Increasing consumer demand for ethical and environmentally friendly practices is prompting businesses to adopt green supply chain strategies. This can range from sourcing materials responsibly, reducing waste in production processes, to opting for carbon-neutral transportation.

Another key trend is the growth of e-commerce, accelerated by the pandemic. As online shopping becomes the norm, there’s an increasing need for robust last-mile delivery solutions. Companies are exploring innovative options such as drone deliveries, autonomous vehicles, and micro-fulfilment centres to meet this demand.

Supply chain visibility is also gaining importance. Businesses and consumers alike want to know the journey of a product from raw material to final delivery. Advanced tracking systems, blockchain technology, and IoT devices are being leveraged to provide real-time, end-to-end visibility of supply chains.

The concept of Supply Chain as a Service (SCaaS) is another emerging trend. Companies are outsourcing their supply chain operations to third-party specialists who leverage their expertise and advanced tech solutions to manage supply chains effectively. This allows businesses to focus on their core competencies while ensuring efficient supply chain management.

Despite these advancements, the supply chain and logistics sectors face challenges, including cybersecurity threats, regulatory changes, and the need for skilled professionals who can work with advanced technologies.

The future of supply chain and logistics lies in technological innovation, sustainability, enhanced visibility, and adaptive strategies. As these trends continue to evolve, businesses must remain agile, embracing change and innovation to stay competitive.

hose that successfully navigate these trends will not only optimise their operations but also provide superior value to their customers, laying a strong foundation for success in a rapidly changing commercial landscape.

Quarter of supply chain C-Suite roles filled by women

Women have made a strong comeback to the supply chain workforce in 2023, with gains at nearly every level of leadership, but particularly prominent at the C-Suite and executive level, where 26% of those roles (CSCO, SVP, EVP, CPO) are now filled by women, an all-time high and up from 19% in 2022.

Gartner’s eighth annual Women in Supply Chain Survey was conducted from February to March of 2023 and surveyed 225 supply chain leaders. The survey showed that women now make up 41% of the supply chain workforce, up from 39% in 2022 (See Figure 1). However, frontline representation continues to lag, with women filling just 31% of these roles.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see women make gains at the senior executive level, as we know that when a woman holds the top supply chain position this has a positive correlation with more women in leadership and in all roles through that organization,” said Caroline Chumakov, Director Analyst in the Gartner Supply Chain Practice.

An increase in organizational goals around gender equality since 2020, as well as growth in the number of supply chain owned initiatives are clearly having a measurably positive impact on women in supply chain. The data suggests a virtuous cycle is possible as more women reach top leadership roles in their supply chain organizations, with a clear finding this year that a woman in the senior-most role leads to more women in leadership and all roles within the organization.

“This connection between female leaders and the effect on women in the workforce has positive implications for how supply chain leaders can better design their efforts to improve representation of women in supply chain,” said Chumakov.

Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) routinely report challenges with attrition broadly at frontline roles in manufacturing and logistics, particularly when compared to roles at desk-based jobs. The ability to attract more women to frontline roles—and especially in leadership roles in the physical operations ranks—could form a material competitive advantage over those who are unable to do so.

Providing flexibility was the most effective initiative in attracting and retaining women to frontline roles, significantly outperforming other areas such as benefits, employee engagement programs and even a focus on pay equity. However, only 41% of supply chain leaders had implemented an initiative dedicated to workplace flexibility at their organizations.

“There remains a mismatch between employers’ fears of chaos and instability as a result of workplace flexibility policies and the realities of what we see in our research and case studies of successful supply chain organizations. What we see in our research is that flexibility is benefiting both the organization and their female employees,” said Chumakov.

In addition to baseline data about the number of women at all levels of supply chain roles, Gartner asked questions about representation of women from underrepresented races and ethnicities, practices that increase the success of women in supply chain roles, pay equity and transparency, frontline engagement practices for women in on-site roles and attrition challenges specific to women.

Gartner partnered on the survey with AWESOME, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization focused on advancing women’s supply chain leadership and boom!, a U.K.-based global community formed to support and link women in the supply chain profession.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

The transformative impact of AI on the logistics and supply chain sectors

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising industries worldwide, and its impact on the logistics and supply chain sectors cannot be overstated. From streamlining operations to enhancing efficiency, AI-powered technologies are transforming how goods are transported, stored, and delivered.

This article explores the ways in which AI is impacting the logistics and supply chain sectors, revolutionising the way businesses manage their operations…

  1. Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management

AI algorithms are improving demand forecasting accuracy, enabling businesses to optimise their inventory management. By analysing historical sales data, market trends, and external factors, AI systems can predict future demand patterns with greater precision. This enables businesses to adjust inventory levels, reduce stockouts, minimise excess inventory, and improve supply chain efficiency.

