In today’s interconnected world, the global supply chain is an integral part of a business’ operations. However, as recent crises like the pandemic, economic downturn and natural disasters have highlighted, supply chain disruptions can have significant and extensive consequences. At the onset of the pandemic, transit times worldwide increased by at least 25 percent, resulting in extensive shortages of products across all levels of the value chain. In response, industries around the world have been forced to reassess their supply chain strategies and implement new measures to mitigate risks and maintain continuity. This is highly beneficial and necessary because it allows companies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing business landscape and opens up opportunities for growth and expansion. With the current global supply chain crisis, it’s crucial for companies to reassess their operations in order to navigate supply chain issues.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many industries, particularly the manufacturing industry, have had to urgently recognize the necessity of adopting effective risk management and mitigation strategies, due to how fragile their lines of production have become. One solution is the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, which includes the integration of new digital tools, automation, and robotics to improve efficiency and reduce risks and costs. While some companies are adapting and modernizing, some will be left behind.
A key component of Industry 4.0 is the use of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining, which allows for precise and repeatable manufacturing of products. CNC machining has significantly improved the manufacturing industry’s ability to respond to supply chain issues by providing a reliable and scalable production process. In the past, the production process was time-consuming and labor-intensive, making it challenging to adjust to a sudden shift in demand. However, CNC machining has enabled manufacturers to quickly adapt to changes in demand, therefore mitigating risks associated with supply chain disruptions. Platforms like Wikifactory provide organizations with all the necessary tools to develop and produce products faster and with reduced reliance on supply chains, making them a valuable resource. During times of crisis, in particular, during the pandemic, product designers designed and produced PPE equipment and ventilators using Wikifactory’s fully end-to-end platform.
One of the ways companies are addressing global supply chain problems is through innovative solutions to improve the lives of people around the world. The Refrigeration Project is an example of this. After successfully tackling the challenge of providing efficient washing machines to low-income families, the project is now focused on solving the issue of three billion people around the world who lack access to efficient cooling. This lack of access can make it difficult to cool off in hot weather or safely store food at low temperatures for later consumption so the project has developed an accessible off-the-grid cooling solution that can help improve the lives of billions of people. Through the Wikifactory platform, The Refrigeration Project has built its solution using collaborative design and manufacturing methods, completely online, from anywhere in the world. They have had components made and delivered to them and they have benefitted from the circular product lifecycle as it enabled the team to be truly innovative and adaptable. Using collaborative design and manufacturing methods on platforms like Wikifactory has increased productivity and efficiency while enabling innovation and adaptability through the circular product lifecycle. Companies like The Refrigeration Project are leveraging these solutions to strengthen their resilience and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient global supply chain.
Furthermore, Industry 4.0 has enabled companies to reduce their reliance on a single supplier and diversify their supply chain. By having multiple suppliers, companies can mitigate risks associated with supply chain disruptions and reduce the impact of a supply chain crisis. In addition, digital manufacturing allows companies to produce products locally, reducing the need for long-distance transportation and mitigating risks associated with shipping delays and transport disruptions.
It is the willingness to invest in new technologies and implement tools which make the supply chain more connected and collaborative that will help resolve the current state of the supply chain and those businesses who embrace this technology will come out best.
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Christina Rebel Moya is Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Wikifactory. Wikifactory is an online platform for collaboratively creating physical products. The company enables developers, designers, engineers and startups from more than 190 countries to prototype and produce hardware solutions in real-time that solve real world problems.