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The 10 Best Supply Chain Innovations of 2015

In the midst of the “Best of 2015” lists is the Top 10 Supply Chain Innovations of the year. As we say goodbye to 2015, MH&L (Material Handling & Logistics) announces the Supply Chain winners of its Innovation Awards.

The MH&L annual celebration recognizes the supply chain developments that will be carried into the new year such as technology, processes and management.

This year’s winners include innovations in land, sea and air transportation as listed below.

1. Additive Manufacturing: Airbus Uses 3-D Printed Flight Parts to Increase Supply Chain Flexibility

Airbus has used 3-D printing technology to produce more than 1,000 flight parts for use in the first-of-type A350 XWB aircraft. The 3-D printed parts were used in place of traditionally manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility, enabling Airbus to meet its delivery commitment on-time. The parts are 3-D printed using thermoplastic resin certified to an Airbus material specification.

2. Air Transportation: World’s Largest Self-Ballasting Cargo Airship under Development

In September, the Aeroscraft Corp. (Aeros) announced it has developed a vertical takeoff and landing-capable heavy-lift cargo ship, known as the ML866 (66-ton). The aircraft is a variable-buoyancy cargo airship featuring an onboard buoyancy management system, rigid structure, vertical takeoff and landing performance, and operational abilities at low speed, in hover, and from unprepared surfaces. The goal of the project is to dramatically decrease the time and cost for delivering container cargo around the world, especially to austere areas with no pre-positioned infrastructure.

3.Fleet Management: A Robot Dispatcher to Help Truck Drivers Avoid Disruption

The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is developing an automated travel advisor that could ultimately function as a type of robot dispatcher that helps truck drivers avoid disruptions and choose the optimum routes to their destinations. The lab already has several applications underway, including hybrid car navigation and controlling autonomous underwater vehicles.

4. Internet of Things: Cardinal Health Taps the IoT to Improve Medical Supply Chain

In September, Cardinal Health announced its plan to open a Healthcare Supply Chain Innovation Lab, which employs an Internet of Things (IoT) approach. Much of the healthcare industry’s IoT focus has centered on patient monitoring applications—developing solutions that will accelerate the transfer and analysis of Big Data, and supporting real-time decision-making on issues such as consumption and impending product expiration. The new, 20,000 sq. ft. lab will serve as a hub for Cardinal Health to explore new approaches, such as smart sensors and near-field communication, to bring creative, acute care-centered technologies to the healthcare field.

5. Maritime Transportation: Solar Vessel Carries Cargo across Erie Canal

In October, the solar electric delivery vessel Solar Sal departed Lockport, N.Y., carrying four tons of cargo, primarily recycled cardboard. The final destination, 300 miles away, was Cascades Tissue Group’s facility in Mechanicville, N.Y. The vessel is believed to be the first-ever cargo transported across the Erie Canal without the use of any fossil fuels. It was powered exclusively by the sun, its solar arrays and the storage capacity of its onboard batteries.

6. Motor Carriers: Self-Driving Truck Hits the Highway

In October, Daimler tested its self-driving truck under real traffic conditions in Germany. The truck is equipped with smart systems, including front-mounted radar, cameras and active speed regulators and works without a human driver, although someone has to be in the driver’s seat to take the wheel if necessary. The truck, fitted with the intelligent Highway Pilot system, traveled about nine miles on the A8 motorway, with a driver in the cabin but his hands off the wheel.

7. Supplier Management: Nissan Plans Supplier Park in Tennessee

In March, automaker Nissan North America announced it plans to invest $160 million to build a new supplier park at its Smyrna, Tenn., vehicle assembly plant. The project, expected to be completed in 2017, aims to create and support more than 1,000 supplier jobs. The park will occupy 1.5 million square feet, with the goal of having all needed parts located within 1.5 miles of the final assembly point. Ten auto suppliers had already committed to the project when the project was first announced.

8. Supply Chain Network Optimization: Mercedes Reorganizes Its Supply Chain Network to Reduce Auto Costs

Luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz is in the process of reorganizing its supply chain network to more efficiently service its expanding global footprint. The company has set a goal of reducing logistics costs per vehicle by 20%. Part of Mercedes’ strategy involves the opening of a new consolidation center in Germany, which will provide highly specialized logistics services. Once that center becomes fully operational in 2016, it will ship several hundred cargo containers per week via inland waterways or by rail. Those containers will then be loaded onto freighters and transported to China, South Africa and the U.S.

9. Talent Management: Ford Motor Builds Own Talent Pipeline in Detroit

In May, Ford Motor Co. announced that it plans to establish four career academies in Detroit to train future engineering, manufacturing and IT professionals. The academies will serve up to 1,400 students. The Detroit career academies will join the national Powered by Ford STEM Academy network the automaker is building to help prepare students for jobs in the 21st century.

10. Warehouse Management: Google Glass Helps Warehouse Workers See Better

Various divisions of global logistics company DHL have been testing a method of replacing handheld scanners and paper job orders with wearable smart-glass devices outfitted with warehouse management software. The technology enables hand-free order picking, helping workers to find the fastest route to pick products. It can also read bar codes. In January, the company completed a pilot project testing smart glasses and augmented reality in a warehouse in the Netherlands.

Which one of these top supply chain innovations is your manufacturing company using? The MEP Supply Chain Optimization program continuously looks for ways to incorporate these innovative ideas to optimize your supply chain.

Connect with our MEP Supply Chain experts for more detail on your specific roadmap.


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