New engineering partnership to develop digital marketplace to improve the manufacturing supply chain

A research team, led by Swansea University College of Engineering, are developing a pilot online marketplace designed to optimise manufacturing supply chain networks and create a new industry wide business model.

Swansea University says this new platform will seek to better connect manufacturers and suppliers, enabling a streamlined product/process sourcing and selection service tailored to industry needs, with the support of the Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT).

The project will initially focus on supporting Welsh manufacturing companies with the aim to create an innovative digital supply chain marketplace (DSCM) template that can be replicated nationally and globally.

One of the first companies to trial the new platform will be Swansea based MyMaskFit. Their aim is to produce custom fit reusable PPE masks for use during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Customers will send a scanned image of their face to the company via an app designed to record the dimensions needed to create the bespoke product.

A challenge for many companies, like MyMaskFit, is often creating a new supply chain and sourcing the many products and services required to bring regulated products to market.

Unifying shared expertise with industry experts and researchers from WMG at the University of Warwick and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, this new partnership will offer companies, like MyMaskFit, access to a more open and dynamic market, with increased opportunity for UK SMEs, and by making markets more efficient and flexible, should raise productivity and open new value chains through wider reach.

Professor Johann Sienz, Deputy Executive Dean at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, IMPACT Director and project lead, said “The challenge of existing marketplaces is that the relevance and quality of data is subjected to manual scrutiny and intervention. This marketplace will be designed to provide visibility and access to supply chain processes and will deliver live validated and relevant data to make decisions. It will be valuable to the supplier through creation of ‘one supplier-to-many customers’ with the additional benefits of reducing administrating expenses, and maximises volume leverage, with less IT integration requirement.

“This ‘Made Smarter’ testbed will act as a template for other digital supply chain marketplaces to be created to serve other sectors, geographies and verticals, for instance exclusive communities for highly regulated industries, where trust in the access, integrity, and security of information is critical.”

Driven by industry feedback, this new DSCM will offer much needed features such as accuracy and precision for parts, pricing accuracy, reduced supplier response times from weeks to hours, and provide options with dynamic lead times and quality, cost, certainty, resulting in a quicker and more efficient supply chain process.

Valerie Bednar, Director of MyMaskFit, said “MyMaskFit is pleased to deliver a programme to the Manufacturing Made Smarter Testbed where we hope to prove the success of sourcing in the regulated digital supply chain marketplace for components of our Reusable and Custom fitted medical grade mask.”

As part of this six month project, a rapid scale up of manufacturing operations is planned involving manufacturing partners, including cloud collaboration tools from design and manufacturing software company Autodesk.

Asif Moghal, Senior Industry Manager, Design and Manufacturing at Autodesk, said “This is another great example of how the industry is coming together and rising to a new challenge. Protecting our key workers is essential and we have an opportunity to bring about new learnings from this rapid development project featuring personalised masks. We are confident this will be a transformative step for the industry, with the potential to scale globally and pass learnings onto other industries.”

Jan Godsell, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at WMG, said “Major disruptions such as COVID-19 have challenged the conventional and static design of supply chains. Market places have an important role to play in connecting UK manufacturers with the emerging demand for new products and services. They support the development of new types of business models and dynamic supply chain designs, that will underpin the future of UK manufacturing. Self-assessment tools, roadmaps and blue prints will be made available through the ISCF Supply Chain Innovation Hub, so that these opportunities can be exploited by firms across the UK.”

The project is funded by the ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter programme and will conclude in May 2021. Industrial partners also include Plyable, Amplyfi, AI Idea Factory, PXL ICE, Carapace, Cadarn and Industry Wales.

The IMPACT operation is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University.

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