Data sharing: what are the prospects for the supply chain?

Between 2015 and 2022, the total volume of data produced is expected to achieve a three hundred-fold increase. Recent developments in industry 4.0 aim to make it easier for companies to operate. Whether it’s preventive maintenance or production automation: data sharing is already at the heart of many industrial processes. Nevertheless, it is necessary to look beyond the walls of your factory. By only analyzing their own data, supply chain actors are limiting the scope of their possibilities.

Sharing information between each link in the supply chain (SC) is a major lever for performance and competitiveness. Production chain responsiveness, innovation, co-development and risk management are just some of the potential benefits. How can companies benefit from this circulating data? In what context is data sharing used?

Why rely on data sharing?

The transparency resulting from regular exchange of information has many advantages for supply chain players:

  • Collaboration. Sharing knowledge promotes coordination between partners. Distance (geographical, temporal or informational) is one of the major challenges of SCM. The rise of data sharing solutions is now making it possible to remedy this situation and create a climate of trust between SC players.

  • Quality & production efficiency. Thanks to data sharing, each link in the supply chain has an in-depth knowledge of its structure and its dynamics. At any time, its players are able to take joint decisions in order to respond to a crisis situation or improve processes. Also, manufacturers can ensure that raw materials or production conditions meet customer requirements in terms of quality, safety and ethics.

  • Risk management. GPS delivery control, real-time evaluation of equipment performance, stock levels, better traceability of resources... Operators now have the necessary monitoring tools to identify the potential threats and provide the necessary solutions before suffering the consequences.

  • Cost reduction. The circulation of information between actors in the supply chain leads to greater precision in the management of activities and resources (financial, human or material). For example, a thorough knowledge of production and sales rates, as well as the resources used, allows industrial plants to reduce their stock and, consequently, the associated costs.

How to deal with data sharing?

The supply chain is too often seen as a succession of physical elements. However, we are now witnessing its digitization. The Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchains in particular play a fundamental role in the evolution of supply chain management. The switch to an interconnected model is now possible on a larger scale thanks to increasingly affordable software solutions. No matter how complex, supply chain operators can now track the end-to-end life cycle of a product. Partners securely exchange information throughout the value chain.

Before going down that road, it is preferable to consider the existing data. What is the total volume of data produced? What are the sources of the data? What data collection and analysis means are available? Once these points have been clarified, you should establish an infrastructure, an organizational framework in order to fully benefit from them. The data is structured according to origin and nature: public or anonymous, volatile or persistent... It is then possible to develop a strategy in line with your sector of activity.

Production and maintenance

The latest industrial connected solutions (smart sensors, digital twins, etc.) bring a new dynamic to the value chain: production adapts to changes in demand, maintenance operations react to the real state of equipment, procurement responds to material resource needs.

Industry 4.0 companies are bringing two complementary environments together, IIoT and automation, in order to ensure productivity. In addition to the automation of production, they can be used for a wide range of applications. Emerging technologies provide operators with real-time visibility into the production chain. Data is collected directly from the equipment by smart sensors and then analyzed using powerful algorithms. It is then visually transcribed on 3D interfaces such as digital twins.

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As part of a predictive maintenance strategy, these flows make it possible to anticipate events such as malfunctions or failures, and also to improve material, human or energy resource management.

Market analysis and tailor-made production

System interoperability and collaboration are at the heart of the data sharing model. This implies cooperation between the various functions of the company. Data sharing between Production and Purchasing teams is consistent with flexibility and responsiveness objectives. Like the production line, stocks are monitored in real time.

Major retailers such as Amazon, for example, are already relying on the potential of IoT to manage their inventories. By installing smart sensors, off-site managers can directly monitor the movement of goods and anticipate orders. Applied to the industrial field, this harmonizes the rate of procurement with the needs of field teams.

New connected supply chain models tend towards reciprocal exchanges. Purchasing receives and injects data into the production chain. Always attentive to market trends, buyers provide teams with valuable information about end customers. Thus, production is based on internal indicators (capacity and production rate) but also external indicators (key factors of demand, market and competition conditions).

Buyers and supplier relationships

Data sharing plays a key role in sourcing and supplier relationships. Collaborative solutions such as Mobility Work allow organizations to access new supplier profiles. By integrating Mobility Work Hub, suppliers are able to share their product catalog directly with users of our community-based CMMS (computerized maintenance management system). They can then contact the manufacturer of their choice from the platform.

Once the order is placed, the flow of data between partners greatly simplifies logistics and transport activities. GPS tracking allows for the accurate tracking of goods in transit and therefore a better anticipation of delivery times. When they arrive in the warehouses, the teams in charge remotely, and even automatically, unload the goods using a combination of drones and 3D models of their buildings.

By automating low value-added operations, the organization achieves significant savings, both in terms of time and operational costs.

Customer data

As a true virtuous circle, supply chain 4.0 could not be considered without end users. Production and marketing strategies are designed for but also - to a certain extent - by customers. By interacting with products, they generate a large amount of high added-value data. Interests, consumption patterns, purchasing habits, delivery preferences...

There is no such thing as a unique customer. A company's clientele is generally composed of several profiles with different expectations and consumption habits. By analyzing customer feedback, companies highlight the particularities of each customer group and obtain the most comprehensive picture possible.

Mobility Work is the first community-based platform dedicated to the relationship between industrial suppliers and maintenance experts. Mobility Work Hub provides its users with statistics regarding the use of their products. This customer feedback then allows them to improve their offer or refine their marketing orientation.

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In the light of industry 4.0, data sharing brings the promise of performance, quality and flexibility. However, before fully dedicating themselves to it, companies must rethink their approach to technology and data. They should no longer base their strategy on the image of the company as an isolated island existing within an ecosystem, but rather on a collaborative vision of the supply chain. Only then will companies be able to exploit the development opportunities that data offers.

With the objective of facilitating exchanges between industry players, we have developed Mobility Work Hub. To learn more about it, schedule a free online demo with our teams.