Published on in ManufacturingDigital Transformation

This blog is co-authored by Charlotte Cox Manufacturing and Automotive Futurist at Fujitsu. 

Have you ever considered what happens during the time between you clicking ‘order’ for your online purchase, and you having the item delivered to your front door?

This process may take as a little as a few hours, but it involves a whole host of people, machines and technology to make it possible.

Now consider the fact you’re one of thousands of people in the UK that are ordering a particular product.

This means shops and suppliers rely on manufacturers to meet with demand in order to maintain customer satisfaction. This can be challenging because it’s difficult to predict demand ahead of time. For instance, a shopper may not know exactly what they want when they begin browsing, or they may want something very specific that’s hard to come by.

A simple solution is for manufacturers to insert RFID tags into products, which enables data to be collected about the location of the product. This allows manufacturers to determine how far products are along the supply chain, ascertain the demand from shops or online sellers and then use this data to alter the production of products – if necessary. Find out more about RFID.

These demands are easily met when items can be mass produced and shipped to their appropriate destinations without fault. But it’s more challenging when there’s a fault in the supply chain. For example, what can you do if the packaging company you use experiences an unprecedented security breach and they need to shut down all their systems?

It causes disruption across the entire supply chain. So, in this blog I’m going to outline two challenges that are putting immense pressure on supply chain timelines at the moment: cyber-attacks and erratic consumer demand. And we’ll look at how businesses can best prepare their supply chains to mitigate these disruptive forces.

Mitigating the sheer force of a supply attack

Cyber-attacks loom over every industry, and threaten to stop manufacturing in its tracks. Where there’s a loophole for a network to be exploited, it will be. And as businesses settle into giving employees remote access to their networks, cyber-attacks have spiked.

According to the VMWare Carbon Black Global Threat Report, 91% of global respondents to the research project said that cyber-attacks have increased in their organisation since employees had shifted to remote working.

This can result in catastrophic consequences for everyone involved in each stage of the supply chain.

For instance, if a hacker unveils your customer’s financial details, legal complications under GDPR may ensue. If a company isn’t able to recover from the costs this creates, people could lose jobs.

To prevent this awful scenario happening, businesses need to pre-emptively bolster the weakest spots in their supply chain. Identify where vulnerabilities are by auditing your supply chain. Find out who your suppliers’ suppliers are and what they do with their data.

From here, you can ascertain whether it’s necessary for each of your suppliers to have access to your data. The more suppliers that have access to sensitive data, the more exposed your supply chain will be.

You also need to work out every scenario a cyber-attacker could encounter to ensure you’re one step ahead.

Protection will most likely come in the form of firewalls and encryption of data, which begins with an audit of the supply chain to analyse its cyber health. This can be carried out with Fujitsu’s OT Security Services, comprising an OT Assessment, OT Network Transformation and OT Managed Monitoring.

Furthermore, when looking to safeguard your supply chain, you must be aware that a cyber-attack can take multiple forms and threats may come from external actors, malicious insiders or via suppliers, which can have various negative impacts. Types of attacks include, but are not limited to, third-party software providers, website builders, third party data stores, and watering hole attacks. (See diagrams below)

Third Party Software Providers Website Builders Third Party Data Stores Watering Hold Attack

Reference- National Cyber Security Centre (2018) Link to website.


Dealing with erratic consumer demands

This year has undoubtedly also brought the un-anticipated disruption of erratic customer demands to supply chains.

For example, the retail industry is having to hurtle itself online. The hospitality industry is having to think of new and creative ways for people to enjoy their services at a distance. And other industries are having to shut down completely. No one has been left unchallenged, including manufacturing.

Demands are shifting rapidly, and businesses need to adapt the quantities of product production just as quickly. For instance, people are no longer buying cars in response to travel restrictions. And technology is being increasingly needed to accommodate home working. This has caused businesses to redraft their supply and demand manufacturing processes.

Fujitsu’s AI based Demand Forecasting technology and ODMA data analytics can help manufacturers keep up with their supply, by using sentiment analytics to predict what customers may need and how much of it.

While everything about our society is changing, the consumer needs to buy something when they want it remains static.

When this need isn’t met, the consequences can be chaotic. Remember stockpiling? All this disruption filters back to the supply chain which underlines just how vital it is for businesses to protect it.

The time is now

Businesses can never know what’s coming next, as 2020 has shown.

Yet despite this uncertainty, businesses can prevent disruption from having a ripple effect by safeguarding their supply chain.

Technology will no doubt be a friend in creating this resiliency in your supply chain. And with more disruption anticipated in the near future the time to make this change to your supply chain is now.

To learn more about how technology can help the future of your supply chain click here.

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Johan Carstens

EMEIA Manufacturing & Automotive CTO at Fujitsu EMEIA
Johan is one of our senior leaders that drive our customers to embrace digital solutions, prepare their business for new challenges and set new standard in Manufacturing and Automotive.

Johan inspires our customers to think of new ways of applying technology to traditional business functions and revolutionise the way they operate to increase productivity and prepare for the future.

Excellence in Delivery. Trust and reliability is the key to delivering world class solutions every day. He achieves this through delivering long term digital technology strategies that address new business opportunities and challenges. His solutions bring technology closer to the business and increase financial awareness in IT to achieve the commercial business drivers, whilst improving the effectiveness, productivity and business processes.

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