  1. Route Optimisation and Fleet Management

AI-powered logistics systems are enhancing route planning and optimization, improving efficiency and reducing costs. These systems analyse factors such as traffic conditions, weather patterns, and delivery constraints to identify the most efficient routes. AI algorithms can also optimize fleet management by considering factors like vehicle capacity, fuel consumption, and driver availability, ensuring optimal resource utilisation.

  1. Warehouse Automation and Robotics

AI-driven automation and robotics are revolutionising warehouse operations. Autonomous robots equipped with AI algorithms can handle tasks such as inventory picking, packing, and sorting with speed and precision. AI-powered warehouse management systems optimise storage space, monitor inventory levels, and facilitate efficient order fulfillment. This automation improves accuracy, reduces labor costs, and enhances overall productivity in the supply chain.

  1. Supply Chain Visibility and Transparency

AI technologies provide real-time visibility and transparency across the supply chain. Through the integration of data from various sources, such as GPS trackers, sensors, and RFID tags, AI systems can track shipments, monitor conditions, and provide accurate delivery estimates. This visibility enables proactive issue resolution, better customer service, and improved decision-making throughout the supply chain.

  1. Risk Management and Mitigation

AI algorithms help identify potential risks and mitigate disruptions in the logistics and supply chain sectors. By analysing data from multiple sources, such as weather forecasts, social media feeds, and historical patterns, AI systems can predict and proactively address potential risks. This allows businesses to take preventive measures, adjust logistics plans, and minimize the impact of unforeseen events on supply chain operations.

  1. Enhanced Customer Experience

AI-powered technologies enhance the overall customer experience in logistics and supply chain operations. Personalized recommendations, real-time tracking, and delivery notifications improve customer satisfaction. AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants provide prompt and accurate customer support, enhancing engagement and resolving queries efficiently. These technologies contribute to building customer loyalty and driving business growth.

The impact of AI on the logistics and supply chain sectors is transformative, revolutionizing traditional practices and improving operational efficiency. From demand forecasting and inventory management to route optimization, warehouse automation, and supply chain visibility, AI technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for businesses to streamline operations, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

As AI continues to evolve, we can expect further advancements in the logistics and supply chain sectors, shaping a future where efficiency, speed, and reliability become the hallmarks of successful operations. Embracing AI-powered solutions will be crucial for businesses aiming to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of logistics and supply chain management.

Supply chain productivity declines ‘cannot be solved by technology alone’

New technologies ranging from smart robotics to actionable AI have the potential to transform the supply chain function, but they will fail to lift historically low levels of labor productivity unless utilised as part of a broader strategy.

Gartner experts shared those findings during the opening keynote presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo EMEA, which took place this week.

“There is legitimate excitement today around new technologies that hold out the promise of vastly enhanced organizational productivity,” said Thomas Pocock, Senior Director, Advisory, in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice. “Supply chain leaders must remember that these new technologies require the partnership of an engaged and productive workforce for these gains to be realized. Unfortunately, the data tells a discouraging story on this front.”

Pocock highlighted data from Gartner’s Global Labor Market Survey from 1Q23 when 2,613 supply chain employees were surveyed to show the extent of supply chain’s labor productivity challenges:

  • Only 25% of the supply chain workforce is fully engaged.
  • Turnover is 33% higher in the supply chain function than pre-pandemic.
  • Only 16% of the supply chain workforce is willing to go “above and beyond” in their roles.

“Introducing new technologies, especially of the magnitude of AI or smart robots, would come with implementation challenges at any time,” said Pocock. “Any new technology introduced in this environment is likely to be met with elevated levels of mistrust and change fatigue. It’s clear there needs to be a new strategy to make such integrations work for all sides.”

Pocock noted that technology is just one of a series of strategies that need to be reinvented to reverse supply chain’s labor productivity slide. He recommended Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) reexamine their approaches in three key areas:

Integrating technology and people strategies: The introduction of new workplace technologies should be designed with the human-technology relationship front and center. Organizations must also create opportunities for reciprocal learning, or the opportunity for employees to safely make sense of new technology and see how technology is incorporating human input. New technology investments must be made side-by-side with equivalent investments in workforce training, skills development and knowledge curation.

Individual talent management: High-demand skills are often already available in supply chain organizations but are too often trapped by the rigid nature of job descriptions. CSCOs can unlock more skills and flexibly deploy talent where it is needed by breaking down projects into component tasks and seeking skills needed for those tasks across the entire organization and even beyond it.

Organizational design: Organizations can leverage crisis situations and market opportunities as a reason to breakdown silos and find new, more efficient organizational structures. Spontaneous redesign of decision-making processes happened at many companies during the initial disruptions of the COVID era. They can be productively harnessed to build resiliency in the face of new challenges, such as persistent inflationary conditions or changing geopolitical considerations.

