SC Transformation: -Digitalization and Risk Mitigation

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Well, hello blog viewers and readers! I am back with you with the intention of imparting more interesting information and facts about #SupplyChain. This time around I am going to be talking to you about #SupplyChainTransformation. This topic does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, this particular hashtag, #SupplyChainTransformation has been trending all over the internet considering the huge paradigm shifts that are occurring nowadays, specially with the COVID-19 pandemic and the new norm all around the world. #SupplyChains are getting disrupted all across the world while at the same time, huge organizations #SupplyChains undergo massive changes.


Overview

As we explore #SupplyChainTransformation, we will try to keep our focus on two aspects of #SupplyChainTransformation – #Digital #Manufacturing (#Digitalization) as well as #Risk #Mitigation since this is what I am going to be talking about in this post. There is a lot o fvery useful information in this post. So, I would recommend that my readers pace themselves and try to get a good understanding of what I am talking about. 

Well, here is what I am planning to do on this post, as we move forward. I will discuss an overall idea of #SupplyChainTransformation to introduce the topic at a very broad level. I will then follow it up with the two aspects / towers I have mentioned earlier i.e. #Digital #Manufacturing and secondly, #Risk #Mitigation. I am going to discuss each of these towers individually with brief examples and, in so doing, deep dive into each of these two towers. By the end of this post I hope to provide a way to solidify all of the previous information with some sample case studies I have come across on the #worldwide #web related to the two towers mentioned above. Hopefully it will give my readers an idea of what I am talking about and how it relates to #global #supply #chains. So, let us begin our journey into #SupplyChainTransformation…

What is Supply Chain Transformation?

Alright, let us begin by discussing some specific features, aspects, interpretations of #SupplyChainTransformation. Essentially, the phrase #SupplyChainTransformation is synonymous with #Digitization or, #SupplyChain #Digitization. This, in turn, means the disruption caused in ours as well as enterprise’s lives caused by the Blog3_Pic1proliferation and easy availability of smart mobile devices, drones and of course, #self – driving #vehicles. For all we know, an enterprise’s entire vehicle fleet might end up being #self – driving #vehicles. Truth be told, there are already some organizations that are moving towards automating their fleets with #self – driving #vehicles. So, this technology is already being implemented by some enterprises. If you’d like me to pull out some of the companies’ details that are using automated #self – driving #vehicles in their fleet, I’ll be more than happy to consolidate it and add it to this post at a later date.

But for now, let us read on and move ahead to a very important and essential component of #SupplyChainTransformation, i.e. #Industry 4 or the #New #Industrial #Revolution that has emerged in the corporate world in recent years. So, what does #Industry 4 mean? What exactly?Blog3_Pic2 On the left is an image that gives a pictorial overview of #Industry 4 and what exactly is included in this. #Industry 4. It includes #digitization brought about by various technologies such as #Automation, #Interoperability, #Smart #Factory, #BigData, #Cyber – Physical #Systems and #IOT / #IIOT (#InternetOfThings / #Industrial #InternetOfThings). Whilst, this figure gives the more popular technologies that are utilized during #Industry 4, we need to understand there are a lot more technologies that define #Industry4. As a matter of fact, I think I have covered each of these technologies all across my blog – this blog – at different points of time. You can always check the Archives to see these blog posts. Now, moving on…

There are two main aspects / towers that should be considered while discussing #SupplyChainTransformation. I mentioned these two aspects / towers earlier – (a) #Digital #Manufacturing and (b) #Risk #Mitigation. So, let me just mention a brief description of each of these two aspects of #SupplyChainTransformation as we continue our discussion.
Firstly, #Digital #Manufacturing – This describes the use of an #integrated, #computer – based system comprised of #simulation, #3D #Visualization, #Analytics and #Collaboration #Tools to create product and manufacturing process definitions simultaneously.
Secondly, #Risk #Mitigation – This is the second tower / aspect of #SupplyChainTransformation which forms an integral part of the processes involved in #SupplyChainTransformation. If we consider our #SupplyChains and link them to #Risk #Mitigation, we understand that #risk #mitigation has become very critical to the #organizations that are already set up #globally as well as those organizatioms that are planning to expand their reach outside of their domicile country. #Risk #Mitigation is a set of policies / procedures / processes / measures that involve initiating actions which will help reduce the organization’s exposure to potential risks. Furthermore, #risk #mitigation also helps the identified potential risks reduce their recurrences permanently or to a reasonable extent. Now, we will deep dive into each of these two aspects / towers. So, read on…

