To be honest, incorporating more technology into business as usual for logistics, supply chain and manufacturing entities pre-dates the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the U.S. in January 2020. But it did take the global pandemic to propel many in those industries to move unrealized digital transformation initiatives to their front burners.
In light of Industry 4.0, which places a high value on robotics, clean technology, renewable energy and transforming traditional factories into smart ones using the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, InfinityQS International announced the findings of its 2021 Customer Satisfaction Survey on June 1.
The report from the Fairfax, Virginia-based authority on data-driven enterprise quality revealed that more than half of manufacturers now have their sights set on digital transformation to address concerns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Behold:
-52 percent of respondents reported they are currently exploring or already adopting digital transformation initiatives to enhance operational performance.
-24 percent cited advanced analytics as their top technology priority.
“The pandemic exposed significant and often widespread operational weaknesses within incumbent manufacturing environments,” said Jason Chester, director of Global Channel Programs at InfinityQS. “It brought into sharp relief where legacy systems and outdated processes exacerbated the problems that manufacturers faced, alongside new challenges such as the rapid shift to remote work and supply chain disruption.”
Digital transformation is the key to addressing these new challenges, according to Chester. “Data, for example, is a great way for manufacturers to increase visibility into their operations as it can provide important insights into each stage of the production process. These insights can then be leveraged to make more informed and tactical decisions to secure long-term resilience and growth.”
In addition to advanced analytics, the other most popular technologies on the priority list for respondents included the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and cloud computing. InfinityQS notes that either technology supports anytime, anywhere access to real-time data for proactive decision-making, enabling manufacturers to maximize performance, respond to fluctuations in demand, ensure flexible operations and even build resilience for future “black-swan” events—all while maintaining high levels of product quality and safety.
“For manufacturers to stay ahead of competition and remain at the top of their industry, they need to constantly adapt to their environment by making tactical digital investments,” Chester says. “It is great to see the majority are rebounding from the pandemic and embracing digital transformation to increase their agility and maintain competitive edge. Companies that do so are better equipped to improve their operations at a faster speed and even anticipate changes before they occur.”
A clue that an impactful industry change was on the way happened during the March 2020 MODEX show in Atlanta, where attendees were warned they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Folks can be forgiven if they were too preoccupied with personal health to consider the findings in the annual Materials Handling Industry (MHI) Report that was released during MODEX. According to the report (which you can read more about in our Industry Expertise column):
-67 percent of survey respondents said they believed robotics had the power to disrupt their industry and offer a competitive advantage for their organization.
-39 percent of surveyed companies said they’d adopted robotics and automation.
-73 percent of those surveyed said they plan to add more robotics or start implementing robotics in the next five years.
For a look ahead of the curve, Global Trade identified industry players who confronted a recent challenge with the help of technological partners. Our case studies are arranged by the categories Global Trade covers on the regular, from 3PLs and e-commerce to intermodal and air cargo logistics. Read on for part one.
Challenge: Rapid growth putting pressure on order fulfillment
Problem Solver: Softeon of Reston, Virginia
Solution: Cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS)
Founded in 2012 and headquartered near Minneapolis, KSP offers a broad mix of 3PL services to multiple industries, including medical, health & beauty, education, agriculture and pet care. The Verified Veteran Owned Business has realized rapid growth, with revenues jumping 296% in 2020. That is, of course, the goal, but …
Why is there always a “but?”
The mountain of increased orders drove the need for additional space, and KSP is set to complete construction on a new 182,000-square-foot facility in November. However, the KSP brass also realized they needed more than additional real estate.
“The company determined it needed a new WMS with the ability to scale, more advanced features and a better platform for continuous improvement,” explains Dennis Nicholson, vice president, Business Development at Softeon. “KSP selected Softeon as its WMS provider to help power execution of their aggressive strategy, making their decision to move to Softeon in less than two months.”
KSP was ready to move even sooner, to hear CEO Rob Walters tell it. “It was obvious in the early stages of our WMS vetting process that Softeon was going to be the right fit for our short and long-term business goals,” he says. “It was incredibly important that we chose the right strategic partners to ultimately support our customers’ needs. Softeon offers a unique combination of rich WMS functionality, robust support for 3PLs and a collaborative partnership that matches well with our culture.”
It’s not just smaller company cultures that Softeon meshes with, having also provided a WMS solution to Germany’s DB Schenker, which is, of course, one of the world’s largest providers of freight forwarding and logistics services.
Source: Global Trade Magazine