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5 ways to improve supply chains with digital transformation

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Keeping supply chains in control and competitive is a key for any company sending physical products nationally or internationally.

In a competitive market, supply chain managers seek to create net value, build a competitive infrastructure, utilize available worldwide logistics and try to meet supply with demand.

Digital technology presents efficiencies and costs reductions to maintain a competitive edge. Here are 5 key benefits for those who manage supply chains.

Digital Transformation of Supply Chains

  1. Big data together with advanced analytics provide insights and improve decision making. Every point of data is an interaction that builds a company’s understand in of their customers, suppliers and vendors. Supply Chain Drive uses the examples of “an item is picked off a shelf, a customer leaving a website, an online review is written, a damaged product is returned.”If parts of the supply chain network are willing to share this information digitally, then useful material can be built up, as discussed in this article published in the International Journal of Production Economics.Collected information can also be integrated into optimization tools and used for activities like demand forecasting, integrated business planning and supplier collaboration and risk analytics.
  2. Sophisticated sensors track and collect information, provide safeguards for goods and protect against counterfeiting among other things in supply chains. This is a hot topic in the pharmaceutical world where up to 20 percent of distributed medicines may be fake — digital supply chains can help identify fraudulent shipments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently produced new guidance on this subject for medicines manufacturers, as Pharmaceutical Microbiology has reported.
  3. Customer engagement: The selection of the right piece of software to enable customer engagement is key to achieving “retention, lower operating costs, increased sales and faster growth,” according to this recent article in Software Advice.Software must be mobile first. As the European Commission points out mobility is seen as a disruptive technology for business and it allows new ways of working in “an ATAWAD (Anytime Anywhere Any Device) environment.” Examples systems include Darius, which collects customer feedback, analyzes it and sends reports, and Ambrosus, which has put in place a blockchain-based ecosystem for the supply chain.
  4. Cloud technology solutions for the supply chain can provide business process gains and works best when a large number of suppliers and customers agree to share data over a cloud.According to an article in Forbes, companies that use an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to communicate throughout their supply chain are more efficient than those reliant upon emails, faxes and phone calls. Through an EDI two different companies can electronically exchange documents (such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, and many others). Once the supply network is connected via a cloud then analytics, cognitive equipment and smart apps can aid decision making.
  5. AI and cognitive computing will provide significant advantages to those organizations that embrace them. AI will enable organizations to shift through large amounts of structured or unstructured data; assess detailed supplier assessments of a single supplier or a group of suppliers; and for assessing and calculating risk. There are also potential gains to be made from using artificial intelligence to find new ways of operating, to provide new insights, and to uncover new opportunities. Companies like IBM are developing cognitive computing systems to support supply chains.

These five examples show how technology can help, now or in the near future, to improve the efficiency of the supply chain. The adoption of such technology needs to fit in with a clear business strategy. With a clear direction in place, the promises that digitalization of the supply chain promises are considerable.

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European satellite firms eye tie-up to create ‘global champion’

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Eutelsat already provides some internet services through its network of 35 larger satellites
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French satellite operator Eutelsat said on Monday it was in talks with British counterpart OneWeb for a tie-up to create a “global champion” in broadband internet, rivalling US operators such as Elon Musk’s Starlink.

Satellite broadband promises to bring coverage to the most remote areas of the planet and supply connectivity on aeroplanes and to products like connected cars.

Starlink heads the market with more than 2,000 tiny satellites in lower-earth orbit (LEO), just a few hundred kilometres above the Earth.

Eutelsat already provides some internet services through a deal with telecoms firm Orange, using its network of 35 larger satellites that operate thousands of kilometres from Earth in geostationary orbit (GEO) that are more commonly used for TV and other communications.

But Eutelsat said its tie-up with OneWeb, if it goes through, would be the first of its kind allying GEO and LEO satellites — OneWeb has 428 in orbit.

The French firm said it would be “uniquely positioned” to exploit a market that it expected to be worth $16 billion by 2030.

The “potential all-share combination” would “create a global leader in connectivity”, Eutelsat said in a statement.

– ‘Logical next step’ –

However, the European firms face stiff competition.

Musk is not the only tech billionaire with plans to dominate the market — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently announced he intended to launch some 3,200 satellites.

Money is pouring into the sector, with Bezos apparently pledged $10 billion to his so-called Project Kuiper.

Public institutions are also looking to get in on the act.

The European Union wants to deploy roughly 250 satellites by 2024 and China has a plan to launch 13,000 of its own.

The British government owns a stake in OneWeb.

Eutelsat already holds 23 percent of OneWeb’s shares and the transaction would represent a “logical next step in the successful partnership”, the French firm said. 

The potential deal has several potential hurdles to clear though, including the need to be approved by Eutelsat shareholders and regulators. 

“There can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any agreement,” said the French firm.

Eutelsat’s shares plunged by more than 17 percent in early trading on the Paris stock exchange.

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New AI tool that turns words into art enters testing phase

Artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI is conducting a wide-scale test of software that creates images from textual descriptions.

