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'Logistics 4.0:' Finding the Right Technology

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Editor’s note: Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing manufacturing and driving smart technology up and down the supply chain. Logistics, which have been a mess for two years, can benefit from practices implemented in Industry 4.0. In this series of articles, we take a deep dive into what it takes to maximize the benefits of intelligent logistics systems for both manufacturers and customers.

photo of 'Logistics 4.0' and technology advocate Kartik Kimhal of Applied Materials

Kartik Kinhal

Understanding a company’s digital transformation strategy will provide clarity on which technology to select from the market’s available technologies. Deciding where to start or what tools to implement is usually unclear: the key to clarification is continuous collaboration with stakeholders, as well as avoiding the temptation to work on every single “bright shiny” technology without considering existing technological development and the company’s strategy.

An efficient, effective ‘Logistics 4.0′ solution must be designed to integrate, connect and enable interface among team members, managers and systems through:

  • Resource and capacity planning
  • Warehouse management systems
  • Transportation management systems
  • Intelligent transportation systems
  • Robotics and wearables
  • Information security

Map out your strategy

A value-based approach focused on designing for reliability and scalability — and with customer’s experience in mind — is what is needed for accelerating smart logistics. From my varied experiences in both manufacturing and logistics, understanding the industry dynamics that impact value creation and prioritization of opportunity areas within logistics aids the development of technology roadmap. Forming a powerful and supportive internal guiding coalition – such as a cross functional team — allows for timely critique of ideas and implementation. A comprehensive approval process for all technical implementations with a well thought out success criteria is paramount.

Establish smart proof of concept and pilot stage

Often during initial stages to decide on how much to invest in technology one has to evaluate several technologies which would fit the needs of the customer and aligns with company’s strategy.  The MVP (minimum viable product) or the lowest resolution prototype design is the ideal way to test out the feasibility of technology.

graphic illustrating smart supply chain or 'Logistics 4.0' technology, Once feasibility is confirmed, it’s important that we choose a pilot that has tangible connection to operational and quality KPIs. Engage the cross-functional team at every step of the process and share early success with executive leadership. Early successes gain buy-in from the organization. During pilot and proof of concept stages, empowering the team with resources is of paramount importance to be successful in Industry 4.0 transformation.

Define capabilities clearly

A smart logistics vision aligns with the capabilities of people, process and technology, building on the lessons learned from the pilots.  Designing and implementing a scalable solution which integrates product flow, information flow and finally cash flows is very important.

It’s also important that we have a clearly defined training and development program for every technology which gets deployed to production. As we embark on this journey, we must recognize the need for effective change management, changing systems, structures and processes which do not fit the overall digital strategy of the company.

Build in-house experts

A culture is only as strong as its habits. One way to drive the change in culture is to not return to old ways of doing things. Change agents must maintain a sense of urgency; communicate effectively and demonstrate that we cannot return to old ways. At the business process level – we must institutionalize newer approaches to capture the full potential of digital revolution.

Integrating individual solutions into one cluster will enable increased flexibility and drive the adoption of Logistics 4.0. We need to connect the digital road map to executive change plan to foster a digital mindset and culture across the organization. Finally, it is especially important that as we move on this journey, we do not forget to celebrate our wins and successes.

Author: Kartik Kinhal

Kartik Kinhal is Senior Manager for engineering, intelligent automation & continuous improvement at Applied Materials Inc. He is responsible for leadership, management and direction to the supply chain operations in automation and technology research, and for exploring AI options in the market space and educating the enterprise on these opportunities. Kinhal manages large-scale, complex projects and programs that impact Applied’s operations and product organizations and develops, implements and deploys machine learning, analytics, robotic process automation and AI systems across the organization. He also designs, builds and improves processes and systems that contribute to operational excellence and scalability. Kinhal has acted as a consultant to global teams for operation initiatives such as smart manufacturing, scheduler deployment, lost time reduction and capacity planning process.