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A Smart Supply Chain Starts with a Smart Enterprise

By Jeff Schmitz | 12/05/2017 | 8:47 AM

Manufacturers and supply chains have slowly started to adopt Industry 4.0. However, if they want to make the transition successful, most enterprise processes will need to become smarter and more digitized. This is easier said than done. In fact, a new survey by Zebra Technologies found that only five percent of enterprises are truly intelligent, and 48 percent are on their way to becoming intelligent.

Being an “intelligent enterprise” means leveraging ties between the physical and digital worlds for better visibility and actionable insights. But how do you measure a company’s intelligence? Human intelligence is measured through standardized tests, but assessing company intelligence is not as clear-cut.

Last year, Zebra, in partnership with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), hosted the 2016 Strategic Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise, during which executives from organizations including Google, GE Healthcare and IBM developed criteria that define today’s “Intelligent Enterprise”. Based on these criteria, Zebra then conducted a survey to measure companies’ intelligence as well as provide a path for them to become intelligent.

The framework of an intelligent enterprise is based on technology solutions that integrate cloud computing, mobility, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to automatically “sense” information from enterprise assets. Operational data from these assets, including status, location, utilization, or preferences, is then “analyzed” to provide actionable insights, which can then be mobilized to the right person at the right time so they can be “acted” upon to drive better, more-timely decisions by users anywhere, at any time.

Within the supply chain, an intelligent enterprise could help manufacturers better anticipate disruptions and react to them in real-time. However, most currently lack the operational data needed for this kind of transparency.

According to Zebra’s recent Manufacturing Vision Study, only 27 percent of manufacturers are collecting data from production, supply chain and workers. Additionally, much of the data that is collected remains in silos where it cannot increase the intelligence of the organization.

The on-demand economy is impacting the way supply chains must operate. Now that almost everything – from car services to groceries – is available with the touch of a button, both consumers and customers expect quicker, more customized responses. As consumer expectations continue to grow at a rapid pace, access to operational data is crucial in improving productivity and streamlining operations.

If supply chains hope to become smarter and better cater to consumer needs, they must start investing more in IoT. Zebra’s Intelligent Enterprise Index found 42 percent of companies spend an average of $3.1 million on IoT annually, and 75 percent expect that number to increase in the next one to two years.

Manufacturers need to accelerate the pace of Industry 4.0 adoption if they want to stay ahead. Having a more intelligent and digitized supply chain offers a new level of resiliency and awareness that will give them a competitive edge.



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra. Mr. Schmitz most recently served as executive vice president for multiple business units and sales at Spirent Communications where he had previously also held several senior leadership roles including chief marketing officer and vice president of networks & applications. Prior to joining Spirent, Mr. Schmitz held senior marketing positions at Rivulet Communications, Visual Networks and Tellabs Inc. Mr. Schmitz holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and a Master of Science degree in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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