Digital Manufacturing

Let us now discuss the first aspect / tower of #SupplyChainTransformation, i.e. #Digital #Manufacturing. Now, how many of you know the exact meaning of #Digital #Manufacturing? I am sure there are those from my reeaders who are well aware of this term. But, for those who are not fully aware of what #Digital #Manufacturing entails or means, here is a definition for you all… #Digital #Manufacturing Blog3_Pic3is a set of technological tools that utilize and apply integrated computer applications to manufacturing products and services, #Supply #Chains, #products and processes. The idea is to fully link #systems and #processes across all of the areas of #production #execution to create an #integrated approach to #manufacturing #processes right from design to actual #production and moving ahead to #servicing of these products as well as #after – sales #servicing.

What we need to consider is that times are changing as far as #Manufacturing and #SupplyChain #processes are concerned. Those individuals who are directly linked to the industry, i.e. Designers and Engineers, are developing and designing products with really shortened timeframes. The final result we are looking at – availability of parts, on hand, lot faster than ever before. The need of the hour is complete stock coverage of the required parts more often than before. For a sustenable and inherent advantage, companies are required to shorten their go to market aspect as well. They are struggling with it. Blog3_Pic4To top this off, we are looking at a market that is still very volatile amongst the #COVID-19 #pandemic and other crises including political, social as well as economic crises. In times like these, it is absolutely imperative that companies work with an #agile #SupplyChain. They need to keep up with the steep rises and falls of demand. Following the concepts of #agility, they would then be able to adapt to these demand shifts along with the companies.

This is what #Digital #Manufacturing is all about, i.e. propelled by technology, deft and quick – footed as well as on – demand. Once these technologies / procedures etc are deployed in organizations as well as their #Supply #Chain #Streams, it will definitely bring about #cost and #time #efficiencies. Furthermore, it can be said that designing and cloning of the #core #processes utilizing #Digital #Manufacturing tools goes a long way in revamping the quality of #decision #making during production runs. This then helps in creating a #digital #thread that in turn supports #data #modeling and #analysis throughout the #lifecycle of the #product. It further aids the organization in developing #actionable #processes. Additionally, we should aso be aware that #Digital #Manufacturing #Systems play a comprehensive and really helpful role in allowing #customer #data to be sent back to the #Product #Managers. This further supports #Product #Managers to comprehensively prognosticate #demand and plan the #production #runs accordingly. 

OK, so just before I close out this part of our discussion about #Digital #Manufacturing, I would like to touch on a a few more points. Let me present to you, three main aspects of #Digital #Manufacturing. These are: – (1) #Product #Life #Cycle; (2) #Smart #Factory and (3) #Value #Chain #Management.

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We will now cover all of these three areas / aspects in brief, for the benefit of your knowledge and understanding. If we look at (1) #Product #Life #Cycle, we will understand that this #cycle starts at #engineering #design, moves into #sourcing, followed by #production and terminating at #service #life. At every step of the #Product #Life #Cycle#digital #data is utilized to permit revisions to design specifications during the production run.
Moving on to (2) #Smart #Factory. In this area, we look at utilization of #smart #machines, #sensors as well as #tooling. So, how are these utilized? Well, the technology and applications mentioned here can be utilized to provide #real – time #feedback on all the processes being executed. It also can be utilized for receiving feedback on #manufacturing #technology. In this way, #operations #technology is getting linked and united with #information #technology. Now, with this linkage, #Digital #Transformation allows the operations team to have #greater #visibility#control and #improvement of their #factory #processes.
Lastly, let us talk about the third aspect / area of #Digital #Manufacturing, i.e. (3) #Value #Chain #Management. This aspect deals with the #reduction in #resources to develop and build an #optimal #process whilst decreasing #inventory, maintaining #product #quality as well as retaining #customer #satisfaction.

