2019

Use Case: Digital Supply Chain

In our use case, we designed a digital supply chain for a manufacturing environment being equipped with smart things and sensors allowing firms to analyze events and improve their performance.

The digital supply chain consists of 5 demonstrators and different sensors that are connected to a database allowing us to create many applications such as a dashboard for monitoring, event management and preparing decisions or a mobile app.

What for? Easy!

  • In our exemplary supply chain, we bake cakes. The digital supply chain is used to ensure that only “fresh” products arrive at the customer’s side. By measuring humidity and temperature throughout the cycle, we are improving our market value as a bakery that guarantees freshness. Hence, the digital supply chain creates value and enhances the competitiveness of our exemplary business.
  • We provide our customers with the opportunity of visual monitoring and email notifications (event/exception management) throughout the digital supply chain by using RFID technologies.
  • Further, the solution provides a process where mistakes are mitigated, as the autonomous system will deal with smart things such as packaging and sorting being less error-prone.
  • The integrated solution helps employees to focus on their core competency and the main task of cake production; instead of wasting time to manage non-digital supply chain processes with workarounds.
  • The digital supply chain integrates and connects things such as machines, autonomous processes, and products, allowing us to provide efficient service to our customers, i.e., available-to-promise or tracking and tracing. Further, we can plan and coordinate the business processes more efficiently.

Scale

The demonstrators aim to help firms with specific problems within their business processes such as production, warehousing, logistics, etc. An earlier demonstrator that has been developed is a scale that is connected to a database in order to present the weight in a dashboard.

What for? Easy!

Imagine your firm stores a lot of small goods in a shelve; mostly known as C-goods or MRO-goods. In many cases, firms have no (precise) information about the amount of products that are in the shelves.

The scale allows firms to create transparency (is there something: yes / no), improve inventories (order, if only a few parts a left), optimize warehousing processes (re-organize the locations = less distance to cover), detect abnormalities (wrong products in the wrong shelf).

Packaging

One can attach sensors to their packaging containers. The sensor will detect i.e. humidity and temperature, then upload this data to the server, where it will be available for report analysis with Tableau or Grafana.

What for? Easy!

In our business case, baked goods are susceptible and therefore in need of monitoring.

Accordingly, we use sensors that continuously monitor the relevant data to ensure the best quality at all times.

Conveyor Belt and Sorting System

As a first step, the packages arrive at the conveyor belt, which starts automatically as soon as the infrared sensor recognizes a thing. Next, the packages are transported to the sorting machine. The sorting machine reads the package and – based on sensor data – decides whether the product is in the defined sensor range or not. In case packages are above or under the defined range, packages send to the quality area. If everything is fine, the package is placed on the sorting platform. As we have multiple trucks at the drop off zones, it is crucial to load the packages into the appropriate vehicles. We ensure this by reading the RFID tag at the sorting platform and forwarding that information to the machine

What for? Easy!

The main idea is to have multiple vehicles at the zones to drop off, deliver the respective packages, and perform a quality check.

In our case to ensure that the cold supply chain is not broken.

Delivery System

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 brick was used to construct the Autonomous Transport Vehicle (ATV), using two motors for movement, a light sensor to follow the line to the storage location and a touch sensor to detect when the ATV is loaded. See below how the motors and sensors are connected to the EV3. For ease of use, we stick to the Lego solution, while the next ATV solution is a combination of Lego Mindstorms and a Rasperi Pi (allowing us to gather more detailed data for analysis).

What for? Easy!

For moving the goods from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ e.g., from the sorting machine to the customer or from the packaging machine to the delivery system. This delivery system can be used within firms or on external sites.

Hence, it allows us to develop a smart city solution or develop an autonomous driving solution. Further, the idea of ATV can be adapted towards drone deliveries.

Counting System

The smart counter systems use a laser emitter and a light detector to count the number of items that obstruct the laser beam.

What for? Easy!

Within industrial processes it is essential to count the number of items that pass through a certain point, e. g. to get an overview of how many packages are in stock.

Further, the solution can be used to compare the planned and real package load for a vehicle.