Global supply chains offer tremendous opportunities for new sales and new cost savings. Yet they also create risk — making operations susceptible to events thousands of miles away. How can your company enjoy the benefits of global business while protecting your assets?
The fifth stage of the Rockwell Automation Connected Enterprise Maturity Model — Collaboration — maximizes these opportunities while minimizing risks associated with unforeseen events and the transfer of massive volumes of data across companies. How? By effectively connecting networks, securely sharing information, and anticipating events and opportunities throughout your enterprise and across your supply chains.
It's not easy to collaborate, especially at organizations with thousands of far-flung vendors and customers. But the rewards can be dramatic. We've seen significant returns on investment from collaboration at Rockwell Automation as we progressed along the Maturity Model, and we've helped other organizations achieve similar results, by focusing on two key areas:
- Internal collaboration — Use connected networks to establish predictive capabilities that allow for efficient production planning and asset management (consistent workflows), improved quality, streamlined supply-chain handoffs, and detailed cost controls (knowing material, labor and energy costs for all goods produced). Real-time data offers the ability to monitor and manage operations on the fly, such as moving production from one location to another based on capacity constraints or unexpected demand.
- External collaboration — Organizations improve their management of inventory, starting with their suppliers — pulling the right parts, at the right time, to the right place, at the right price. They manage downstream inventory to their customers, responding to dramatic demand changes by reconfiguring production assets to ensure on-time delivery. A connected enterprise also sees and shares information to improve responsiveness to external events — market movements, political uprisings, weather — to minimize exposure to unanticipated circumstances. Real-time information also can be leveraged to boost sales, e.g. ramping up HVAC-component production in anticipation of an extended heat wave or moving production to a higher-quality, more responsive supplier.
In the Collaboration stage, your operations-technology/information-technology (OT/IT) infrastructure serves as a secure command center to coordinate activities — anytime, anywhere — with business units, suppliers, and customers. Collaboration tools — remote access, instant messaging, video chat, and file-sharing — engage the knowledge base of an entire supply chain to address challenges. Similarly, domain experts can be accessed by all business units, companies, and countries, instantly sharing best practices.
A collaborative, interactive OT/IT infrastructure makes the highly effective convergence of people, processes, and technology possible. It allows an organization to recognize and leverage partnership opportunities within the supply chain — driving innovation, operational improvement, and cost savings in countless ways. At Rockwell Automation, for example, collaboration with suppliers and machine builders has resulted in new-product breakthroughs and better forecasting. It can do the same for your company.
Your OT/IT infrastructure and the opportunities it creates can make you more profitable. Are you ready?
Published October 8, 2014