Here is a little bonus information for my readers and viewers:

3D PrintingThis is a process for creating a physical object from a 3D digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of some material.Blog3_Pic6 In short, #3D #Printing brings a #digital #object (#CAD #design) into a physical form by adding layers of materials on top of each other.
Two very basic and foundational innovations are brought together in #3D #Printing – (a) Manipulation of objects in their 3D formats and (b) Manufacturing of new objects by #addition of materials.
In other words, #3D #Printing brings together #DigitalTransformation and #Additive #Manufacturing (#AM).

Continue reading “SC Transformation: -Digitalization and Risk Mitigation”

Supply Chain Analytics-II:- Powered by SAP S/4 HANA

Big Data Technology for Business. Finance Analytic, massive information of business sale report.

Overview

Let me begin this post by mentioning what #SAP #S/4HANA brings to the table in terms of new functionalities as well as the #Digital #Core foundation. Now, I am sure most of you have some sort of an idea on #ERP & / or #SAP #S/4HANA. Okay, then you would also knowPic2-S4_HANA that #S/4HANA is built on a #Digital #Core foundation based upon what is called an #Intelligent #Suite. If not, I will include here a pic of the same baseline architecture so that all of you blog readers will get a rough idea about what I am talking about. I am specifically talking about the #SAP #S/4HANA on – premise edition. I hope the figure here on the right provides you all some idea about what I am talking about.

The way I am going to approach this post from here on is by mentioning some key aspects of the #S/4HANA #Digital #Core Pic5-S4_HANAI have mentioned above. After this, I will present some key highlights within different Business processes wherein #SAP #S/4HANA #1909 has developed apps / reports to stay abreast of the sweeping changes taking place in terms of #Digital #Transformation. As we are all well aware, many organizations in various countries around the world are facing numerous Supply Chain challenges due to the #COVID-19 pandemic. We will try to touch upon certain aspects of #HANA wherein certain functionalities are available to combat the obstacles of the “new norm” all across the world.
With this completed, I will then do a deep dive into some of the key new functionalities available in #S/4HANA #1909 in terms of #Embedded #Analytics. We will then close the post with some recommendations / way forward in terms of implementing #S/4HANA on – premise. My recommendation to you, my readers, would be to open the images in a new tab so that you can get a bigger image which is clearer to understand.

Lets now move on to the #aspects & #foundations of the #Digital #Core. So, there are basically four aspects. I have mentioned them below:-

  1. Architecture: Scalable foundations for conducting transactions at ]highest possible automation.
  2. System of Intelligence: Supports & uses #Embedded Analytics, #Simulation, #Prediction & #Decision #Support to run a LIVE business.
  3. E2E Experience: Faster implementation, consumption & adaption.
  4. Open Architecture: Allows connectivity & adoption of micro – services.

Why “Intelligent Digital Core”?

Now, you all might be wondering why I am harping on this word – #intelligent right? Pic4-S4_HANAWell, we are talking about a #digital #core wherein three “towers” form a firm foundation. These towers are mentioned below:-

  1. Digital Age User Experience (#UX): #Conversational #UI; #NLP (#Natural #Language #Processing). Target & objective is a #hands – free ERP.

     

  2. Business Processes / Intelligent Automation (#BPA)#RPA is the next wave of automation to be implemented by different organizations. Undoubtedly, many organizations already have automated some of their processes.

     

  3. New Business Processes & ModelsSeamless & streamlined architecture / technology provided. Provides type of infrastructure wherein #value #creation#service #tasks re-imagined & re-thought.

#SAP has always provided cutting edge & top of the line solutions to businesses. This has, in most cases, increased the efficency, effectiveness & visibility of the business as far as their Global Supply Chains are concerned. With their new version – #SAP #S/4HANA 1909 – they continue to provide momentum to #intelligent #automation; #insight & #prediction as well as various other #new & #innovative #solutions to business processes of their customers.

S/4HANA 1909 Processes

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Let us now move into some further details on what #S/4HANA has added to its #Business #Suite from the previous version, that is, #S/4HANA #1809, in terms of certain specific #Business #Processes / #LoB’s (#Lines of #Businesses). I am including below four specific #LOB’s wherein some changes / simplifications have been carried out by SAP in the #1909 release (on – premise).

