Service 4.0: A closer look at optimized logistics in technology support

By: Jens Rathgeber

Next in my Service 4.0 series — optimized logistics. Applying digitization services to logistics is especially important in technology support because spare parts are often needed to resolve IT problems and system failures. In this post, I’ll cover the modern logistics capabilities to look for in a technology support provider.

Consider the complex process required to get the right spare part to the right location on time, including parts planning and lifecycle management, traceability, warehouse optimization, delivery routes, and dispatching knowledgeable engineers. How is it all orchestrated? That’s where optimized logistics come into play.

Find out how IBM Technology Support Services can help you optimize logistics or talk to one of our experts about your enterprise needs.

Technology trends

Logistics starts with estimating demand then identifying and stocking required parts. The logistics challenge: find the ideal balance between allocated capital, warehouse space, location, service level agreements (SLAs), delivery times and other logistics. This provides the perfect opportunity to use analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify failure patterns and decide on next actions. For instance, you can uncover insights about the best ways to source, stock and ship parts.

Warehouse logistics are becoming more and more automated through advances in robotics and autonomous driving. Autonomous order picking, a logistics process, has seen a tremendous progression in recent years. Even if the commissioning is manual, warehouse internal traffic may be managed autonomously. It’s amazing to see driverless forklift trucks and autonomous floor conveyors at work in modern warehouses.

As consumers, we expect to track and trace a good once it ships and these expectations influence business as well. This type of transparency is another example of applied digitization. Business solutions include parts tagged with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips or QR codes so every step of the journey from the manufacturer to the customer can be tracked.

A typical supply chain combines services from different partners, each of them using various sensors and mobile devices to provide data for seamless tracking. This is a great use case for blockchain technology. It captures supply chain data and status changes in a shared ledger and facilitates visibility and automation through smart contracts. Only approved partners in the supply chain ecosystem have access to information.

Along with analytics technologies, visualizing data is an important aspect of optimized logistics. Good data visualization makes the data easy to consume and helps teams discover insights. Specifically, a supply chain control tower shows basic inventory data, a near real-time view of all shipments, demand predictions, and delivery risk alerts based on weather data.

A bit further out are technologies like 3D printing or last mile delivery with drones. Early applications are available but mass adoption will presumably take some time.

IBM offers technology support services for more than 30,000 IBM solutions and other products. And to help ensure delivery to locations around the world, our internal spare parts team operates in 170 countries and manages large, globally dispersed hubs, as well as locations the size of a locker. I’m amazed by the complexity and how everything seems to work like magic. It’s a good example of how cutting-edge technology enhances professionals’ work and ultimately customers’ experiences.

Interested in other Service 4.0 topics? Look for my next blog in this series about predictive maintenance. As always, please connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn or contact an IBM expert.

About The Author

Jens Rathgeber

IBM Distinguished Engineer & CTO, IBM Multi-Vendor Support Services

Jens drives innovation initiatives for the IBM Multi-Vendor Services portfolio and leads the IBM global community of technology support experts. As a recognized technical leader, he works with clients to streamline their IT support and transform after-sales-service organizations. In addition he leads the Editorial Board of the Zero Outage Industry Standard Association. With 20 years... Read more