Connected supply chains create a connected world

August 4, 2021 | 6 minute read
Michael Richter
Senior Director Product Marketing
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Paddling in my outrigger canoe on the San Francisco Bay this past weekend, I looked at my SpeedCoach device to see my distance, speed, paddle rate, and heart rate. Though I was in the middle of the bay, I could monitor my heartrate and check the tide and current water and air temperature – or even have a spontaneous Facetime chat on my mobile device with a friend from overseas. I was connected on so many fronts.

And the beauty of it was that later, I could review metrics complete with photographs and mapped route – and share it with others.

What makes this all possible is the Internet of Things (IoT) and the connected world we all live in.

The impact of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a similarly profound impact on the supply chain and manufacturing sector. In supply chain and manufacturing, we get data from machines, trucks, ships, and entire production lines, in addition to data about the weather, traffic jams, or even the temperature of ice cream in a truck. Businesses are increasingly connecting every facet of their end-to-end supply chains. All are made possible by IoT.

Connecting IoT data

There are many ways to capture data by connecting to devices or machines. Oracle works with partners who are experts at placing these sensors on the right machine, in the right place, and at the right time, and then sending and synthesizing the data using a gateway. Multiple gateways, in fact. 

There are expected to be more than 30.9B IoT devices worldwide by 20-25[1]. This means there are potentially massive amounts of IoT data being generated. Supply chain professionals are contemplating pressing questions, such as: How much data do I collect? And how much of it can I actually use? Businesses need to determine where this data can be stored and then determine how to view and analyze it.

It’s the analysis of these large volumes of data where things get interesting.

The role of AI

Once you have your IoT data stored, you’ll want to act on it. For example, you can compare a data point with another data point to see if it’s the same or dissimilar. Does it meet the right specifications? Is your manufactured product the right color, size, strength, or temperature? Precise details can be viewed, measured, or analyzed in real-time. If something goes wrong, it can be flagged immediately.

This is the power of AI. Looking at historical data to see patterns. Using large volumes of data results to predict next actions. Finding anomalies. This smart manufacturing Oracle prototype shows it clearly – once an order is placed, a ‘lights out’ factory selects and engraves a block. The block is then photographed and compared to a database of other blocks to see if it meets specifications before it is accepted or rejected. And all of this takes place without any human involvement.

Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications

Oracle has four key solutions to explain how IoT can enhance supply chain and manufacturing. They include Connected Assets, Smart Manufacturing, Connected Logistics, and Workplace Safety. These solutions are supported by a suite of IoT apps we call Oracle Fusion Cloud IoT Intelligent Applications. These IoT applications are unique because they specialize in taking data from sensors, applying AI in real-time, and then coming up with predictions, suggestions, or insights as they apply to these four defined solutions.

At Oracle, we pre-integrate IoT capabilities into our core supply chain and manufacturing offerings and can integrate with third-party applications as well using Oracle Fusion Cloud Integration. It’s an elegant way of turbo-boosting our customers’ manufacturing capabilities and we simply add IoT capabilities to already existing known processes to provide more insights to enable better and faster decisions. This IDC profile shows how Oracle spans a variety of IoT use cases.

Let’s briefly introduce each of these solutions.

Connecting manufacturing assets with IoT

The Oracle Connected Assets solution refers to how humans and machines intersect. We have applied Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications to Oracle Fusion Cloud Maintenance to create the Oracle Connected Assets capability. Oracle Maintenance gains new insights and can automate actions when employing IoT. Instead of waiting for a machine to fail, you can anticipate it – which is extremely valuable.

To help paint the picture, the other day a warning light came on in my car dashboard to let me know one of my tires was low on air. As a human, I still had to go to a gas station and manually pump in more air from the machine. The fact is, this was being monitored and a threshold was set to trigger the alert, and the same thing occurs when you have a factory machine hooked up to sensors. Rather than waiting for something to fail, you can be notified and perhaps even automate an action to resolve the issue.

Enabling smart factory production

Revisiting the car analogy, what if you take a step back to consider the entire car and the things that could go wrong with the electronics and operating system? Well, this is like the ecosystem of a factory. Imagine the benefits of gaining a view into all the activities in your factory – or better yet, multiple factories. For example, you might know that a certain factory is having issues due to weather, machine breakage, or reduction in demand, but in another part of the world, you can’t supply what’s needed. Perhaps you can shift production to another plant? Using a core set of applications and the data from your machines, materials and other resources can seamlessly flow between systems – resulting in reduced costs and more factory throughput. This is how Oracle Manufacturing, Oracle Maintenance, and Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications combine to create the Oracle Smart Manufacturing solution.

Connected logistics

Oracle Connected Logistics consists of transportation, warehouse, and global trade integrated with IoT Intelligent Applications. Logistics consists of ordering and moving goods by planes, trains, ships, and automobiles, storing the goods in warehouses, and handling the complexities of global trade. With IoT, you can monitor the location and condition of goods in transit from anywhere throughout your supply chain.

Ensuring worker safety

Oracle Workplace Safety is another solution supported by IoT capabilities. Mobile devices with apps and other wearable devices are being deployed to protect workers, track their location by zone, or even monitor vital signs in extreme or dangerous situations. In addition, robots are increasingly being used in places where humans cannot go, such as nuclear waste clean-up zones or locations of natural disasters. Being able to track worker certifications for access to specific locations keeps them safe and helps with the efficient deployment of teams.

Ever-increasing connectivity

Our world is only becoming more and more connected, and figuring out how to capture, send, store, and analyze data and then set up automated actions is what every supply chain professional is contemplating. You have a choice to operate in a reactive mode or take advantage of new technologies and solutions to proactively plan, be responsive, and ensure more stability. And the great thing is, you can engage at any stage or process – it’s up to you based on where you are in your transformation journey.

Consider your industry and your primary challenges. Learn about what other businesses are doing in this series of articles spanning an overview of IoT solutions, smart manufacturing, connected assets, workplace safety, and connected logistics.

To learn more, explore the Oracle Cloud SCM Virtual Summit videos.

Source: Business Insider, IoT Analytics, Gartner, Intel, Statista

Michael Richter

Senior Director Product Marketing

Michael Richter’s career has included senior marketing roles at News Corporation, MGM, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, Inc., Yahoo! Inc., Setanta Sports, MediaZone and for the past 8-years, at Oracle. He led the pioneering roll out of cable and satellite TV in Asia and lived in Hong Kong for a 10-year period in the 90's then transitioned to digital media and product management roles headquartered in the United States. After implementing Salesforce systems for a period of five years as a marketing consultant, he joined Oracle in 2013 as a CX strategist in product management. In 2019, he moved to a Principal Director Product Marketing role on the supply chain and manufacturing team with responsibility for blockchain and IoT applications. He launched Oracle’s first purpose-built application for supply chain management employing blockchain and IoT technologies. He holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird Global School of Management in Alliance with ASU, and a BA in Psychology from the University of Saint Thomas. He is an outrigger canoeist and plays piano and guitar. In 2014, he published "One Red Shirt" a book about his experiences in the Asia Pacific region. A native of Minnesota, he is also a Luxembourg citizen and since 2000 has resided in San Francisco, California.

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