6 Lessons From Managing A Global Supply Chain During the Pandemic
Many people have asked me how we have been managing our global supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps have had the most positive impact. I would say that people, Mine Digitization and automation have been the three key factors that have enabled us navigate the crisis and stay on course to realize our mission of building the supply chain of tomorrow. Let me share with you some of the things that we did and the lessons that we’ve learned as a result.
Go digital early
Companies in the e-commerce sector that digitized early, such as Amazon and Alibaba, have been better placed to weather the crisis. We, at Schneider Electric, have also benefitted from early digitization focus in our supply chain. Having initiated the digital transformation of our supply chain more than three years ago, we were able to immediately leverage an array of digital tools that have allowed us to operate remotely right from the start of the outbreak. For example, we were able to very quickly offer our customers remote Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) on our Engineered to Order solutions, as well as remote Assisted Field Services, enabling us to remain agile, pivot fast, and be resilient during the lockdown.
Some of the digital technologies and automation solutions that have facilitated remote work for our non-critical employees and helped those teams continue to collaborate effectively include:
1. Remote team meetings
Every morning in our Smart Factories and Smart Distribution Centers, employees would gather together for Short Interval Management (SIM) meetings to analyze their performance data, plan their work, and coordinate their teams. Overnight, we were no longer able to hold these meetings in person. However, by using standardized digital applications that were deployed at our sites before the outbreak, we were able to conduct these SIM meetings remotely. The applications we use automatically connect relevant performance information and trigger action workflows so that we could maintain our manufacturing performance levels while still ensuring the physical distancing necessary to protect the health of our employees.
2. Remote collaboration for predictive maintenance
Another example is the use of EcoStruxure Machine Advisor. It can detect issues that generate predictive maintenance alerts so service staff can monitor the performance of our machines from home and remedy problems before they cause a failure. This cloud-based application provided crucial support for our engineering team in Singapore so they could collaborate effectively with a partner in Europe to remotely deploy predictive maintenance on a production line in our Cavite Smart Factory in the Philippines.
3. Business continuity with remote Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT)
FATs are required for a large percentage of engineered solutions and are normally conducted onsite at a plant. Before installing the new solutions at a customer’s site, the FAT provides an opportunity to confirm that the solution meets all the necessary standards and customer requirements. During the initial lockdown, we were still able to conduct over 90% of our Factory Acceptance Tests remotely as we had previously equipped all of our Smart Factories with remote FAT capabilities.