  1. Manufacturing: –#pMRP (#Predictive #Material & #Resource #Planning) implemented in #S/4HANA #1909. Able to forecast demand for parts / supplies via a simple #MRP logic wherein system can carry Pic6-S4_HANA out interactive planning with simulations. Varying various parameters while planning. Helps reduce inventory carrying costs.

     

  2. Extended Warehouse Management: – Continuous & seamless integration between Repetitive Manufacturing & Warehouse Pic7-S4_HANAManagement is available #S/4HANA #1909 through better integration between the two processes / activities. Additionally, #EWM #1909 also has a new replenishment strategy for #kanban considering #stock #transfers specifically for stock items#Warehouse #Tasks (#WT’s) are automatically created when a #kanban container is set to empty & requires replenishment.

     

  3. Inventory Management: – Within normal #inventory #management processes as well, #S/4HANA #1909 has added some new #Analytics #tools to track various aspects of the Business including but not limited to “Dead Stock Analysis” or apps such as “Slow or Non – Moving Materials”. Pic8-S4_HANAThe latter uses Predictive Analytics to categorize items / materials as slow or non – moving. The former report / app – “Dead Stock Analysis” helps organizations manage obsolescence of their items / products in stock. In this way companies are enabled to manage the inventory of obsolete products.

     

  4. Transportation Management: – The improvements in #S/4HANA #1909 within #embedded #TM allow the company to perform various activities. For example, Perform Carrier Selection, TenderPic9-S4_HANA  Transportation Services, monitor different types of costs, dispatch & monitor the transportation network & so on. It is also integrated with the #Embedded #Analytics functionalities as well as various KPI’s to track & make decisions in real – time based upon performance etc. #S/4HANA is the most comprehensive & cutting edge suite of applications that make it happen.

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Supply Chain Analytics-I: Powered by AI

How Supply Chain Analytics can Transform Business? - O4S.IO - Medium

Hi, folks!! Well, we are in the year 2020 now! A new decade is in progress. At the outset, I’d like to thank all of you readers & viewers for joining me once again on my blog posts. I know it has been a pretty long time since I have been active on my blog. But here I am now, back again!!

Well, I am going to be working on a new angle over the next coupla posts. I will be touching on various aspects of #SupplyChain #Analytics & the way it has proven to be very critical in these current challenging times of #coronavirus #CoVID-19 global pandemic as well as #self-quarantine & #lockdowns.

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Overview

As all of us are now very well aware, we are right in the middle of a #global #pandemic of #CoVID-19. The initial cases were detected back to a Wuhan Food Market, in December 2019 after which the cause was identified as #novel #coronavirus or also called as, SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). As of the writing of this post, the total number of cases of CoVID-19 globally is now at an astonishing & frankly, horrifying count of 3,595,667 (3.6 Million) with 249,225 deaths. Our recovered cases globally stand at 1,166,556 (approx. 1.2 Million).Blog1A_April_Pic1
If I were to now focus only on India, the total cases stand at 42,836 with 1,395 deaths & 11,782 recoveries.
OK, I am not going to talk further on this, obviously. This is not the subject of my post. But, I thought I should give you all a certain ground upon which I am going to build my post on.

Alright then. I am going to now move on to the topic of this post – #Supply #Chain #Analytics Powered by #AI. So, you’re all probably wondering what a dangerous & fatal disease like the #COVID-19 disease has to do with #SupplyChain #Analytics? Well, I am going to cover this exact linkage between these two seemingly unrelated things in this post & discuss how #SupplyChain #Analytics as well as #AI play a role during the #global #pandemic going on right now. Read on…

Role of #AI & #Analytics

We will now talk about the roles of #AI#Analytics in the current #COVID-19 #pandemic in this global fight. We begin with what is called the COVID-19 #High #Performance #Computing #Consortium (#HPCC) that #IBM – in collaboration with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, U. S. Department of Energy as well as many other organizations & offices – is setting in motion. The computing power that would be available is just phenomenal. How, you ask? Well, this particular consortium is going to bring together systems with more than 330 petaflops of computing speed, 775,000 CPU Cores, 34,000 GPU’s & counting… all for chasing #COVID-19 & its potential cures as well as treatments!! These numbers do not lie!!

