New project investigates SMEs’ supply chain challenges

A business implementing digital technology into their supply chain management. A new research project is investigating challenges within modern manufacturing supply chains, as well as investigating cutting-edge digital innovations to help solve these issues.

Helping businesses to adopt new technologies

The project - led by Junaid Arshad, Associate Professor in Birmingham City University’s School of Computing – is a continuation of the Digital Innovations for Niche Sector Industry Supply Chain Optimisation (DINS) project.

The project assessed the potential of developing a new model that encourages suppliers to invest in more digital research and adopt new technologies to improve their business processes.

“The major issue within niche sector supply chains is visibility,” Junaid explains.

“This visibility is then linked to business’ ability to adhere to quality assurance, as well as the efficiency of business processes and their ability to deliver just-in-time manufacturing operations.”

One solution being developed are digital twins, which – according to Junaid – “aid simulating business processes, highlight inefficiencies within business processes and facilitate real-time modelling and simulation of processes.” 

Supply chain improvements for SMEs

Phase two of the project will continue this work, as well as expanding the number of commercial partners testing the system.

The proposed digital innovations will be demonstrated across two separate supply chains in the automotive and marine industries, to prove transferability and flexibility of the solution.

The project aims to develop new digital solutions that result in supply chain improvements for UK manufacturers, particularly SMEs.

“There are a range of short and long-term objectives for the project,” explains Junaid.

“Namely, it will digitise and provide real-time inventory management for the supplier and the customer, and reduce the transport of goods by integrating robots into the production process.”

Direct impact

BCU will be developing new partners for research and knowledge transfer activities, to expand the research business of BCU.

This research will also deliver direct impact to local and national businesses.

Currently, the new project involves a number of collaborations with leading industry organisations, including Westfield Sports Cars, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, Ecoclassics Ltd, Rift Technology, Beaulieu Group and Nyobolt.

“The digital solutions will enable more efficient business processes,” Junaid explains. “The real-time traceability will also facilitate just-in-time manufacturing operation, while enabling quality assurance practice.”