Automation and IoT in Supply Chain: what’s next?
With discussions around automation having moved up the global business agenda in recent years, supply chain companies have been looking at how this technology can help to revolutionise their sector. A recent study found the industry’s adoption rate for robotics and automation increased by more than it did for any other technology in the past year, with 39% of companies now having implemented such solutions – demonstrating the rising demand for them.
But the story doesn’t end there. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an accelerated need for automation within the industry in order to reduce both the frequency and duration of human-to-human contact, thereby helping organisations to comply with social distancing measures. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key driver of automation, and these technologies together will play a critical role in empowering connected devices to support this need. However, there are still a number of challenges which businesses need to overcome to ensure automation can happen successfully – not least around the management of the vast swathes of data created by IoT solutions. Businesses will need to tackle these by introducing other technologies into the mix, such as edge computing.
An accelerated need for automation
The coronavirus pandemic has created a situation where the use-cases and capabilities of many digital solutions have become even more relevant. Automation and robotics, through the adoption of IoT, will likely become a core competence of multiple sectors in the foreseeable future. One such sector is that of manufacturing and logistics, as companies look at expanding the use of IoT across production lines and deliveries in order to increase workforce safety and reduce potential contamination.
For example, in logistics, IoT sensors can travel with a shipment to enable regular updates on a package, which can help to ensure the highest safety standards for delivery. Even prior to this – within the production stage itself – robotics has the potential to help transport products from a warehouse to packing stations, while also reducing employee interaction. These innovations are increasingly important given the transition towards ecommerce in the current climate, with online orders growing by 49% during the pandemic due to brick-and-mortar stores closing. This has created additional strain on the supply chain industry as it has strived to keep up with the online shopping demands of consumers while ensuring worker safety.
Overcoming adoption challenges in a post-COVID era
Any such adoption of automation and robotics driven by COVID-19 will though bring with it various challenges which need to be addressed, especially as business operations begin to normalise. Firstly, it’s important that businesses can effectively manage and process the huge amounts of data being pushed through these robotic and IoT devices, while at the same time deriving insights from the data which could improve future operations. With many companies within the supply chain sector and beyond still reliant on outdated legacy infrastructures, they also need to not only consider whether their existing technology stack can handle these new data-intensive technologies, but also – should an upgrade be required – whether they can afford both the time and resources investment required into building this.
Therefore, replacing the legacy infrastructure with newer concepts like edge computing will play an important role within the supply chain’s IT ecosystem. Take for example the following scenario within the sector. A warehouse worker using the “pick-by-vision” feature on assisted reality (AR) smart glasses can help automate manual order picking, sorting, inventory management, goods receipts and removal processes. At a time when latency occurs and receiving information from the device is delayed, this can affect the worker’s productivity and can cause further errors. Edge computing offers a solution here by relocating data processing closer to the device at the edge of the network, eliminating latency and therefore reducing incidences of network lag related failure. At the same time it creates new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data, and helps boost processing power to the edge of the network where the device is.
Ultimately automation has an essential role to play within the supply chain both now and in the future, something which has only been heightened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing demands it has placed across all aspects of the supply chain. However, before the widespread use of automated and robotic devices can be implemented, organisations need to be confident they have the infrastructure in place to support and maximise such technologies. Edge computing negates the need to revamp the entire technology architecture, allowing businesses to benefit from the aforementioned devices, but on a larger scale and with minimal changes to or impact on current systems.
By Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, Dynabook Northern Europe
Canoo Awards Manufacturing Contract to VDL Nedcar
Canoo, a trailblazing company in the electric vehicle (EVs) manufacturing industry, has officially announced owned and contract manufacturing plans that will ensure the company manages to deliver on its promise to consumers of production and delivery of vehicles in Q4, 2022.
During the company’s first Investor Relations Day, Chairman & CEO of Canoo, Tony Aquila, named VDL Nedcar as its contract manufacturing partner. VDL Nedcar, which I’m sure many of you will already have heard of, is the only independent Vehicle Contract Manufacturer in the Netherlands and has enjoyed fifty years of growth under owners, including Mitsubishi Motors and Volvo cars. According to the report, Nedcar will manufacture the Lifestyle Vehicle for the United States and European Union markets, while Canoo builds a US-based mega micro-factory.
"We conducted an exhaustive search, invested significant amounts of time and resources that span the globe, in our search for our Phase 1 contract manufacturer. VDL Nedcar is the right partner," said Tony Aquila, Investor, Chairman and CEO of Canoo, Inc. "They are the top trusted European manufacturer building high-quality products for leading OEMs, and they significantly outcompeted the other contenders. VDL is also independently owned by the van der Leegte family of entrepreneurs - which aligns with our commitment to support businesses that form the backbone of communities. This strategic partnership will enable us to deliver vehicles to market while we build our Phase 2 factory in Oklahoma. It also strongly positions us for geographic expansion in Europe and builds a lasting relationship with VDL Groep of companies. Our investment will help us scale quickly and fulfil our mission to bring affordable, purpose-built EVs to Everyone."
Canoo and VDL have already gotten to work on vehicle manufacturability and production planning so that Canoo can successfully lay the groundwork for its upcoming US manufacturing operations expansion, which will be completed in Oklahoma in 2022. The Nedcar facility currently expected to produce around 1000 units for both the US and European markets in 2022, with an additional 15000 targeted for the following year.
"Canoo's bold approach to designing and building electric vehicles makes them an ideal partner as we work together to shape the future of mobility," said John van Soerland, CEO of VDL Nedcar. "This partnership advances our strategic vision to provide a contract manufacturing solution and expand our expertise in the EV arena."
Currently, Canoo is entering its GAMMA phase of development and is on track to start production soon. The company intends and expects to launch its Lifestyle Vehicle in Q4 2022, closely followed by the Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle and Pickup Truck.
Watch this space.