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Dario Gil – Director of Research (IBM)

In a relatively recent article penned by the #Director of #Research – #DarioGil – at #IBM, he mentioned that “the company has been actively developing new #Cloud & #AI #powered technologies” to help our #COVID #warriors, that is, medical/healthcare  researchers, doctors scientists work on finding a cure for #coronavirus #disease at the earliest.

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“Summit” Supercomputer by IBM

They are doing so by accelerating #gathering #insights, working with the medical/healthcare researchers in obtaining & utilizing latest #virus #genomic #data, pinpointing #probable #recipients of #COVID-19 #treatments #IBM has also worked with scientistsresearchers to #develop possible new #drug #molecules to combat the #COVID-19 #pandemic. 
Now, the question is – how can #supercomputers help combat #COVID-19? Well, these #supercomputers have the ability to run huge numbers of calculations in areas such as epidemiology, bioinformatics molecular modeling.

The picture just above on the right shows #IBM #Summit, which is currently the most powerful #supercomputer in the world. #Summit is already empowering researchers at Oakridge National Laboratory as well as the University of Tennessee to screen over 8,000 compounds that might go towards producing a compound that would bond with the #coronovirus #spike proteins. This would render these #spike proteins useless for infecting host cells. According to the recent information, they were able to provide a list of 77 such small-molecule compounds which are currently being tested experimentally to obtain a cure for #COVID-19. This is the power of #Summit #supercomputer.

#AI & #Analytics go hand-in-hand. #AI allows organizations to convert unstructured real-time data into actionable insights. This helps predict disruptions as well as vulnerabilities within the organization’s #supply #chains. It helps resolve the issues being faced by them. This is where #Analytics comes into the picture. Blog1A_Pic4
#IBM has developed an advanced #Cloud-based #AI research source to sift through the huge amount of data available so far related to #COVID-19. The tool is helping researchers & scientists access structured as well as unstructured data quickly. They post specific queries they might have to the system & are able to pull out critical #COVID-19 knowledge pretty quickly.

In other companies, #AI, is allowing SC professionals to simulate thousands of models everyday to predict demand & supply of various commodities, for example, hand sanitizers, toilet paper, masks & so on. Tools powered with #AI are considering various alternative scenarios specifically the #COVID-19 #pandemic to forecast demand. It therefore helps companies deliver the best order fulfillment levels to their customers, customers’ customers… so on & so forth through the various downstream tiers. There is a lot of data there as well as a lot of #Analytics scenarios getting executed through these tools. This is exactly where a #supercomputer like the #Summit #supercomputer from #IBM comes into the picture.

Closing Thoughts

There is no denying the fact that the global #COVID-19 #pandemic has up – ended & disrupted all the “old school” organizational #supply #chains. The companies that can best combat #COVID-19 are the ones that can adapt to any circumstance without having their #supply #chain collapse on themselves. Companies need to build up new & innovative distribution networks to stay sustainable as well as competitive.
Let me just cite some examples here, alright? Amazon India features something called, “Local Shops on Amazon”. They are enabling the small mom & pop stores as well as the kirana stores to appear on their platform. They are working with these shops to carry out #inventory #management as well as #supply #chain #management from the back – end while presenting the front – end to consumers for product ordering as well as making the payments. Flipkart is working on a similar set – up as well as JioMart. This is how new relationships & networks are emerging from the #pandemic.

In closing, I would just say that its time for organizations to figure out new & innovative ways to carry out their businesses what with the #pandemic in full force spreading across the world as well as disrupted #supply #chains & #distribution #networks. Furthermore, the organizations, in some places, are working with only about 15% – 20% of their workforce in their offices & might reduce that percentage further as the #lockdown might continue indefinitely. As on the date of this writing, the #Government of #India is opening up various businesses (only “essentials”) slowly & cautiously. Fingers crossed we don’t have a #second #wave of #COVID-19 cases! In the meanwhile, dear readers/viewers, #StayHome#StaySafe. Stay tuned for my next post. Cheers!!

