At the Connect to Innovate congres multiple experts shared their vision for the future of supply chain management. One of most exciting stories came from Patrick Crampton-Thomas, VP SAP Supply Chain Management. He began his session by outlining the five largest market drivers within SCM:
- Connectivity: we order products anytime and anywhere from our smartphone.
- Personalization: personalized products are the new standard.
- Speed: we expect orders to be delivered very quickly.
- Collaboration: with suppliers, departments and partners are all part of the supply chain.
- Responsive manufacturing: you must have the flexibility to be able to deviate from the planning, should the circumstances require it.
This got me thinking about augmented reality, which has been my area of expertise since early 2011:
“Can this AR technology help supply chain professionals to stimulate growth within your organization?”
As far as I’m concerned, the answer is simple: yes, for all the five drivers. Below four cases coming from my very own ‘kitchen’ twnkls, to explain why this is the case.
1. IKEA Place
On September 13, 2017, IKEA launched a brand-new app co-developed by TWNKLS: IKEA Place. The app makes it possible to position IKEA virtual products in your own living room, where they are shown in 3D. They are life-size, with textures you can almost feel and with accurate light conditions. With the app, IKEA enables their customers to become more involved. With the IKEA Place app, customers are now able to interact with the products in their homes, rather than browsing mindlessly and hurriedly through the paper catalog. Furthermore, IKEA Place is helping IKEA to make the transition from large shop locations and even larger warehouses to smaller shops and less inventory. The consumer’s own home becomes the showroom and their tablet becomes a smart catalog. Thanks to augmented reality, IKEA can even open up shop on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam or at the Coolsingel in Rotterdam, allowing for the centralization of warehouse management. This, in turn, makes it easier to respond quickly to changes in the market.
SCM market drivers: IKEA Place enables consumers to use their smartphone (connectivity) to configure and order products very quickly (speed), which means that IKEA can say goodbye to the large inventory and respond more quickly to changes in the market (responsive manufacturing).
WEMO develops, builds and installs production lines and tools for punching, bending, joining and working sheet metal. WEMO products are highly specialized and relatively complex to use in practice, which can make it quite challenging for operators to man and maintain the machines.
By implementing augmented reality, we have now tackled that problem. Operators man the machine with a special pair of glasses. The operation panel is projected virtually into the room and the operator sees directly the current and upcoming orders. He starts and stops the machine with simple hand gestures. On the right-hand side, he can read all of the sensors from the production line – information is fed directly from the underlying manufacturing execution system. The screen on the left-hand side is the remote expert. If something goes wrong, the operator can send an alert directly to the technical specialist. That person can literally look over the operator’s shoulder and give instructions on what to do.
SCM market drivers: with the augmented reality application, WEMO ensures that its customers can now perfectly operate and maintain their machines. Where before a specialist would need to be flown in to resolve downtime, now the operator can address the problem himself. Therefore, the machine can operate for more hours, which accelerates the production process (speed).
Otolift is a wonderful, family-owned, Dutch company that produces stairlifts for both Dutch and the international markets. A stairlift is a highly personal product that almost always has to be custom-made. After all, every staircase is different, and factors such as the location of power outlets, railings and doors must be taken into account. The process from the first contact with the customer up to the placement of the stairlift traditionally takes one to two months. That was before we introduced augmented reality.
For Otolift, we introduced a tool that makes it possible to illustrate a stairlift in the actual staircase setting in the home, taking into account any objects that potentially stand in the way. Useful not only for consumers but also for the sales team. The sales representative can record the measurements for the stairlift themselves using their tablet, completely free of errors and accurate to the millimeter. After leaving the customer, the sales representative can immediately send the measurements to the factory. As a result, lead time is shortened to about one to three weeks. And that, for a custom-made product!
SCM market drivers: Otolift has drastically shortened the sales and production processes (speed). The company makes use of augmented reality applications to support sales, whereby customers get to see the product in their own home, and for taking measurements (connectivity), whereby a custom stairlift can be delivered within just a few weeks (personalization).
Augmented reality: adding value in all aspects of the value chain
At Twnkls, we don’t like to talk about what we might someday be able to do. We much rather talk about the concrete applications that can already add value to supply chains today. The cases described above are the ‘living’ proof that augmented reality can make an invaluable contribution to companies in the areas of speeding up production time, minimizing downtime of machines and achieving shorter sales cycles. One condition is that augmented reality is integrated properly into the operational process, by connecting it to the underlying systems. Want to know more? See our service page for what we can do for you today!
Gerben Harmsen, Founder TWNKLS