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Supply chain

Industry 4.0 solutions supporting global supply chains: What does the Suez Canal have to do with supply chain?

20.11.20233 min read

In March 2021 the ‘Ever Given’, a 20,000 TEU container ship, was lodged in the canal for six days, blocking hundreds of ships from traversing the waterway. This event disrupted global trade for almost a week and caused knock-on effects felt around the world for much longer. As a result, the importance of resilient and flexible supply chains suddenly came into sharp focus.

Modern manufacturing revolves around a complex production landscape in a world where international operations are supported by the global logistics industry, so highly functioning supply chains are a must
Although events like the one in the Suez Canal cannot be predicted, the transparency and agility of the supply chain can be considerably improved by integrating production information into supply chain communications. How can we achieve it? Here are two examples:

1. Storing the source of supply for a given product in the Asset Administration Shell (Digital Twin), where specifications and other key details are listed or a link to them is provided.

  • Manufacturers can access this information at any time to support their operations.
  • If a change in supplier is required, the AAS can be sent to the new partner, which can look at the correct, up-to-date information of the component to be supplied.

2. Using workflows to keep all stakeholders up to date with the value chain status in real-time. This includes production status and any possible disruptions identified that need to be addressed.

  • It simplifies the process of informing producers of warehouse stock levels, enabling accurate planning for deliveries and shipping times.
  • It provides the support to set up automatic orders when running low on spare parts.

To enhance communications between companies and support the creation of more agile supply chains, businesses need solutions which are in line with Industry 4.0. What does this mean in practice?

  • Operations become more data-driven and the flow of goods is closely linked to the flow of data.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain insights and have a better and faster understanding of the meaning of big data.
  • The ability to aggregate massive datasets and thousands of variables to predict demand, mitigate risks, optimise production, and make smarter decisions in the area of procurement and logistics.
  • Making autonomous real-time decisions to make the supply chain performance as efficient as possible.

To create successful interconnected infrastructures and digital twins, companies can rely on Mitsubishi Electric’s e‑F@ctory Alliance, which enables the creation of end-to-end digital value chains.

  • The members of this global initiative cooperate to offer flexible, optimised systems for Industry 4.0 applications with the ultimate goal of providing open, consistent architecture at all levels.
  • A key solution offered by this initiative is the digital twin tool from CONTACT Software, which supports the collaborative management of shop floors and entire plants. Thanks to the openness principles behind this tool and the e-F@ctory Alliance, the software CONTACT Element for IoT can access all automation devices from Mitsubishi Electric and its partners that are located throughout the enterprise.

Photo: Getty Images


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Supply chain