SC Tech Tools:- Electrical Appliances Industry

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Hi all!! I am back with the third post of my #SC_Tech compendium. Glad you could join me here…

Well, for those who have been following my blog posts, we began this journey of #SupplyChain_Tech tools #compendium back in August where we first explored how a university health center radically transformed itself into a seamless, fully visible & efficient Supply Chain Organization by utilizing Supply Chain transformational tools. Once we explored that, we next journeyed to the nebulous world of #blockchain#Hyperledger #Fabric wherein the world’s retail giant was able to track a crate of mangoes back to its source / batch at a farm. Now, we find ourselves at the crossroads of a mixture of #Warehouse #Automation #technology as we explore the world of #White #Goods#Electrical #Appliances. Just to recap, here are the list of posts as of date related to the #SC_Tech #tools #compendium once again.

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Organization Details

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As we begin our journey into the third post of this #compendium, we get to see ourselves in a place called #Commerce, #Georgia. Isn’t this the ideal name?! We see ourselves standing in front of a huge facility, the ADC (‘Area Distribution Center’) for, none other than “General Electric Appliances” (#GE #Appliances). This is where (#GEA) invested US$ 55 Million to begin their Supply Chain transformation journey.

#GEA operates 12 ADC’s as well as 170 Local delivery locations across the United States with expanded warehouses opened in Dallas in June 2018 as well as one in Denver in February 2019. The #ADC in Commerce, Georgia (#Smart #Warehouse) is the largest single distribution investment to date. It aims to be the model of all future warehouses & ADC’s that would be built for #GE #Appliances (#GEA).
Yes!! The “GE”, although it has been bought over by another well – known company from #China, called “Haier”. This happened in 2016. Since the acquisition, #GE #Appliances has been trying to re – invent & transform itself. It made a decision to work on recasting & redesigning its complete network, business processes as well as its technology. It set out to meet a world changed, a world wherein #omni-channel & #multi-channel distribution was extremely essential for an organization to be competitive & sustenable. 

The idea was to perform all of the day – to – day DC Operations with the minimal touch by humans during material handling. The key:- #Digital #transformation with next gen technologies viz. #IOT, #AI & #VR. The investment was US$ 150 Million towards expanding its distribution network.
Let us now take a look at what #Mark #Shirkness, VP of Distribution, GE Appliances, has to say about this #transformation.

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Mark Shirkness

When he (#Mark #Shirkness) did an interview, this is what he said – “In our old world, we stacked product high & blasted it out in in truckloads or LTL quantitites to our Retail partners, or  overnighted it to the contractor channel.” He further added, “Going back to the 1960’s, we served two channels: Retail & the contractor market.”  But this changed in 2016. According to #Shirkness, when #Haier acquired #GE #Appliances – “Haier challenged us to begin thinking differently about how we operate in order to be No. 1 in the United States.”  Mark Shirkness then made a commitment to embrace #omnichannel #fulfillment as per #GEA’s distribution & Supply Chain commitment as well as maintain leadership in this area. He stressed that the new facility was designed on an outside-in focus as opposed to inside-out. This basically meant that #GEA switched its network orientation flow towards the customers. Every time inventory was touched manually, it was examined as to where it belonged to or if it was against a Customer OrderDid a customer need the product?
In an official statement, #Mark #Shirkness, VP of Distribution, #GEA said, “#GEA has the leading distribution network in the #Appliance industry & we are applying the best in #smart #technology to take a quantum leap forward on our journey to serve customers better.”

Continue reading “SC Tech Tools:- Electrical Appliances Industry”

SC Tech Tools:- Retail Industry

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Hi again readers & welcome back to my #SC_Tech #compendium.

We are continuing with the #SupplyChain_Tech tools #compendium that we began in August with my first post about the transformation that Indiana University Health underwent to become a #worldclass #SupplyChain #Organization it is right now. In that post, I covered the #Healthcare #Industry. Now, in this second post, I will be covering the transformations in another industry, that is, #Retail #Industry. Read on…

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Organization Details

In this second post of the compendium, I will be talking about the #Retail_Industry. What better example to discuss than the behemoth company, whose #Supply_Chain is very well known internationally, that is, #Walmart?

