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Making the Equipment Supply Chain Smarter

With some OEMs finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of advancing digital technologies, they might find answers in transforming their supply chain.

Brian Irwin, Accenture
Brian Irwin, Accenture

Digital technologies are advancing at a blistering pace, accelerating the evolution of smart products and services and enabling new opportunities and growth for industrial equipment manufacturers. But, some OEMs are finding it difficult to keep pace with such advances. Creating a smarter supply chain might be part of the solution and could even provide a competitive advantage.

In today’s OEM market, increasingly driven by demand for smarter, more complex offerings, transforming the supply chain into a digitally enabled intelligent system can help OEMs strengthen their competitiveness in an intensely competitive environment. Accenture research shows that OEMs can boost their competitiveness by 13 percent annually by harnessing the power of digital technology throughout their supply chain.

Rethinking the system, for example, could include advanced technologies, such as 3D printing, telematics, robotics, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, cloud computing, connected devices and mobility. Moreover, reengineering the organization’s supply chain with such breakthrough technologies can decrease cost, increase quality and accelerate production. This approach paves the way for greater innovation and customized products that can help companies satisfy demand and outperform competitors. Accenture’s Industry X.0 approach that focuses on helping companies extract the full value of digital advances also can strengthen the effort.

Full visibility across the supply chain will become possible if it is made smarter—from being able to monitor planning, forecasting and inventory management to transportation and logistics activities. And by combining supply chain processes with real-time data, an operation can support just-in-time manufacturing and operate the supply chain with increased agility and speed.

Be smart

There are four measures industrial equipment manufacturers should consider when developing a robust, intelligent supply chain:

  1. Align the strategy. Aligning the supply chain strategy to the organization’s strategy should be the first step in creating a smarter supply chain. Companies should make sure the organization strategy flows with the supply chain strategy. This big-picture, top-down approach should then be followed by determining which technologies and functions to invest in that will increase competitive differentiation and drive growth.
  2. Measure and improve operations. It will be important to define the rules, processes and operation milestones to track operational progress. Creating better visibility will help in the updating of the rules, which, in turn, will aid in reevaluating the roles of assignment resources, such as people and assets. Updating the rules, for instance, enables an organization to assign people to perform specific processes with a specific asset for specific products at a specific point in time and place.
  3. Test the approach. Begin with a familiar setting—the four walls within the enterprise. Starting in-house will provide a near-term opportunity at lower investment risk, while experiencing the concept in real time. In addition, the company will have visibility of where products, assets, people and processes are progressing at any given stage in the distribution center, warehouse, stockroom or store.
  4. Make the ecosystem transparent. Beyond the organization’s four walls, there is an added layer of complexity. Achieving transparency across the entire ecosystem—including those within the four walls, suppliers, partners and other ecosystem stakeholders—will require building an infrastructure and assigning different technologies for the appropriate products, assets and people involved, focusing on standards in a collaborative manner with value chain partners. With greater transparency and insights into the product’s use, a company can offer more value-added service beyond standard maintenance. The use of blockchain technology that enables companies to maintain visible, unalterable records or transactions between parties also should be considered.

A smarter future

IE manufacturers that reengineer their supply chain into a smarter, more agile system can greatly enhance their ability to accommodate faster-paced demand, gain a competitive advantage, and grow in a rapidly changing, highly disruptive equipment market.

>>Brian Irwin,, is managing director of automotive and industrials for North America, and products Industry X.0 consulting at Accenture. Sreejith Sreedharan,, is supply chain research lead for Accenture. Stephane Pique,, is connected supply chain lead for Accenture.


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