Supply Chain Article

Emily Newton’s picture

By: Emily Newton

It’s increasingly common for today’s warehouse managers to pursue robotic material-handling solutions. That approach can boost productivity, reduce injury rates, and enable companies to adjust to changing demands. However, before company decision-makers choose what kind of robots they want, they must carefully analyze the warehouse Wi-Fi design and determine whether it aligns with the company’s current and future needs.

Many robotic material-handlers use Wi-Fi for basic functionality. Strong Wi-Fi in an environment that uses material-handling robots enables machines to learn and recognize their surroundings while avoiding obstacles. This helps them operate safely and effectively.

Managers can also use data-transmission capabilities on some material-handling robots to get real-time information about a machine’s location, total moving time, or other specifics. Users can access a database to see how robotic handling equipment contributes to a company’s operations. However, a spotty Wi-Fi connection can cause the robot to lose the necessary signal, causing it to operate erratically or stop moving.

Robert Mazzucka’s picture

By: Robert Mazzucka

Manufacturing has always had an element of matchmaking at its core. As a supplier, you want to be found quickly by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), prime contractors, and tier one and two suppliers. Buyers want to find companies capable of doing their work.

The ability of manufacturers and suppliers to connect has never been more important. The domestic supply chain is quickly evolving due to advanced manufacturing breakthroughs and growing demand for electric vehicles, solar batteries, and other high-tech innovations.

Connectivity will also be essential for small and medium-size manufacturers to capture some of the huge business development opportunities throughout the supply chain that are coming with major government projects, such as:

Joshua Zable’s picture

By: Joshua Zable

Optimizing inventory, like most problem-solving, requires a thoughtful process and a few steps. Naturally, the easiest way to prevent back orders is to always have a lot of inventory on hand. There are ramifications for not optimizing inventory, though. Overproducing and maintaining high inventory levels could allow products to spoil or even decay. Excess inventory not only creates costs today, it also generates hidden costs later if you need to produce more goods to replace products that sat on the shelf for too long.

There are different ways to calculate your optimization, but at the crux of optimizing inventory are three main steps: brainstorm the factors that affect inventory, collect your data, and analyze your data. Before we dive into each step, let’s cover a few basics about back orders.

What is a back order, and what causes it?

Put simply, a back order means that a product cannot be fulfilled or delivered because it isn’t in inventory. That may occur because the demand for the product is higher than anticipated, or inventory levels were too low to meet the current demand.

George Nelson’s picture

By: George Nelson

With the effects of pollution and climate change more visible than ever before, it’s clear that changes are needed to minimize mankind’s impact on the environment and protect the planet for future generations. To that end, many industries have made changes to become more sustainable. The packing industry is seeing some of the biggest changes.

Packaging and labeling can play a huge part in the battle for a more sustainable world. Without correct labeling, packaging is often disposed of incorrectly, contributing to waste issues and environmental problems. But, with smarter labeling processes, packaging can become much easier to reuse and recycle.

Types of waste generated by packaging and labeling

Packaging and labeling waste come in various forms, including:

Product waste: This type of waste is generated during the manufacturing process, where excess materials are produced due to inefficient production methods or overproduction.

ISO’s picture


Economic practices need to change. The environmental and social consequences of unsustainable growth strategies are becoming increasingly obvious. A circular economy offers a way to counteract the climate crisis, strengthen our adaptive capacity, and make society more sustainable and resilient. Standards and conformity assessment are part of the solution.

The circular economy reduces the need for resources extracted from nature because it ensures that products are reused as many times as possible and materials are recycled. Resources and energy no longer go to waste as the unwanted byproducts from one economic process are fed back into another in a never-ending flow.

When products are passed on from one person to another, and used materials re-enter the value chain, consumers and companies need reassurance: Are the goods still safe and undamaged? Are they designed to last?

That’s where ISO standards and tools to assess conformity come in. While sustainability standards define requirements in line with circular economy principles, such as durability, reusability, upgradability, or repairability, conformity assessment offers tools to demonstrate that these requirements are met.

