Students on the course are frequently exposed to the supply chain challenges of the B2C marketplace via case studies and industrial visits, e.g. an Amazon case study and a recent visit to Liz Earle – naturally active skincare, so it was an interesting change to welcome guest lecturer Damian Bates, Supply Chain Optimisation Manager, Edwards Vacuum who revealed some of the B2B challenges he faces at Edwards Vacuum.
Damian introduced some of the many applications of vacuum technology in semiconductor and solar panel manufacturing, coating, vacuum forming, leak detection and medicine – including dentistry and pharmacy. Edwards, which is owned by Atlas Copco, has industrial and scientific customers across a wide range of industrial sectors. Some of its most famous customers include Samsung and Intel. These companies buy Edwards’ vacuum pumps and abatement systems (for gas cleaning) to support their own manufacturing processes.
In B2B markets, the service performance of the companies in the upstream supply chain can have a big impact on the performance of the downstream organisations that supply the end customer. So the customer of a Samsung phone unconsciously experiences the value added by the vacuum technology used to create the clean room environment necessary for silicon chip manufacture.
Edwards industrial customers are demanding, and Damian introduced the trade-offs affecting its B2B supply chain operations.
Damian shared some of the difficulties of forecasting demand for industrial products, where there is a wide product range (many SKUs) with few ‘runners’ but many ‘repeaters’ and ‘strangers’. He talked about some of the new insights possible through Business Intelligence (BI) software which can be used to spot demand patterns that are not immediately apparent, and to inform decisions about service level objectives and inventory targets.
Edwards global logistics operations are complex, and the supply chain function co-ordinates a global network with factories in Czech Republic, Germany, UK, South Korea and China and customers worldwide. One of the biggest challenges now facing Edwards’ supply chain function are the ambitious carbon reduction targets set by its owner Atlas Coco.
After the lecture Damian met with students to share insights gained from BI software and to discuss possible projects. We look forward to more collaboration in the future!