73% of average supply chain IT budget ‘will be allocated to growth and performance’

As organisations place greater emphasis on supply chain management, Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) intend to grasp their collective opportunity to invest in growth through new technology investments.

That’s according to a survey of 499 supply chain leaders undertaken by Gartner from October through December 2022 in North America, Latin America, Western Europe and the Asia/Pacific region, in which 65% of respondents said they anticipate it will be easier to fund new technology investments with 73% of supply chain IT budgets this year to be allocated to growth and performance enhancements, on average.

“The last three years of uncertainty have blurred the line between business and technology strategies to the point that they must be considered together,” said Simon Jacobson, VP Analyst in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice. “Supply chain leaders must have an understanding of the strategic, disruptive and unavoidable technologies that will impact their planning processes over the next five years.”

Jacobson noted that three key motivations among supply chain leaders help to categorise this year’s technology trends: to pioneer new forms of engagement, optimize for resilience, and scale performance that enables technology to be delivered “any place and any time”.

Figure 1: Top Strategic Supply Chain Technology Trends for 2023

Top Strategic Supply Chain Technology Trends 2023

Source: Gartner (May 2023)

The 2023 top supply chain technology trends are:Actionable AIActionable AI delivers better data-driven decisions by mimicking the problem solving that humans make by augmenting decisions and keeping humans in the loop for validation purposes. Actionable AI learns patterns based off past decisions and experiences to adapt to changing, real world circumstances. Solutions continuously retrain models and learn within the runtime and development environments based on new data.Smart OperationsSmart operations extends the preexisting concept of smart manufacturing to encompass all core operational capabilities, including manufacturing, service and logistics that span warehousing, transportation and global trade. This involves the orchestration of a web of different and distributed processes and the underlying systems and data that support them. While manufacturing is ahead in pursuing smart operations, logistics organizations are rapidly embracing the potential of this idea to transform their businesses.Mobile Asset Optimization

Mobile asset optimization maximizes the use of an enterprise’s mobile assets by combining business process software, sensory technologies and operational research techniques for optimization and business intelligence. This has implications inside the warehouse where intralogistics smart robots are garnering attention and investment. Outside, transportation visibility platforms can show carrier activity and capacity improving collaboration between shippers, carriers and logistics providers.

Industry Cloud Platforms

Industry cloud platforms combine software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) with specific functionality for vertical industry use cases. They do so not as predefined, one-off, vertical SaaS solutions, but rather as agile composable platforms supported by a catalog of industry-specific packaged business capabilities. In effect, they turn a cloud platform into a business platform and expand a technology innovation tool into one that also serves as a business innovation tool, creating added value beyond traditional cloud approaches.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is broadly a set of tools and applications used to help companies improve frontline worker performance, satisfaction and retention. This trend can span mixed reality and mobile devices to provide content that augments the job, wearables for safety and location management, collaboration tools and more. These technology investments have to be anchored in a broader workforce strategy that spans knowledge curation, skills development and training.

Composable Application Architecture

Composable business applications are designed to follow the core design principles of modularity, autonomy, orchestration and discovery, with a specific business use case. These packaged business capabilities are encapsulated software components that represent a well-defined business capability, recognizable as such by an end user.

Cyber Resilient Supply Chains

As supply chains implement more advanced technologies, they add additional supply chain partners, vendors and service providers to their “digital” supply chain. However, each addition of an external entity to the digital enterprise represents additional digital connectivity and increased cybersecurity vulnerabilities and risks. Cybersecurity represents the tools, processes and governance methods (mechanisms) needed to mitigate cybersecurity risks caused by the extreme heterogeneity of supply chain technologies and ecosystem participants.

Supply Chain Integration Services

Supply chain integration services encompass technology platforms, integration teams, strategic decision making on which applications to connect when and how (different integration strategies), and finally, cloud services to manage these integrations. Supply chain integration services elevate the role of integration from a tactical, execution-centric and technical view of system interoperability to a strategy-led vision of a more-interconnected world.

Building the business case for Satellite IoT 

The Operational IoT market continues to expand as organisations across the world imagine an extraordinary range of opportunities to leverage sensor technology. Weather monitoring stations are transforming the efficiency and environmental performance of remote copper mines and helping farmers to safeguard crops and livestock in a changing climate. The shipping industry is improving cargo traceability to mitigate on-going disruption. Charities are monitoring water quality across Africa to ensure remote communities have reliable access to safe drinking water.

With the arrival of robust, proven, cost-effective satellite connection, the true potential of these IoT applications can be realised. With estimates suggesting there will be tens of millions of satellite IoT devices in use by 2030, access to reliable, global coverage is now enabling new opportunities for systems integrators (SIs) across the world.

