Software-Defined Mobile Supply Chains: Rebalancing Resilience and Efficiency in Production Systems
- How can an SD-MSC be defined and which business model emerges when moving production units between different members of the supply chain?
- What opportunities and requirements arise when considering SD-MSCs?
- What has to be considered when integrating, planning, and controlling SD-MSCs?
- This study expands the concepts associated with mobile manufacturing systems by considering the new opportunities brought about by the mobility of modular units within a supply chain. For example, the possibility of moving production capacity and its installation at the sites of partner companies, the option of sharing production assets, or leasing or renting modular units from external companies brings with them new opportunities and challenges that have not been adequately evaluated in the literature. Based on that, this article presents a characterization of the SD-MSC concept, describing its main characteristics and requirements.
- We present two case studies which are under evaluation. The former focuses on the implementation of a recycling network using modular units and the latter covers the opportunity of asset sharing in the process industries sector.
- We pay special attention to the challenges and requirements that arise when planning an SD-MSC. The use of mobile units entails the consideration of a short-term location problem, so it could be integrated into the tactical or operational planning. In addition, integrating multiple stakeholders increases the complexity due to the possible incongruence between the objectives of each participant.
- Controlling an SD-MSC entails various challenges from the point of view of hardware and associated information systems. In addition, confidentiality and security of data transmission, as well as trust between the different partners, play an important role.
2. Literature Review
3. Research Concept
4.1. Opportunities through SD-MSC
- Fulfilling customer demand under uncontrolled conditions: Unpredictable peaks in demand sometimes happen and the deployment of mobile facilities could help managers to meet that increase. Moreover, when unpredictable incidents occur, they may disturb production processes and the proper functioning of the supply chain. In such a case, mobile production facilities can be introduced as a temporary solution.
- Operational flexibility: Instead of purchasing and maintaining an expensive machine, in many cases companies can rent it for the period of time they need it. In addition, if a company owns an expensive machine with a low utilization rate, it could be shared between similar factories and relocated as needed.
- Optimization of supply chains with high logistic costs: In a supply chain where the different components and raw materials are far away from each other and have high transport costs, the use of an SD-MSC may reduce unnecessary transports since the parts of the products can be manufactured locally, requiring mainly a correct transmission of data, a dynamic management of possible productive resources, and a strong trust between partners.
- Provision of maintenance services at the customer’s location: Instead of moving large machines or assets, which in some cases involves spending large amounts of money and time to send a broken asset elsewhere for maintenance purposes, all services could be provided at the facilities of the customer, often resulting in a cheaper and faster return to operational status.
4.2. Requirements for SD-MSC
- Partner collaboration: Strategic partnership in supply chains has always been of importance due to the complexity of material and information flow. The design, materials, and components can come from different countries (partners), making the controlling process more complex . In fact, in an SD-MSC, as the movable factory changes its locations, various internal (focal firm) and external (local) partners become involved. This may introduce challenges for the communication and information flows which are necessary for effective integration. A key component for improving information exchange and communication between multiple stakeholders is building trust and commitment among them [49,50]. With a high level of supply chain trust, partners will be able to establish an efficient collaboration and thereby increase the value-adding of any SD-MSC. Several factors can affect partners’ trustworthiness, categorized into four groups: governance, transaction costs, information, and social exchange. For instance, when considering the social aspect, if the company decides to use part-time local employees, they should apply some measures to build trust and loyalty in those employees to improve the chance of seeing efficient performance .
- Regulatory requirements: The main advantage of mobile units is the ability to install production capacity where it is needed, for example at a customer’s or a supplier’s site. One important aspect of this location changing is the difference of regulations and laws in each location. Legal permits should be considered, since each country has different legislative and taxation regulations. Sanitation permits should also be regarded in the case that emissions or waste are generated through production. Moreover, employee rights and labor regulations must be taken into account, for example the maximum number of hours that can be worked, mandatory health insurance, etc.
- Socio-cultural aspects: These mobile facilities can operate far from the company’s main site and require a skilled workforce to run them. The required capacities and number of personnel depend on the different production processes needed for the manufacturing, as well as the level of automation of the mobile unit. The essential skill is the maintenance of the processing machinery in the mobile facility. Depending on the case, one solution could involve sending a limited number of permanent workers with the mobile unit and hiring some employees locally . However, finding qualified and skilled employees, perhaps for a short period of time, might be a complicated task.
- Supply requirements: Managing the operations of an SD-MSC requires more complex activities than those necessary for the coordination of fixed facilities, since the location decision has a direct impact on other planning issues. An important factor to consider is the correct, safe, and timely supply of information and raw materials. The use of a Product Data Management system (PDM) and blockchain technology for information handling can be helpful for the easy transfer and storage of the information on production and products, allowing a quick information exchange between different production sites. In addition, the supply of raw material to the variable location of the mobile facility may require flexible agreements with suppliers. Here, smart contracts with suppliers could play an important role .