If we consider our digital & high – tech world, #Global #Supply_Chains related to fresh food distribution are expected to deliver fresh meat, produce & so on throughout the year. Due to this Business activity, we are able to access a huge variety of food items which are generally safe & would not make us sick. We should thank our stars that in the 21st century, the concept of #hyperlocal #grocery shops has now been embedded in the day – to – day tasks of human beings. Despite that fact,  there are still some cases of sickness or death due to #food #contamination that have arisen during past years. There are a few that might be considered. For example, back in the year 2017, there was a huge outbreak of #Salmonella disease throughout the U. S. A. The source was a batch of papayas grown in the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico) that had been exposed to #Salmonella bacteria & was then delivered causing illnesses in a section of the population within U. S. A. Including this #Salmonella outbreak, there were 18 other outbreaks of foodborne illnesses detected in the U. S. A. For further details on this outbreak as well as the investigation that took place by the #FDA, #CDC as well as various State Bodies, please click here.

Due to this reason, #Walmart was very much interested in pursuing a product #traceability #transparency solution especially in terms of food products. As we are well aware, #Walmart is well known the world over for its well managed & efficient #Supply #Chain. With such an advanced & efficient Supply Chain, small wonder that #Walmart would consider exploring the frontiers of #Food #Safety #Technology!! The photo below shows a bird’s eye view of the #Walmart Global DC.

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Moving on, what is the challenge being faced by #Retail industries nowadays, especially in terms of #Food #Safety? Well, whenever there is an outbreak of any #food – borne disease, anywhere, one needs to find the exact source of the infection, in most cases, down to the #specific #batch. For this to be identified & understood, it would take days, if not weeks, to find out what the source of the illness / epidemic is.

If there was a system or solution of better & #seamless #traceability in place, wouldn’t it allow whatever authorities are involved to help save lives by allowing the concerned organizations to act more swiftly? Wouldn’t these companies then be able to provide #solutions that would protect a #farmer’s #livelhood & #earnings by only discarding the specific infected lots in the farmer’s land without impacting non – infected batches? Yes, it definitely would! This is the exact Business activity wherein #Walmart decided to act on. This is exactly what we will be discussing in the current post.

#Frank #Yiannas, #Walmart’s former Vice President in charge of #Food #Safety was a person who was a very vocal skeptic of #Blockchain at one point. But then, he began further investigating that specific technology, studied it & has since then become a “religious Walmart_Pic3convert” of #Blockchain. He did an interview with #Computerworld & this is what he had to say when asked about what advice he would like to give for enterprises considering #blockchain – “The first recommendation is define the business case or what’s the problem you’re trying to solve. While we believe blockchain is a great use case for #SupplyChain #traceability & #transparency, you really need to understand what you’re trying to solve. We really weren’t chasing #blockchain per se, we were trying to solve a business problem”. He further added, “My recommendation is that it always be Business – led but technology – enabled.” Once the business problem has been identified exactly, the company planning to implement #blockchain needs to ensure that all of the employees including the top #leadership really learn the technology & understand what its all about.

Let us now take a trip back to the past, specifically, Fall 2017. During that time period, #Walmart, along with eight other firms decided to work closely with #IBM trying to brainstorm how a brand new & well – integrated #Blockchain Walmart_Pic7.jpgcollaborative #ecosystem can be built so that it would allow all of these companies track their own #Supply_Chains across the globe, specifically for produce as well as other products. The idea was to be able to track & trace produce shipments from farm to fork (#farm2fork)It was a way to track origins of individual shipments right to an individual farm from where the items originated. This was necessary, in case, there was another food borne disease emerging once again. Therefore, this is how the #Hyperledger #Fabric project was rolled out & made popular. In the end, #Walmart partnered with #IBM to set up a collaborative network called #IBM #Food #Trust along with eight other FMCG / Retail giants. This is shown in the picture right above.

Hyperledger Fabric Architecture

Walmart_Pic6 #Hyperledger is basically an open hub wherein development & growth of #blockchain technology is taking place & various companies as well as industries are part of the network. Its hosted by #The #Linux #FoundationThe Linux Foundation has been set up to basically develop & nurture open source projects all across the world. It has been set up to aid industries/organizations adapt to these new technologies & build up their sustainability. Let me list out the components of #Hyperledger #architecture to provide an overall understanding of what #Hyperledger is all about. The components are as folows:-

  • Consensus Layer
  • Smart Contract Layer
  • Communication Layer
  • Data Store Abstraction
  • Crypto Abstraction
  • Identity Services
  • Policy Services
  • APIs
  • Interoperation

The solution dealt with developing #Smart #Contracts, #Consensus#membership #services. Furthermore, it had resources to help develop applications & solutions with a #modular #architecture. It helps transform the various components into #plug n’ play architecture. #Hyperledger #Fabric utilizes what is called #container #technology to implement & host #Smart #Contracts.