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A photo illustration shows the DALL-E website on a cellphone
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A million people eager to dabble with a new artificial intelligence tool that lets them create images simply by describing them with words will soon get their wish, its creators said Wednesday.

Artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI is conducting a wide-scale beta test of DALL-E, a cutting-edge software that creates images from textual descriptions.

Although the arrival of AI has led to fears of humans being replaced by machines in fields from customer care to journalism, enthusiasts see the technology more as an opportunity than a threat.

A video showcasing the tool on the company’s web site showed DALL-E generating an image of a polar bear playing a guitar, a photo of a koala dunking a basketball, and the famed Mona Lisa painting but with the subject sporting a mohawk hair style.

“We’ve already seen people use DALL·E to make music videos for young cancer patients, create magazine covers, and bring novel concepts to life,” the company said in a post.

OpenAI said invitations will be sent in coming weeks to a million people on a waiting list to try the tool’s latest version.

Amid concerns that this and similar tools could be misused in disinformation campaigns, OpenAI said it worked with researchers and developers to build in safeguards to curb abuses such as DALL-E being used for deception.

“We reject image uploads containing realistic faces and attempts to create the likeness of public figures, including celebrities and prominent political figures,” Open AI said.

Filters built into DALL-E block violent, political, sexual or other content barred by its policies, and the system is designed to avoid assumptions about race or gender, Open AI said.

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Rolls-Royce champions energy transition at Farnborough

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Warren East is stepping down after more than seven years as chief executive of British engine maker Rolls-Royce
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British aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce is “championing” the energy transition and the decarbonisation of aviation, its outgoing chief executive Warren East told AFP on Tuesday at the Farnborough airshow.

This year’s Farnborough spectacle, returning from a four-year absence, is set against the backdrop of air travel’s nascent post-pandemic recovery but as economic turmoil hampers manufacturing.

Yet the airshow’s focus is on decarbonisation and sustainability in a sector often criticised for its impact on the climate, amid Europe’s blistering heatwave with record temperatures in England.

– Energy transition –

“The big theme is energy transition,” East told AFP in an interview at the company’s airshow chalet.

“This is the number one issue for the sector. We’ve been championing that for some time — and saying it’s absolutely necessary and we embrace that as an opportunity.”

East, 60, is retiring after more than seven years at the helm of the aerospace behemoth, with his tenure marked by historic corruption fines for the group, Trent engine troubles and Brexit.

Rolls, whose products power Airbus and Boeing aircraft, then axed 9,000 jobs and offloaded assets in a drastic restructuring after the Covid pandemic grounded jets and sparked a collapse air traffic.

East then guided it back to profit in 2021 from Covid-driven losses after slashing costs.

The titan, based in the city of Derby in central England, is now reaping the benefits of aviation’s post-Covid recovery, defence growth, a record power systems order book — and a long-standing focus on sustainability.

“I’m quite pleased with my time at Rolls-Royce,” added East, who took the reins in July 2015.

“We’ve really sort of modernised Rolls Royce in terms of culture.

“We’ve put in place a lot of efficiency and productivity improvements, which then crystallised during the Covid pandemic.

“And that’s created a very firm platform for the future (with) great operational and financial gearing now.”

– Cleaner fuel –

Aviation accounts for between 2-3 percent of the world’s total damaging carbon dioxide emissions, according to industry estimates.

Airlines and manufacturers alike have meanwhile committed to achieving net zero emissions — or carbon neutrality — by 2050.

Yet global air traffic is forecast to more than double by that point.

Rolls-Royce, which specialises in engines for long-haul aircraft, military jets and helicopters, is as a result ramping up its research into a wide range of technologies including electric and hydrogen power.

At the first Farnborough airshow since Covid, Rolls-Royce has announced a partnership, named H2ZERO, with British low-cost carrier Easyjet to test cleaner hydrogen engine combustion technology. 

Rolls also signed a deal with South Korea’s Hyundai to explore all-electric propulsion and hydrogen fuel cell technology for flying taxis of the future.

The company in addition unveiled a new research programme on hydrogen propulsion technology that emits no carbon dioxide.

Rolls is meanwhile working to develop a fuel-efficient future engine named UltraFan, which emits less damaging pollutants.

UltraFan aims for 25 percent fuel savings  compared with traditional long-haul engine.

“We are a group that is very focused on power and we do power across multiple sectors and one of the sectors in which we obviously have decades of experience in is aviation and aerospace,” said East.

– Cost –

The CEO cautioned however that it would take “decades” before hydrogen was deployed in aircraft engines.

The global aerospace industry would meanwhile need to harness technology such as sustainable aviation fuels derived from biomass, in order to curb its reliance on high-polluting kerosene.

SAF is however between three and four times more expensive than normal jet fuel. 

“I think as we go forward — maybe we’ll get to hydrogen in a gas turbine — but we’re not going to get there for at least a couple of decades,” East told AFP.

“There is a huge amount of work to do to make that practical, safe and economic and we need to have some transition technologies in the meantime and that’s why we talk about sustainable aviation fuel.”

He added: “Essentially, we’re just saying instead of kerosene we’ve got batteries, hydrogen, and synthetic kerosene.”

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