As the supply chain industry becomes more demanding, and less forgiving, it is comforting to know a pro you can call for help.
Sean Riley, global manufacturing and supply chain solutions director at Software AG, is that pro. For the fifth consecutive year Riley has been named a "Pro to Know" in recognition of his proficiency in the supply chain and logistics field.
The Pros to Know Awards recognize supply chain executives—and manufacturing and non-manufacturing enterprises—who are leading initiatives to help prepare supply chains for the significant challenges of today's digital transformation. Supply & Demand Chain Executive received over 300 entries for the 2017 Pros to Know Awards.
Riley started working in supply chain in the year 2000, with a specific focus on logistics and 3PL management. At that time one of the biggest challenges was the complete lack of visibility.
“Every task relied on manual information. Why is an order late, where is the order right now? Manual calls and mails were always sent,” said Riley.
The most frustrating challenge was lack of consistent information. Communication with suppliers was difficult and constant emails were the norm. This required a significant amount of inventory to be carried just to ensure service levels were met.
“It wasn’t a disaster, far from it, but success was obtained by ‘muscling problems’ constantly rather than having tools in place to identify and manage them easier,” he noted.
Since then the industry has become more complex and less forgiving. Inventory levels have become increasingly more important to properly maintain and, after the great recession, no one wants more inventory than is absolutely needed. At the same time, supply chains became increasingly more complex and required a higher amount of management.
Today, the advent of increased visibility between customers, enterprises and suppliers—and now the rise of IoT— are the biggest disruptors in the industry. With production, quality and position data being shared automatically and in near real time, supply chains will become more effective and efficient than we have previously seen, said Riley.
Challenges remain, of course; the greatest ones being manual testing for products or components, maintaining the right levels of inventory for service reliability and cost efficiency and understanding what is happening in a supply chain to mitigate risks from both an event and a product traceability perspective.
But help is at hand. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) along with complex event processing will have a huge impact on all of these issues. Simply put, the two technologies together are going to offer unparalleled insights and actions, Riley believes.
He is bullish on the evolution of a better “mixed supply chain.”
“Near shoring and re-shoring for certain products, combined with the more common overseas manufacturing, will be a particularly interesting study in terms of how companies will balance these decisions and the types of products that are shifted.”
Clearly, IoT will play a role, said Riley; but, when 3D printing and Smart Manufacturing locations are added to the mix, the future of supply chain management becomes fascinating.
His advice for the future?
“For those that want to stay ahead of the curve, a significant amount of understanding sound supply-chain management fundamentals, technologies available and future industry needs will be required along with a healthy dose of critical thinking.”
Also, knowing a Pro to Know would be beneficial.