If we delve a little more deeper into #Smart #Contracts, specially those based upon #Hyperledger #Fabric, we see that its a program, termed as #chaincode that forms the backbone of the technology. As on date, #chaincode can be written using two programming languages. These are #Go#node.js (Java Script). Its also now compatible with Java. They are trying to make it compatible with any other programming language that allows for implementation of certain established interfaces. We sincerely hope they are successful in implementing it in other programming languages as well.

Points on #Chaincode:-

  • Runs in a secured #Docker container
  • Segregated from validating peer process
  • #Chaincode loads & manages initial states of ledger via transactions submitted through applications

But, what does #chaincode do? Well, it generally manages & works with business logic that has been duly agreed upon by all of the members of a network. It cannot be accessed directly by another chaincode segment’s state unless appropriate permissions are in place. It therefore remains isolated, for the most part. We need to consider two sets of chaincodes here – #System #Chaincode & #Application #Chaincode. For those of my readers & viewers who are techies & coders at heart, browse to this link to get more technical details on the #Hyperledger #Fabric architecture. 

Now, let me go further into how #Walmart applied this technology to increase traceability of their #food #Supply #Chain. They began with examining & analyzing their own processes as well as those of their Suppliers to build the application. They worked with #IBM to integrate with other enterprise systems. They also collaborated with a company called #GS1 to develop & define the data that would be required for uploading to the #blockchain#IBM wrote the requisite #chaincode that got incorporated into the solution.

Walmart_Pic7.PNG

Once the initial details were ironed out between #Walmart, #IBM#GS1, all of the suppliers in #Walmart’s decentralized #Food #Supply #Chain were asked to utilize new types of bar codes / labels. The requisite data was uploaded through a #web-based interface. With that completed, #Walmart was able to set in motion two POC’s to test out the technology in October 2016. Walmart_Pic6The first POC was related to tracing the origin of mangoes sold in #Walmart’s US stores. On the other hand, the second POC launched by #Walmart was related to trace pork sold in their China stores.

So, what happened with the two POC’s? Well, the both of them were resounding successes. If we look at some specific results of the two POC’s, we will come across the fact that with the mangoes, #Walmart was easily able to trace the exact origins or #Provenance of the mangoes using #Hyperledger #Fabric technology within record time. Without this technology, #Walmart benchmarking team were able to find out the origin of a crate of mangoes in 7 days. This is supposed to be pretty good when compared to industry standards. But, they wanted to do a lot better. Once the POC was rolled out, the time taken to identify the origin shrunk dramatically to only 2.2 seconds!! Woww!!! I tell you, I am seriously impressed.
Now, moving forward to the second POC. In this case, pork sold in the China stores, the technology allowed Certificates of Authenticity to be uploaded to the #blockchain without any issues. Due to this, more #trust was created in the entire system. This used to be a major issue earlier, prior to #Hyperledger #Fabric.

Results & Way Forward

Once the pilots were successfully rolled out, fully & completely, #Walmart decided to further roll out this technology to 25 different products & from different Suppliers using this system, powered by #Hyperledger #Fabric. They made this decision fairly recently, Fall 2018 (September), as a matter of fact –  a mere year ago. #Walmart has now started tracking products such as mangoes, strawberries & leafy greens; meat & poultry, such as chicken & pork; dairy products such as yogurt & almond milk as well as multi – ingredient products viz. Packaged Salads & Baby Foods with the aid of #Hyperledger #Fabric.

Moving forward, #Walmart plans to roll out this system to more products / categories in the near future in cooperation with #IBM #Food #Trust. Just to add on another fact, the company has recently announced its requirement of all of its Suppliers (especially leafy greens), to begin tracing their respective products using #Hyperledger #Fabric. With this, we can understand where this technology can be immensely useful…!!
Cheers & stay tuned for my next posting… Until then – “Hasta la vista, baby!!”