As supply chains get more complex and global, they become more volatile in times of disruption. Global pandemic disrupted the market both on the supply side and on delivery.
This strain is exposing neglected shortcomings of external and internal logistics. As most of my experience lies within manufacturing, in this blog I’ll focus primarily on the internal logistic flow and its connection to production.
One of the advantages I have is that I was fortunate enough to see manufacturing and logistics in many forms at many sites, and discussed it with many professionals.
I’d like to summarize what I’ve learned, where are in my opinion, the biggest challenges in traditional logistics flows:
No data – One of the biggest issues under monitored logistics. This means, that 99% of the companies don’t have data to conclude from. In the best cases, some companies can see the utilization of the forklift, but that does not translate to efficiency at all. Only that they are burning fuel. Everything else is just guesswork. Performed by professional, but guesswork, nevertheless. This statement got me to heated discussion many times, but in the end, every time we agreed that it is simply true, especially when you compare it with how much data you have about production and every part that was produced.
Push system – almost all flows I saw so far, were the same as in 1970. Logistics was set up for optimum performance regardless of the reality. There are two main ways how companies manage their logistics:
People are walking around or driving around looking for empty boxes to be replaced with new material. Resulting in the strict designation of people to areas.
Milk runs have been established, delivering material usually with trolleys in predefined periods.
Both approaches are better than chaos but struggle in a dynamic environment.
They don’t react well to any changes:
Do you want to change product references? Require special changeover procedure, planning, and special execution.
Did your production line break down? Someone just prepared and drove material that is not needed. Wasting time and effort.
Are you producing less than peak performance? Someone needs to change milk run frequency, but what if one line is working fully and another on 75%. Good luck trying to match the cycles…
Did your drivers get sick and someone needs to cover their shift? Again re-planing, chaos, and if you don’t have over employment, then through luck. This was especially true last two years during the pandemic.
Where to go from here? Change Push to Pull!
For all problems, there is a simple solution. React dynamically to the changing environment.
Connect everything to the production and real consumption. This is possible a lot easier than expected. For every situation, there is a solution that can be used.
Many times very simple and cheap.
The first is to implement Kanban stock everywhere and set up sensor reading of the stock. Either by the scanning of bar codes, sensors, AI camera vision, or production output.
Based on those inputs, work orders can be created completely autonomously, feeding them directly to the drivers, or other lines.
Based on work orders that are available on a tablet on the forklift, drivers can accept the one they can fulfill next.
This setup allows you:
To share the drivers between areas, increasing flexibility if not everybody is at work.
React to actual demand and bring only what is needed at the correct time.
Stop driving pointlessly, looking for work to do.
Gather historical data for statistical analytics of order and delivery times, workloads, etc. The result is an Automatic ordering system, one of the modules of the twinzo platform.
The result is an Automatic ordering system, one of the modules of the twinzo platform.
The Big picture
We at twinzo are looking at everything from a higher perspective of digital twins. We do not provide only a fix for a problem, but also a higher value by connecting it to other relevant data easily.
When we connect an Automated ordering system, with for instance position data, you can start to understand how efficiently is your fleet working. Is the correct path taken, are there any empty rides.
When connected to an HR system with a skill matrix you can start answering what is the correlation between skill and delivery of the product, idle times, and so on.
And with all those information easily ready on your phone, your people can react faster and better to changing environment and your production will be more resilient to changes.