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The supply chain is one of those things that nobody cares about until something goes wrong. Then it’s everybody’s problem.
Remember the iPhone 8? Production was delayed because of problems with OLED screens, which weren’t even manufactured by Apple. Consumers were incensed, Apple was red-faced, and the supply chain took center stage.
Unfortunately, disaster is the main driver of supply-chain innovation. Resilience – the ability to shift all or part of a supply chain as needed—is mitigating supply chain disruption. The technologies showcased at CES 2020 are key enablers of resilience, a panel of experts told the CES audience.
For example, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which provides supply chain assistance to disaster relief organizations, uses simulation to prepare for catastrophes, said executive director Kathy Fulton. High-risk areas such as Puerto Rico are plotted on networks as digital twins. Simulated hurricanes or earthquakes then strike the region. If a virtual aid station is destroyed by the event, alternative locations are immediately identified.
“There’s no such thing as shipping something from Point A to Point B,” said Fulton. “The supply chain is now a network.” Organizations should anticipate the loss of a supplier or a physical facility and have alternative plans in the works.
The supply chain’s sphere of influence ranges from individual package delivery to materials flow into factories. But customer-facing organizations are on the front line when something goes wrong. “We face mini-disasters every day,” said Robin Hensley, vice president for operations technology at UPS. “We call it weather.”
UPS has developed automated sorting centers that can be moved during floods, fires or other events. These centers can be programmed to sort for a specific zip code regardless of location. The process is largely transparent to customers, Hensley said.
For the rest of this article, see Why CES 2020 Cares About he Supply Chain.