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It’s been over a year since the health emergency completely disrupted the global supply chain (and less time than that since I wondered if I’d ever see a fully-stocked aisle of paper products again). As we saw last week at MHI’s ProMatDX event, the world of supply and demand is globally interconnected and complex, and this historic shock posed significant challenges and exposed vulnerabilities across the entire manufacturing process. In response, businesses across all sectors were forced to rapidly address existing problems and redefine their supply chain strategy to become more connected and resilient. The solution? Increased investment in digital transformation and the frontline worker employee experience (EX).
Digitally Transform Supply Chain Operations
During the first three industrial revolutions, spanning from the turn of the century to the early 2000s, the supply chain was at the forefront of technological innovation. While logistics and distribution have been quick to digitize, other supply chain sectors, like manufacturing, have been slow to adopt digital transformation initiatives. In 2020, this changed dramatically, with warehousing and manufacturing organizations eager to redefine operating models and make the shift to digital.
Digital transformation enables businesses to improve their supply chain operations of today and build long-term resiliency for tomorrow by future-proofing their ability to quickly adapt and recover from disruption. This journey requires organizations to reevaluate their current supply chain strategy, establish a new long-term digital strategy, and begin implementing new technologies and processes. An end-to-end digital strategy should account for every use case, need and vulnerability across a business’s entire ecosystem—from planning and procurement to manufacturing and logistics—and consider investments needed in people, not just technology.
According to MHI, 85% of supply chain leaders expect digital to be the predominant supply chain model over the next five years, with 49% already accelerating their spend on digital technologies.
In a shifting market with constant disruption, digital technologies remain the biggest accelerator for growth, efficiency and innovation. For example, the retail sector, which saw exponential growth in online spending and e-commerce in 2020, has aggressively accelerated adoption of digital tools and omnichannel capabilities to enable new ways of working and customer experiences, like in-store or curbside pickup and home delivery. According to the 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report, 85% of supply chain leaders expect digital to be the predominant supply chain model over the next five years, with 49% already accelerating their spend on digital technologies. MHI reported a notable increase in investments across cloud computing, inventory optimization, sensors, robotics and automation, and predictive analytics. Mobile and wearable technologies also saw a substantial increase in terms of supply chain investments.
While advanced Industry 4.0 technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), drones, machine learning and industrial IoT are still evolving and several years away for many organizations, mobile and wearable devices remain an easy and cost-effective way for supply chains to quickly accelerate digitization efforts. Unlike paper-based systems and fixed computer terminals, mobile and wearable technologies give supply chains real-time visibility across their inventory, assets and people. Mission-critical devices that enable mobile computing, scanning and printing enhances workforce performance and empowers frontline workers across the supply chain to efficiently and accurately capture data and track goods throughout order-fulfillment processes.
Leading supply chain organizations are also combining traditional and cutting-edge technologies to create seamless omnichannel experiences across their ecosystem. For example, augmented reality (AR) head-mounted wearables or smart glasses, are being used to improve manufacturing processes across the plant floor, field operations and warehouse by delivering hands-free instructions, visual diagrams and reference materials directly to workers’ line-of-sight. Organizations are also leveraging AR and virtual reality (VR) headsets to provide new or less-experienced workers with easy access to remote experts and immersive, hands-on training. Since mobile devices used by frontline workers also have a direct impact on EX, increased adoption of such devices (like rugged handheld computers, barcode scanners and mobile printers) will also help supply chains be more competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.
However, mobilizing a distributed frontline workforce spanning a diverse ecosystem, across geographies and use cases, can be challenging. Furthermore, increased connectivity and reliance on third-party partners, subcontractors and suppliers adds to this complexity and can create security and compliance vulnerabilities. While cloud computing and a flexible IT infrastructure allows supply chains to scale to support changing market demands, a unified digital-first management platform enables IT to reduce operational complexity, maximize worker EX, and protect assets and streamline compliance. A unified endpoint management (UEM) strategy allows IT to consolidate existing management silos, reduce cost, and improve security across digital technologies deployed throughout their supply chain.
