EU Automation: digital twins helping manufacturers adapt
It’s clear that the COVID-19 outbreak will greatly effect consumer habits for the foreseeable future. But what does this mean for industrial manufacturers, and how can they adapt to the continuing trends? Here Claudia Jarrett, US country manager at EU Automation, explains how digital twins, plus a concept known as “glocalization”, can help companies prepare for changes in the supply chain.
It’s always been the case that disregard for local market conditions can negatively impact businesses and lead to operational and supply chain issues, including at the manufacturing level.
These behaviours have changed continually in recent months. Morgan Stanley surveyed that 69 per cent of consumers were going out only for essentials during the last week of March, compared with 75 per cent earlier that the month. The Economist, meanwhile, summarised that “A stockpiling surge in early March has given way to penny-pinching”. Looking ahead, Forbes predicts that “trends such as mobile payments, contactless delivery for food and packages, and e-commerce for non-traditional items (think cars and furniture) have a good chance of gaining more traction in the US in a post-COVID-19 world.”
To keep up with these trends and stay competitive, there is more onus than ever on food and beverage manufacturers to understand, and be ecologically prepared for, changing consumer behaviours. The term “glocalism” is sometimes applied here, an ethos of supply chain management where manufacturers strive to achieve a supply chain that acts both on a local level, but also adapts to local demand.
But how do COVID-19 trends, and aspirations towards glocalism, affect supply chains at the manufacturing level?
Keeping up with the changes
COVID-19 is affecting manufacturers in three main ways, according to Accenture, the business strategy consultancy.
One is that food manufacturers must prepare for “hypergrowth” in certain goods like canned, shelf stable and frozen goods. Another is they should be equipped for “transitioning and repurposing legacy lines to make new products to support the community”. One example was the beermaker, Budweiser, which has contributed its resources towards producing and distributing bottles of hand sanitizer.
Finally, Accenture predicts that, “Where demand has drastically fallen off or supply chains have been disrupted, manufacturers are slowing or shutting down production volumes.”
It’s clear that manufacturers must be able to rapidly move items where they will be needed. Yet, to achieve this requires higher levels of traceability and flexibility, and, ideally, the capability to analyse and keep-up-with consumer behaviour in real-time.
This is where digitalisation and Industry 4.0 come into play.
Two’s better than one
Manufacturers with digital platforms, accessible data and advanced analytical capabilities will be able to respond more quickly, accurately and successfully to COVID-19 changes or disruptions. One method to achieve this is with a digital twin, through which manufacturers can develop rapid demand and supply scenarios, and assess their feasibility before implementing them.
A digital twin is, in short, a detailed digital counterpart of a physical asset, process, or system. It also includes all the engineering information necessary to model its performance. They are continuously updated with data from multiple sources, which makes them different from static, 3D models.
Furthermore, digital twins are a tried-and-tested technological step towards testing, and implementing, glocalized supply chains. Using artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins can be used to create a virtual glocalized supply chain. This is typically based on dummy data to test issues with supply chains, inventories and products.
Based on this dummy data, pending disruptions can be run through hypothetical scenarios to help better understand the service, cost and risk implications of decisions and unexpected market conditions. That includes the unexpected rigours and disruptions of COVID-19.
Digital twins may be virtual, but that can yield tangible results. These include a transparent supply chain strategy that is comprised of rules on how to absorb and refine costs, which can be shared among all workers at all levels within an organization.
However, to get these benefits, manufacturers must also grapple with the tangible equipment requirements. The implementation of a digital twin, and of better data management, lies in Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and using the right tools and computing infrastructure. The sometimes significant costs of this up-to-date IT infrastructure can preclude the use of digital twins for some organizations.
What are the advantages? Let’s use predictive maintenance as an example, which can be based on the real-time data collected by a digital twin. The digital twin can collect real-life, real-time sensor data from all machines used for manufacturing, as well as IoT along the entire supply chain, and then corroborate this with its own digital representation in an enterprise resource planning system (ERP).
With real-time insights into all aspects of any supply chain, companies can react more quickly to demand changes at the local, country-based or cross-regional level and achieve true glocalization, as a result.
An example of how a digital twin is used on a regional level is that there is a digital twin of Singapore! Incredibly, this twin maps all of the variables of the island country to help city planners understand and improve the efficiency of energy consumption, as well as many other applications that improve the daily lives of Singaporeans.
Investing in such Industry 4.0 concepts is not only critical in helping manufacturers adapt to local market conditions. It can also help in making the future effects of COVID-19 a lot more foreseeable.
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.