It is now time for SIs to build a business case for Satellite IoT, says Eric Ménard, Vice President Strategy and Business, Astrocast…

Market Expectation

Satellite connectivity may have been available for years, but the market has been waiting for a satellite connection designed specifically for widescale IoT deployment. Many of the key target applications – from agriculture to supply chain – do not require the continuous or real-time communication associated with high-cost legacy satellite connectivity. These solutions  play a critical role but they are too expensive and power hungry to support a compelling business case for most Operational IoT deployments.

A farmer requires only daily or twice daily updates of cattle location to track herd health. A copper mine uses intermittent updates on the water table level to provide operational visibility and meet environmental regulation. A shipping line does not require real-time updates of the temperature of its containers . Transmitting data either once or twice a day – or taking multiple recordings which can be buffered and uploaded every 12 hours – is perfectly adequate.

The value of this data is significant – especially in areas such as shipping. The use of IoT sensors can ensure high value cargo, including pharmaceuticals, are kept at the right temperature and left untampered. Any deviation will prompt an alarm and allow remediation where possible, resulting in less wastage and better integrity.

Building Confidence

However, while the business case is compelling, such IoT operations are incredibly cost sensitive. When a deployment may extend to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of devices, small differences in performance and lifetime will fundamentally change the return on investment (ROI). The business case becomes even more sensitive when extended to remote areas without terrestrial network coverage and require satellite connectivity. How can the sensors be deployed to remote locations cost effectively? What is the cost of satellite transmission? How long must the battery last on a sensor to ensure the ROI is not compromised? Plus, how can the data be collected and used to drive tangible commercial benefits?

Even before exploring the technology, SIs need robust due diligence to ensure confidence in the business credibility and model of the satellite provider. Ensuring excellent satellite coverage, including across international water, is essential. Business longevity is also fundamental for deployments that could be in the field for a decade.

In addition to verifying strong financial credentials, it is also important to assess the billing model, contractual arrangements, warranties and support structure. Is the company committed to supporting its SIs not only in the prototyping and field-testing phase, but also through industrialisation, production and taking the solution to the market? Each stage of this process will raise new challenges. Having a partner in place with both the knowledge and commitment to overcome problems will transform the likelihood of commercial success.

Proof of Concept

Only once the foundations of a business case have been confirmed should an SI make the investment in a technology assessment. For many SIs looking to expand existing IoT solutions, speed of integration is an important consideration. From the quality of documentation to availability of training, the way a satellite company works with its SIs to ease the integration of SatIoT in to the existing IoT solution set can make a significant difference in time to market.

For the past few years, a number of innovative SIs have been testing the latest generation of cost- effective SatIoT connectivity to determine the viability and requirements of an industrial scale deployment. They have built prototypes and invested in field testing. The process has highlighted the importance of ultra-low battery consumption to minimise the need for replacements in situ. Typically, a business case may only stand up if the battery lasts five to ten years. In some locations, the Satellite IoT solution can be integrated with a solar panel, overcoming the need for a dedicated battery.

SIs have also worked closely with SatIoT providers to optimise antenna design and ensure the antenna is both reliable and easy to integrate. A small, flat antenna may be essential but additional questions will arise specific to an area of deployment. For example, lightweight but robust enclosures are now used to securely attach an antenna to livestock to track their movement across remote farmland and identify any that leave the herd, indicating ill-health or injury. Or a simple addition of a Bluetooth connection between the device and the SatIoT antenna provides an excellent solution to achieve indoor satellite IoT deployments in rural locations with no terrestrial networks.

The availability of bidirectional connectivity also provides SIs with a future proofed solution. Updates can be downloaded remotely to the sensors as required – for example, if a customer wants to change the frequency of data recording.


These innovators have led the way, discovering how to optimise SatIoT solutions and antenna design to deliver a robust, viable and cost-effective deployment. Critically, these companies have proved the business case for Satellite IoT. While the demand was never in question, the technology is now in place to enable it. Whether it is shipping containers or agriculture or environmental monitoring or animal tracking, SatIoT developments are now moving into the next phase of industrial scale deployment.

And this is just the start. The shipping industry, for example, has an array of complex operational challenges in its management of 50 million containers across the globe. Tracking location and temperature monitoring are delivering financial benefits. Adding the ability to identify whether a container has been entered or tampered with during the voyage, will support the war on piracy and drugs. Adding smoke detectors will raise the alarm when fire breaks out on board – an increasing concern if owners fail to inform the shipping company that the container holds self-combusting cargo, such as Lithium-Ion batteries.

The door is open for SIs across the world to build on the knowledge gained over the last few years, explore the global reach of cost-effective satellite connections and build a compelling business case for Satellite IoT solutions that will transform operational efficiency for organisations of every size across the world.