How to use Industry 4.0 technologies to weather the Covid-19 crisis
Industry 4.0 technologies have come into their own in helping combat COVID-19.
China confronted the virus with a futuristic mix of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots.
Now that the epicentre has moved to the western world, leaders look to China for clues to stop the spread.
Here’s a look at how China’s use of 4.0 tech is now influencing the way America and Europe identify, treat and track the virus.
A voice of warning
Speed and accuracy of information are everything in a crisis.
The first global warning of the virus didn’t come from the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US government.
No, it came from artificial intelligence. A Canadian company named BlueDot used an algorithm to identify the possible outbreak days before WHO made its announcement.
BlueDot uses AI to analyse news reports and internet data to detect the spread of infectious diseases. The algorithm predicts where diseases will spread, based on millions of flight itineraries. With this information proving invaluable, BlueDot is now working with countries in North America and Southeast Asia to predict virus hotspots.
There are widespread complaints of testing shortages.
On top of that, there are concerns about the long process of taking a sample, analysing it in a lab and reporting the result.
Luckily, necessity remains the mother of invention. Several companies are racing to invent easier, faster ways to test.
Researchers at UK universities are trialling a smartphone app that can give results in just 30 minutes. The app is linked to a small device that analyses a nasal or throat swab. No lab necessary.
It’s no surprise that supply chains are still recovering from the shock of the pandemic.
Hospitals are experiencing a testing swab shortage, owing to supply chain disruptions from suppliers in Italy and China.
Several hospitals are making their own test swabs with the help of 3D printers. One medical provider in New York, called Northwell, is printing 3,000 swabs a day. Side-by-side test results show the 3D-printed swabs are just as reliable as the traditional swabs.
There’s also a swell of companies using 3D printing to make facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Authorities in China found a safer way to take temperature: augmented reality (AR) glasses.
Someone wearing the glasses can identify a person with a fever from 10 feet away.
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Procurement has traditionally lagged behind when it comes to technology, but does AI offer an opportunity for things to change?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to make business better, at least that is what the solutions providers would have us believe. Businesses will be more agile, more efficient and, importantly, more profitable. Yet it still feels procurement is behind the curve when it comes to AI adoption, despite those that have implemented things, such as machine-learning and AI-driven data analysis, seeing the benefits.
Geale, vice president of client solutions at transformation procurement
services provider Proxima, says: “It is early days. On the procurement side of things, we are
seduced by the hype over practicality. Most of
what we are seeing is either aggregating data or speeding up a process, so far.”
That is not
to say that businesses are shunning AI. A recent survey by McKinsey found 47
per cent of companies have embedded at least one AI function in their business
processes, up from 20 per cent in 2017.
McKinsey’s research showed that while most companies were adopting AI in areas
such as service operations, marketing and product development, a significant
number have started to use the technology in managing their supply chains.
sectors, such as retail, are adopting the technology far more rapidly in supply
chain management than others.
It may be time for those businesses on the long tail of adoption to speed things up. Of those that have adopted AI in supply chain management, McKinsey reports 76 per cent have seen moderate or significant benefits.
AI Focus on Efficiencies and Productivity
So how are companies using AI? A survey by RELX Group late last year shows a focus on using AI and machine-learning principally to increase efficiencies or worker productivity (51 per cent), to inform future business decisions (41 per cent) and to streamline processes (39 per cent).
There are those in
procurement who believe AI will destroy their jobs. Yet not all are convinced
of this nightmare scenario.
Trudy Salandiak of the
Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply says: “Unlike
many professionals, we think procurement will be future-proofed from being
completely taken over by technology due to the human interaction and
relationship management required.
“What it will do is
provide much more visibility over supply chains to manage risk and seek out
opportunities for innovation. It will also take away the process back-office
side of the role to allow procurement teams to focus on more strategic areas.”
Ms Salandiak sees a role
for AI in quicker and more accurate fraud detection, intelligent invoice
matching and categorising vendors to rank their strategic importance in the
Chatbots for Procurement?
AI chatbots have started to be used to help businesses articulate their needs with procurement, instead of completing lengthy requests on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This echoes the voice experience consumers get through the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Turkish telecoms company
Turkcell has implemented a procurement chatbot, which learns continuously and
simulates interactive procurement professionals’ conversations
with business partners and vendors by using key pre-calculated user phrases and
auditory or text-based signals. The chatbot interfaces with the company’s
ERP system and it has enabled procurement professionals to cut out
non-value-added activities and allocate their time to more strategic topics.