Workspace ONE UEM supports any endpoint, platform and use case, and integrates access control, app management, analytics and intrinsic security into a single platform. It’s also built to scale, so IT can support an evolving mobile landscape and remain agile, regardless of deployment size, complexity, or scope. Most importantly, Workspace ONE includes features and capabilities purpose-built to support mission-critical devices used by frontline workers across the supply chain. These include low-touch enrollment and configuration; the ability to customize, lockdown and enable check-in/check-out on shared (shift-based) devices; device and app analytics and automation; and real-time view and control capabilities to remotely assist workers in the field or onsite.
Prioritize Frontline Worker EX
In addition to implementing the right digital technologies, supply chains must also put their workforce at the heart of digitization efforts. Overnight, supply chain workers became the unsung heroes of 2020. As shutdowns and shortages disrupted the global supply chain, frontline workers continued manufacturing, moving and stocking the personal protective equipment (PPE), food and other essential items communities needed. As we enter into the ‘new normal’, frontline workers will be the key to success when it comes to mobilization efforts and supply chain resilience.
While the average annual turnover rate sits at 19%, frontline worker occupations typically have a much higher turnover, with many supply chain sectors experiencing 50-100% turnover. Employee disengagement is the number one cause of turnover, and the biggest culprit of employee disengagement is (insufficient) technology. Turnover is expensive and with frontline workers in record demand, supply chains must create a modern, tech-enabled work environment that will attract and retain skilled workers. It’s also important that organizations retrain and reskill existing workers to align with transformation efforts, so they feel comfortable embracing new digital tools and processes. Many supply chains have also started allowing BYO to deliver critical information to workers onsite, in the field, and at home.
Workspace ONE can help supply chain workers adopt new ways of working by providing a consumer-like digital experience. For shared (shift-based) devices, Workspace ONE enables IT to deliver single sign-on (SSO) access to the apps and content workers need to stay focused and engaged. Workspace ONE also helps organizations proactively mitigate downtime with device and app analytics and automation, and when tech issues do arise, quickly assist workers with device tasks and issues with remote support. For supply chains adopting BYO for the first time, Workspace ONE enables organizations to securely allow workers to use their unmanaged personal devices to access corporate apps and info relevant to their role, while maintaining employee privacy; personalized notifications to workers without a corporate email address, like safety procedure updates or shift changes; and simplified new-hire onboarding to prepare workers before their first day.
The global supply chain is interconnected and complex, and last year posed significant challenges across the planning, procurement, manufacturing and logistics ecosystem. In response, supply chains across all sectors have redefined their digital strategy to become more connected, employee-centric and resilient. In addition to adopting mobile technologies that boost worker productivity and efficiency, supply chains are accelerating adoption of IoT devices to drive automation.
The key to a successful digital supply chain will depend on investing in the right endpoints and a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution, like Workspace ONE, that streamlines management and security, simplifies IT complexity and empowers frontline workers. Over the past year, VMware has maintained a rapid pace of innovation to help Workspace ONE customers across the supply chain maintain business continuity and become more resilient. Workspace ONE is the only intelligent-driven digital workspace platform consistently recognized as a leader by industry analysts that enables organizations to simply and securely deliver and manage any app on any device, anywhere. The platform integrates multi-platform, app and access management into a single console, making it easy for businesses to quickly adapt to challenges or disruptions.
Workspace ONE was specifically built to address the unique management requirements of mission-critical devices, and enables organizations to quickly and easily stage, manage and support such deployments—alongside existing mobile and laptop deployments—with low-touch enrollment and configuration, Workspace ONE Launcher shared device management, Workspace ONE Intelligence device and app analytics, Workspace ONE Assist remote worker support, and more.
To learn more, visit www.vmware.com/solutions/empower-frontline-workers.html.
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