- Technological requirements: The production process should be quickly and flexibly reconfigurable in order to allow it to be shipped and installed at a new position. Whether reconfiguration/assembly processes are planned by an automatic planning system or by human experts, there still remains the challenge to reach the planned goals under the occurrence of real-world exceptions. Such exceptions range from temporary execution errors to a collapse of the whole process. The assembly system must anticipate and predict potential exceptions and errors and regulate the assembly plans. In addition, the detailed documentation of processes and products, the modularization of subsystems, and an adaptive master production scheduling system are required. These demands could be addressed by their integration into an appropriate information system. In addition, since specialized personnel may be limited at the new locations, the control of the equipment and associated software must be as user-friendly as possible, accompanied by a high level of automation and remote assistance . Furthermore, the software communication layer needs to be able to incorporate solutions aimed at the preservation of confidentiality of exchanged information and the support of secure computation services. Different protocols, including secure multiparty computation  and information sharing architectures based on homomorphic encryption , could be implemented to secure confidentiality of sensitive data.
4.3. Planning an SD-MSC
4.3.1. Integrated Planning
- Location planning: The first decision, on the location, refers to finding the best position for the facilities in order to optimize one or several objective functions, such as minimization of transportation costs, assignment cost, and/or costs associated with the opening or closing of facilities . Since the facilities can be moved to another location at short notice, the relocation route/sequence must also be determined .
- Production planning: The second decision is related to production, in which the aim is to find the best use of resources with the intention of satisfying production requirements and fulfilling customer orders. Here, capacity planning also plays an important role. Each mobile facility can be composed of different modules and its capacity depends on the type and quantity of modules . The problem of module reassembly can also be considered, which is associated with the flexibility of the processes to be reorganized to form new production lines for the manufacture of different products .
- Distribution planning: The last planning decision is about how to deliver the products to the customers. The classical problem is to find optimal delivery routes which fulfill customer demands by minimizing total costs, meeting vehicle capacity restrictions, or reducing delivery delays .
4.3.2. Case Study: Planning of a Mobile Recycling Network
4.4. Control of Information Flows in SD-MSC
4.4.1. Case Study: Information Sharing in Production Industry
4.4.2. Simulation Based on Game Theory
- : Amount of sensitive information shared by the partner, where
- : Utility of knowledge for
- s: Stimulus coefficient when both partners are eager to share
- T: Level of trust between partners
- : Value of sensitive process knowledge sharing provided by
- p: Penalty coefficient for non-sharing
5. Managerial Insights
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Author(s)||Decentralized Production||Hardware Reconfiguration||Control Resources Reconfiguration||Modular Facility||Mobility||Multi-Stakeholder||Shared Facilities||Control and Information Systems||Integrated Planning||Confidentiality and Trust|
|Adamietz et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Alix et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Barni et al. ||✓||✓||✓|
|Bi et al. ||✓||✓||✓|
|Fox , Fox ||✓||✓||✓|
|Jackson et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Jiang et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Koren et al. ||✓||✓||✓|
|Lier et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Mehrabi et al. ||✓||✓||✓|
|Mourtzis and Doukas ||✓|
|Mourtzis et al. ||✓|
|Pasha et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Peltokoski et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Rauch et al. , Rauch et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Rauch et al. ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Rauch et al. ||✓|
|Srai et al. ||✓|
|Stillström and Jackson ||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|RPD (%)||Gap||T||RPD (%)||T||RPD (%)||T|
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Alarcon-Gerbier, E.; Chokparova, Z.; Ghondaghsaz, N.; Zhao, W.; Shahmoradi-Moghadam, H.; Aßmann, U.; Oruç, O. Software-Defined Mobile Supply Chains: Rebalancing Resilience and Efficiency in Production Systems. Sustainability 2022, 14, 2837. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052837
Alarcon-Gerbier E, Chokparova Z, Ghondaghsaz N, Zhao W, Shahmoradi-Moghadam H, Aßmann U, Oruç O. Software-Defined Mobile Supply Chains: Rebalancing Resilience and Efficiency in Production Systems. Sustainability. 2022; 14(5):2837. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052837Chicago/Turabian Style
Alarcon-Gerbier, Eduardo, Zarina Chokparova, Nassim Ghondaghsaz, Wanqi Zhao, Hani Shahmoradi-Moghadam, Uwe Aßmann, and Orçun Oruç. 2022. "Software-Defined Mobile Supply Chains: Rebalancing Resilience and Efficiency in Production Systems" Sustainability 14, no. 5: 2837. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052837