All weekend long I debated whether I should add my two cents about the sudden uneasiness over whether the COVID-19 coronavirus is really a wakeup call to us all and understanding the importance of the IoT (Internet of Things).

I’ve talked to some execs who indicated that projects have been put on the back burner or halted altogether as a result of supply-chain delays. Even some plants are talking about closing down to reduce the spread of the illness. Many of you are listening to the TV news reports or reading articles about how the virus is causing dramatic cutbacks in China.

How did we get where we are today? Industry consultants and analysts convinced manufacturers that JIT (just-in-time) processes would lead to the holy grail, but instead it led to complete reliance on Chinese suppliers. While this alone wasn’t the sole problem, a lack of technology and production weaknesses all contributed to crippling American manufacturing, and ultimately outsourcing American jobs and creating supply-chain opportunities to foreign countries. Read more (Mending Manufacturing: How America Can Manufacturer Its Survival 2004).

Perhaps what the COVID-19 really reveals is that without leveraging realtime data you can’t observe data inventories of parts and recognize the opportunity to save money. The right intelligence allows procurement to make incredibly keen decisions and respond more effectively to achieve improvements in areas such as operational efficiency, processing time, operating and management costs, and creating the necessary backlog all with the IoT.

Modern manufacturers should apply a supply chain where they can see actual product condition information flow in realtime as material flows through each step to the customer.

They are able to have immediate access that confirm desired outcomes. The visual alerts promptly when an issue arises that needs to be addressed or when leading indicators reveal a problem is about to occur.

IoT led supply chain will:

  • Increase in revenue,
  • eliminate waste,
  • enhance sustainability,
  • automate steps,
  • Improve productivity,
  • reduce operational/working capital costs

This is the perfect opportunity for U.S.-based manufacturers to learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 virus and begin sourcing whatever parts are necessary from local suppliers to bridge the supply-chain gap using realtime data of the IoT. This means reducing operational and working capital costs across the end-to-end supply chain. Imagine having the ability to monitor and measure success instantly. Modern manufacturers can create and source an intelligent supply chain led by the IoT.

Simply, because the U.S. is flying blind on the economic effects of the virus, manufacturers need to step up and truly worry about the devastating economic global health and properly prepare. Taking steps now and building a stronger intelligent supply chain based on realtime data is a smart move.

By looking at the supply chain now, manufacturers are only just starting to scratch the surface of recognizing how this virus is going to have a stronger financial impact on the global supply chain.

Candidly, the IoT isn’t a magic portal that will cure all that ails us now, but it is certainly a much better crystal ball for a manufacturing procurement process and it will help divulge demand uncertainty, process uncertainty, yield uncertainty, and lead time uncertainty. We are able to bring information closer as a result of both cloud and edge computing. Several tech companies have explained (low latency scenarios and local control of data), which grants intermittent connectivity and access to information is truly the driving force enabling today’s manufacturers take advantage of even greater regionalization and localization. By leveraging the IoT, coupled with key tech partners, (i,e, Microsoft, AT&T, Cisco, Intel)  it makes it possible for manufacturers to have compute power at the edge in the cloud.

Businesses will be able to know exactly how much and when customers will order, exactly when a machine or personnel breakdown will occur within the manufacturing process, exactly how much of an order with a supplier will arrive in useable condition, and exactly when an order placed with a supplier will arrive.

I have been a strong proponent that we need to have a strong manufacturing base. The recent COVID-19 virus is reinforcing why we need to keep an eye on the supply chain. It’s not about politics, it’s purely about economics. Simply, this means the U.S. is in the right position with more enterprise readiness features to address the needs on a global basis. Ultimately, a stronger U.S. economy, means the world is stronger, and would be able to guarantee that it has exactly how products it needs, no more and no less, exactly when it’s needed it, no sooner, no later.

That means we would not be cancelling orders. We can anticipate illnesses globally. The goal would be to see and prepare 100% fill rates and focus on zero safety stock. We would no longer need to hope we can receive, but actually do as planned with the IoT fully in charge of the manufacturing IoT.

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