In the production of very specialized high-tech machinery, two factors converge to expose the process to risk: Usually there is a large mix of components from suppliers around the globe involved to create a product that is very expensive and produced in low volume numbers. The delay of only one part can force production to grind to a halt and create massive losses. Industrial robots or traffic control systems such as the ones produced by the SCSN partner Omron or the aerospace components of Dutch manufacturer KMWE would be prime examples of such sensitive products and manufacturing processes.
SCSN – the centerpiece of the future digital economy
The Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) identified this issue almost six years ago and has been working on solutions ever since. In the time of COVID, however, their research suddenly met an urgent need to ensure a resilient supply of critical high-tech machinery.
Consequently, TNO, in collaboration with KMWE, Brainport Industries, and the Limburg-based company Batchford, created a project named Smart Connected Supplier Network. This network is set to be a centerpiece of the future digital economy throughout Europe and across the world. In Eindhoven, Holland, on the campus of Brainport Industries, the SCSN partners even occupy a physical space together, transporting the data space into the real world.
A system of systems
Typically, every manufacturer has their own system of keeping track of schedules, orders and other practical matters related to the production process. However, these systems traditionally do not communicate well with each other. In an industry that is highly connected and dependent on many partners, this creates extreme vulnerabilities for the entire production process.
SCSN strives to solve these problems by allowing the systems to communicate with each other seamlessly. Based on the IDS architecture, it is set to becoming a system of systems, allowing all partners to keep track of critical information they need to ensure the reliability of their production.
The benefits are enormous
With SCSN, manufacturers and suppliers of all sizes can seamlessly exchange order messages, dispatch advice, technical product data, as well as reliably forecast delivery times and production schedules. While previously the connection between partners had to be established through Electronic Data Interchange links, the access to the data via SCSN now is instant for members, vetted through the IDS standard. Additionally, participants can communicate with every partner in the network and not just the adjacent participant in the supply chain.
The benefits are enormous. According to TNO, SCSN can create productivity increases for its partners of up to 20 percent. Simultaneously it helps its partners to avoid the vendor lock-in with conventional commercial supply chain software, while retaining the participant’s control of their proprietary data.
Partners in Europe and Japan
While the SCSN app based on IDS architecture has been successfully established in the Netherlands, plans are in place to spread the network throughout Europe. A collaboration between 18 European partners is being fleshed out in three countries with France and Spain at the forefront. At the same time, partners in Japan, such as the Japanese telecommunications company NTT, have worked extensively with TNO to establish an international supply chain information exchange.