Katie Rapp’s picture

By: Katie Rapp

A major focus of the current administration is revitalizing American manufacturing as new technologies are changing the way things are made. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) director Pravina Raghavan recently appeared on Government Matters TV, where she discussed how MEP National Network experts around the country are working with small manufacturers to revolutionize U.S. manufacturing.

From 3D-printed body organs and predictive maintenance to sensors that improve supply chain visibility, the future of manufacturing is about making processes more efficient and getting people what they need when they need it. “Last year alone, we helped do $18.8 billion in sales for manufacturers,” says Raghavan. “These types of technology modifications ensure that manufacturers are getting what they need at the right time, and that real-time inventory gets out to the public.”

Rick Gould’s picture

By: Rick Gould

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last month saw the launch of new guidance to support the logistics industry on its journey to net-zero emissions. Davos attendees got a first glimpse into how companies can better understand and track their logistics emissions. Released by the Smart Freight Centre and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the guidance sets out to help businesses in implementing their decarbonization strategies.

This new publication highlights the usefulness and benefits of ISO 14083, a much-anticipated International Standard offering the first universal method for logistics emissions accounting. A game changer for climate action, the forthcoming standard is expected to support the industry globally in its carbon-reduction efforts.

Zeyi Yang’s picture

By: Zeyi Yang

The year ahead is already shaping up to be a hard one for semiconductor businesses. Famously defined by cycles of soaring and dwindling demand, the chip industry was expected to see declining growth in 2022 as the demand for consumer electronics plateaus.

But concerns over the economic cycle—and the challenges associated with making ever-more advanced chips—could easily be eclipsed by geopolitics.

In recent months, the U.S. has instituted the widest restrictions ever on what chips can be sold to China and who can work for Chinese companies. At the same time, it has targeted the supply side of the chip industry, introducing generous federal subsidies to attract manufacturing back to the U.S. Other governments in Europe and Asia that are home to major chip companies have introduced similar policies to maintain their own positions in the industry.

As these changes continue to take effect in 2023, they will throw a new element of uncertainty into an industry that has long relied on globally distributed supply chains and a fair amount of freedom in deciding with whom they do business.

Costas Xyloyiannis’s picture

By: Costas Xyloyiannis

During the early 2000s, I was a recent software engineering graduate. Along with a friend and fellow graduate, I landed some project work with a major pharmaceutical company. The CEO, who had just signed up to the U.N. Global Compact, needed to know how sustainable the company’s supply chain was. He tasked the chief procurement officer (CPO) to audit the company’s suppliers—some 150,000 of them.

Back then already, supplier data were a struggle. The CPO needed to know who all these suppliers were and whether they complied with a list of principles to which the company had committed. It was our job to develop the platform from which this could be determined. Long story short, the CPO was able to gain the visibility that he required. This meant he could demonstrate compliance at the board level, making the project a success.

It was exciting for us to witness the role that data played in making supply chains more visible. In the 20 years that have followed, we’ve had the opportunity to explore this topic with some of the world’s biggest brands. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that good supplier data are a function of good supplier engagement. And importantly, the reverse is also true.

Chirag Rathi’s picture

By: Chirag Rathi

Two years later, the perfect storm of pandemic-related disruptions is still a major source of irritation for manufacturers. Those disruptions have been major contributors to the inflation we are now experiencing worldwide. Will that inflation lead us into a recession? A lot of very smart people say it will, and some say it already has.

Modernizing the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is usually the biggest lever that companies use to improve organizational performance. ERP is the de facto source of the organization’s operations. It’s the fountainhead of all data that enable analytical insights. However, in an economic downturn, organizations need to balance the benefits of ERP modernization against the costs. Monolithic and costly ERP implementations are generally not justifiable during a recession. Application leaders must be strategic and incrementally modernize ERP capabilities with a business-driven approach to optimize value.

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