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Field Intelligence: Spirit AeroSystems getting more resilient with AI, RPA

Jonathan Wright
By Jonathan Wright Managing Partner and Service Line Leader, IBM Services

Technological advances in process and communication have reinvented manufacturing. Now, the industry’s fastest growing firms are leveraging new artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to transform supply chains, transport and logistics. Reliance on paper forms and clashing systems now give way to improved transparency across the value chain, mitigating and eliminating quality mistakes and delays.

Jonathan Wright, IBM Services

Traditionally, global firms have based supply chain design on the assumption that materials flow freely, letting them source, produce and distribute products at the lowest-cost locations around the world. But delays happen. And for the first time since WWII, we’re seeing shocks to supply and demand thanks to COVID-19.

To deal with this disruption, enterprises are embracing AI and business platforms where new intelligent workflows deliver exceptional outcomes at scale. Opportunities for change exist across the value chain, including manufacturing execution. This technology is increasingly applied to manufacturing to meet the challenges of tracking company output and purchases from many suppliers.

Spirit AeroSystems is a good example. Through many pilot projects, Spirit transformed its manufacturing and supply chain operations to improve cost reduction, responsiveness and customer experience. The company decided to apply AI and machine learning to its factory floors, optimizing its supply chain through IBM’s Watson IoT, Watson supply chain insights, dynamic inventory optimization solution, RFID and supply chain control tower—all on the IBM cloud.

The new digital tracking system replaces an outdated process relying on calls, emails and in-person discussions with computer-based tracking, monitoring and alerts.

Kansas-based Spirit increased visibility to part production, status and inventory from its thousands of suppliers and expects to significantly improve performance and factory health.

IBM was able to help Spirit advance manufacturing efficiency, quality and safety. Spirit also noted improved employee productivity due to the creation of intelligent workflows that freed up employee time. And the manufacturer improved business continuity thanks to the addition of flexible labor.

Rapid assessments help companies identify near-, mid- and long-term capabilities that can transform supply chains, alleviating immediate pressures and proactively navigating global and local disruptions. These AI tools can be implemented at pace to deliver immediate value for pressurized supply chains.

Troves of external data can now be processed in seconds to provide insights not previously readily available. For example, weather shows how AI solutions provide insights where human-based analysis falls short. When combined with other industry, location and news data – logistics, operators can visualize a likely path from a part’s origin to its destination, informing assessments regarding any likely delays. AI-based predictive analytics provide better accuracy and functionality within shorter time frames, and AI-based platforms review thousands of weather and transportation data points across delivery cycles to mitigate delays by automatically checking inventory, partner inventory and other suppliers before recommending solutions.

Full visibility into a supply chain takes months of data-gathering, and every firm has its own learning curve. But, as technical improvements accelerate and more partners enter this system, the road becomes easier and bears fruit more quickly.

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