Industry 4.0 Impacts on Supply Chains

Industry 4.0 Impacts on Supply Chains


Are you leveraging digital solutions to manage your supply chain?
APICS Greater Detroit supports supply chain professionals with the information and education they need to remain competitive in today’s world.

Per McKinsey & Company, industry leaders are leveraging Industry 4.0 solutions as an approach to increase end-to-end supply-chain transparency and many are fast-tracking automation programs to stem worker shortages arising from COVID-19.

Read more in our latest blog post below.

Tom Kelly, president and CEO of Automation Alley, recently spoke with MICHauto’s Glenn Stevens Jr. and the Chamber’s Devon O’Reilly about what Michigan companies will need to do to utilize technologies like artificial intelligence to survive, compete, and thrive into the future. He defined Industry 4.0 as the convergence of digital and physical technologies disrupting the manufacturing industry and being realized today in smart factories across the globe. Michigan led the second industrial revolution, which developed and progressed with the third, and has the potential to be at the helm of Industry 4.0. He stated, “We are going to become the true knowledge center we were kind of destined to be. We need to make sure Michigan owns that story globally. We need to dominate the fourth.”

Not sure how best to leverage digital solutions to improve your supply chain efforts during COVID-19? We’ve summarized below McKinsey & Company suggestions on how Industry 4.0 can help reimagine manufacturing operations after COVID-19 specific to making and delivering products.

Making the products

Digital technologies can help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on production and employees in multiple ways including boosting employee safety, operational efficiency, asset productivity, and product quality.

  1. Boosting employee safety and operational continuity: Digital technologies that enable remote work and collaboration, eliminating the need for noncritical employees to leave their homes, are becoming a necessity. Machine-vision algorithms and wearable technologies, are also helping maintain safe distancing as manufacturing operations restart.

  2. Improving productivity and performance management: Digital solutions allow manufacturers to move away from manual data collection by adding sensors or directly tapping into machines’ programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to collect data and display it on live dashboards. Supervisors can then monitor factory performance remotely and in real time. They can deploy interventions when needed, conduct effective performance-management meetings, adapt daily plans to meet customer demands, and to improve labor productivity as well as operational efficiency—all remotely. In addition, process automation and physical automation or robotics can supplement labor capacity. Wearable technologies, such as augmented-reality glasses, can enhance remote assistance in maintenance, such as when operators need off-site assistance due to limitations on travel. This increases machine availability by reducing maintenance downtime.

  3. Improved quality: Beyond improving day-to-day operations, digital technologies can go one step further in quality management. For example, machine-vision algorithms can conduct automatic quality inspection and quality control using predictive algorithms, relieving constraints in workforce availability while increasing the precision and threshold of quality checks. Furthermore, as SKU counts increase for finished products and raw materials, ensuring end-to-end traceability becomes increasingly important for quality. Industry 4.0 technologies, from simple barcode scanning to RFID tracking and blockchain, can help


Delivering the finished goods

Delivering the finished goods to customers is a complex, dynamic task that often involves third-party logistics partners. The COVID-19 crises reduced availability of transportation modes while introducing added complexities, such as new requirements for packaging and for safe, last-mile contactless delivery. In this context, digital and analytics solutions can increase visibility of both demand and supply for logistics services, improving real-time performance.

  • Logistics: A digital logistics-control tower can create live visibility into performance at every stage of outbound logistics, from loading in the warehouse to unloading at the delivery point. Combined with digital fleet management, route optimization, and carrier analytics, these tools can raise uptime for transportation assets while optimizing the operation, management, and allocation of resources. Collectively, these changes can go a long way toward increasing operational resilience in responding to crises.

  • Warehousing: Warehouses present many opportunities for a automation interventions. These include shuttle systems, automated material-storage and retrieval systems, smart shelves, smart picking robots and cobots—and automated and intelligent sorting, picking, and packing systems, along with drones to perform inventory inspection. A digital twin can help design optimal warehouse operations, creating a digital duplicate of a warehouse to understand the results available from different digital technologies. Other Industry 4.0 solutions can assist warehouse workers as well, including augmented-reality tools that make picking multiple orders at one go much easier and more effective, and exoskeletons to reduce injury from repeated heavy-material handling

McKinsey & Company summarize the importance of committing to Industry 4.0 reinforcing that as organizations begin to restart their operations in the next normal, they have an opportunity to reimagine a future with digitized, resilient operations. Early successes have shown that companies can start on their industry 4.0 journey in a small way and then scale quickly—if they commit to Industry 4.0 transformation in line with their business environment and their strategic objectives.

Looking for more information on ways to remain competitive as we continue to emerge from the pandemic? APICS Greater Detroit has expert instructor-led classes beginning in just a few weeks! Starting in September we are offering the following courses to help supply chain professionals meet today’s top challenges and help you and your company ensure your teams have the skills needed.

Got questions? Send us an email at We are here to help!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s