IMTS Insider

6 Technologies to Strengthen Supply Chains & 3 Ideas for Suppliers

Category: Supply Chain Oct 13, 2020

By Kathy Keyes Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence

On October 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce hosted Discover Global Markets, a three-day virtual conference focused on growth opportunities in intelligent manufacturing. In the panel discussion, “Incorporating Automation into your Manufacturing Process and Supply Chain”, executives* from global Tier 1 companies discussed six transformative technologies that helped them successfully navigate supply chain and operational challenges during the past year. The experts also offered three actions that small to mid-size manufacturers could consider implementing to strengthen operations and help rebuild supply chains.

6 Transformative Technologies

  1. Augmented Reality allows subject matter experts to remotely guide employees in the manufacturing facility to analyze equipment problems, commission new equipment, and conduct online monitoring. The AR sessions are recorded and stored for future use.
  2. Digital Twin or a digital depiction of the manufacturing facility and the organization’s actual supply chain enables an automatic response for instantaneous corrective action. Companies are using digital twin models that include data from the entire supply chain, from raw material allocation to suppliers to customer feedback. Digital Twins enable risk assessment and mitigation, virtual walk-throughs to begin new assembly line designs, and predict challenges for customers.
  3. Robots and Cobots are easier to program and integrate into agile systems. They can free employees from repetitive menial labor to handle more complex tasks and allow employees to work farther apart. Bots are also more consistent and accurate than their human counterparts for simple, repeated actions.
  4. Data capture is important to Tier 1 companies as it allows for tracking every phase in the supply chain, production line, and customer operations—leading to productivity improvements and complex Artificial Intelligence systems still being developed.
  5. Cyber-physical Security ensures the data from the Information Technology (IT) systems and the Operational Technology (OT) are secure and protected. One speaker gave an example of a food and beverage producer who was unaware of more than 80 Internet connections from their factory floor.
  6. Additive Manufacturing allows the creation of lighter, more complex designs that would otherwise be too difficult or expensive to build—leading to quick prototyping for product development. They are using AM multiple ways. For example, Cummins, Inc. is 3D printing cores for castings and engine parts to replace worn or broken parts. Some of these parts no longer have a source for replacement because they were made more than a century ago.

Get a head start on connecting your OT and IT by joining experts from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Manufacturing Demonstration Facility during IOT 4 MFG on IMTS spark, Wednesday, October 21, noon CT. They will share shortcuts and effective strategies to integrate your OT with IT using what you already have and MTConnect. Registration is complimentary.

While suppliers to Tier 1 companies may only have the resources to implement a few of the aforementioned technologies, following are three actions the Tier 1 executives recommended suppliers use to strengthen operations to ensure they are a part of the future supply chain:

  1. Identify your most productive machine and the cost of its downtime. Then find a way to capture data to ensure its efficiency. Productivity improvements could be as simple as adding a sensor to a spindle.
  2. Make sure your OT is securely connected and not directly communicating to the Internet as in item five above.
  3. Invest in connecting your OT (machines) to your IT to gather data to be more productive. (If you need a common language, use the MTConnect® Standard (ANSI/MTC1.4-2018), which offers a semantic vocabulary for manufacturing equipment to provide structured, contextualized data with no proprietary format.)

*“Incorporating Automation into your Manufacturing Process and Supply Chain”, was moderated by Douglas K Woods, President of AMT-The Association For Manufacturing Technology, and featured:

  • Elizabeth Hoegeman, Executive Director of Global Manufacturing Engineering: Cummins, Inc.
  • Greg Magnusen, Senior Director of Supply Chain: Eli Lilly
  • Tom O’Reilly, VP of Global Business Development: Rockwell Automation

Rebuilding the Supply Chain Whether you are an advanced manufacturer, job shop owner, or OEM, you are in the midst of your own supply chain challenges, uncertainties, and questions. In an extraordinary effort to support you, AMT and IMTS are dedicating significant staff and financial resources to help you rethink, reengage, and reestablish supply chains. Visit to learn more!

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