Moyee Coffee has been working on a project in Ethiopia where farmers, roasters
and consumers can access data as beans are moved from farm to cup. Consumers
are able to use QR codes on the back of coffee packs to see where the beans
have been sourced and how much the farmers have been paid, bringing
unprecedented transparency to the supply chain. The project uses Bext360’s Bext-to-Brew
platform with AI, blockchain and internet of things technology.
AI Procurement Policy
As consumers demand more authenticity and transparency, this trend is likely to continue.
forecast value of AI to the global economy is being recognised by the World
Economic Forum (WEF). In September, the WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution unveiled a plan to develop
the first AI procurement policy.
The work is being done in
conjunction with the UK government’s Department for Digital,
Culture, Media and Sport. A pilot starts in July and it is hoped it will be
rolled out in December. This will include high-level guidelines as well as an
explanatory workbook for procurement professionals. A further eight countries
have expressed interest in extending the pilot globally.
reason for putting together a policy now is that “regulation
tends to be too slow”, says Kay
Firth-Butterfield, WEF’s head of AI.
“From the procurement
perspective, it’s drawing a line in the sand, saying this is how we expect AI
to be produced in our country and we will not accept AI products that do not
meet these criteria. It is agile governance,” says
Reorganising Time for Strategic Tasks
The technology will also allow public sector employees to do more strategic work. “In government, there are back-office gains to be had to free up civil servants to do more,” she says, adding that work on AI procurement in the public sector is expected to transfer to the private sector.
“Governments want their
citizens to be at forefront of developing and using this
tech, and benefiting from the economic gains,” says
Ms Firth-Butterfield. “Governments’ significant
buying power can drive private sector adoption of these standards, even for
products that are sold beyond government.”
The 53 per cent of
companies that have not started implementing AI may like to start thinking
about it now.
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For supply chain professionals, the drive to use AI is there. But how do organisations get to the point when AI-enabled supply chain management is the norm?
“Electricity changed how the world operated. It upended transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, health care. AI is poised to have a similar impact. Artificial Intelligence already powers many of our interactions today. When you ask Siri for directions, peruse Netflix’s recommendations, or get a fraud alert from your bank, these interactions are led by computer systems using large amounts of data to predict your needs.”
Andrew Ng – Stanford University – March 2018
According to the results of our latest survey, Procurement 2030, supply chain pros are well aware of how impactful AI could be for their profession. Indeed, 92 per cent of professionals believe the profession will transform by 2030 as a direct result of new technological innovations. And 51 per cent predict that, with the help of AI, supply chain professionals will become an agile group of strategic advisors.
The intention to utilise technology is there. But how do organisations get to the point when AI-enabled supply chain management is the norm?
Getting started, and knowing where to start, is tough going
– as with anything new and unknown. We know that many supply chain pros are
concerned that implementing AI into their supply chains is a complex step. In
fact, our survey takers ranked it as the technology they feared most difficult
to adopt. But are their fears unfounded?
We want procurement pros to be pushing the limits on Industry 4.0, and the first to adopt new technologies.
And so, in our latest webinar – How AI Saved My Day Job: Confessions from a Supply Chain Pro we’ll be demonstrating that AI is the real deal by giving you the insider information, the low-down, on what it is delivering right now for supply chain teams.
We’ll be speaking with supply chain professionals who are already implementing AI in their organisations and have discovered that AI does provide a demonstrable bottom-line impact across all supply chains structures. Speakers include:
Rob Allan – Program Director, Supply Chain Insights Offering Management – IBM
Tania Seary Founder – Procurious
Connie Rekau – EDI Manager – The Master Lock Company
Nickolas Bonivento – EDI Manager – Anheuser-Busch InBev
When is the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?
The webinar takes place on 15th May 10am ET / 3pm BST. Sign up or log in via the form above and we’ll be in touch ahead of the event to provide details on how to join the webinar live.
How do I listen to the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?
Simply sign up here and you’ll be re-directed to the Supply Chain Pros group where you can access heaps of related content. You will also join the webinar mailing list, so we can provide you with details on how to access the webinar before it goes live.
Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream of the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?
No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!
Do I have to be a member of Procurious to access the How AI Saved My Day Job webinar?
Yes. To access the webinar you’ll need to sign up to Procurious. You’ll be joining a community of 30,000 like-minded procurement and supply chain peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources. You’ll be joining a community of 30,000 like-minded procurement and supply chain peers and gain access to all Procurious’ free resources.
Could AI revolutionise your supply chain and save your day job – allowing you to make better decisions, more efficiently and in a more repeatable way over time? Let’s find out!
The good news is that one of your favourite social networks is booming, the bad news is that one of your favourite tech companies is not.
It’s been something of a good news, bad news kind of week for a number of major global organisations this week. On one hand, alongside the success of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 (we couldn’t resist one last mention…), Facebook is bucking the trend for growth in 2016.
On the other hand, continuing (and very public) supply chain issues, as well as declining sales, put Apple firmly in the bad news column. And outside of the tech industry there was bad news in global manufacturing, as it became clear that lessons don’t appear to have been learned in Toyota’s supply chain following recent earthquakes in Japan.
At a time when other technology companies are beginning to feel the pinch, and slow growth is causing some real concerns, Facebook appears to be bucking the trend with its good news announcement on its first quarter growth.
Q1 of 2016 was the company’s strongest single quarter growth since 2014, with an overall revenue increase of 51.9 per cent. Combined with an increase in user activity (it’s estimated that two-thirds of Facebook users are on the site or app every day), it served to place Facebook far out in front of its competitors in both the social media, and tech, fields.
The revenue growth has been put down to a marked increase in the sales of mobile advertising on both its original platform, and on Instagram, which it purchased for over $1 billion in 2012.
What’s more, there is plenty potential for more good news, as Facebook is yet to release advertising for it’s other 2 major platforms – its Messenger service, and Whatsapp. There is also the release of Oculus Rift, the company’s virtual reality headset, to be taken into account, although this is unlikely to happen until next year.
‘The Fruit’ in Decline?
Facebook’s good news came as welcome relief for investors and markets, particularly in light of other first quarter announcements from the large technology companies came in under expectations.
Twitter’s earnings fell short of Wall Street predictions, with $595 million, compared to an expectation of over $607 million. Bigger problems for Twitter were a less than expected growth in user numbers, hindering the platform’s ability to drive advertising revenues.
However, the biggest news (though some might say not as surprising) came with the quarterly announcements from Apple. For the first time in 13 years, Apple reported a fall in quarterly sales, at nearly 13 per cent, to $50.6 billion. The tech giant expects this trend to continue in Q2, with estimated sales falling to around $41 billion.
Apple were not alone in feeling the effects of the slowing Chinese economy, where its sales dropped by more than a quarter. However, there was some good news for Apple fans. CEO Tim Cook told analysts that, “The future of Apple is very bright”, with a 20 per cent growth in revenue from Apple Music and App Store areas of the business.
However, many analysts are concerned that, in a market saturated with smartphones, unless the iPhone 7 is a game changer, then this decline could continue. With an announcement, and launch, expected later this year, it seems we will just have to wait and see.
Vulnerable Supply Chains
Technology wasn’t the only bad news area this week either. Toyota have come under fire for not learning the lessons of Japanese earthquakes in 2011, with their supply chain again showing severe vulnerability following earthquakes in the country in recent weeks.
Following the events of 2011, Toyota set out to create an “earthquake-proof” supply chain, working with suppliers to create the RESCUE (REinforce Supply Chain Under Emergency) system, aimed at spreading the risk in the event of future natural disasters.
The new supply chain was put to the test in April, and despite early promise, it seems that the same vulnerabilities in the supply chain still exist. The manufacturer shut 26 of its 30 Japanese production facilities in the middle of April, only reopening 5 at the tail end of the month.
With both Honda and Nissan now operating at full capacity, with minimal shutdowns, it seems that Toyota has yet to learn its lesson.
Do you work in the technology industry? What do you make of the latest announcements from Facebook and Apple? We’d love to hear from you – you can get started in the comments section below.
As ever, we’ve been keeping an eye on all the major headlines just for you…
Congress Votes Yes on Russian Rocket Purchase
US Congress have voted to purchase $540 million worth of Russian rocket engines, despite a ban on trading
The intention of the 2014 procurement ban was to end US reliance on Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines
The US relies on these engines to launch national security satellites into orbit, as the US-built engines are still under development
Critics say the $540 million will be spent by Russian on modernising its military