SMEs transfer their logistics to the cloud

Many businesses have to manage significant flows of materials entering and exiting their premises each day. Undertaking this activity efficiently is not a simple task and takes up many resources of a company. Nevertheless, the emergence of internet-based technologies opens up possibilities unthinkable until recently in this field, for example, achieving a more efficient use of the assets present in the chain of supply through online networking and collaborative management of the demand, as well as of plans for supply, production and distribution.

In this context, the European Union (EU) has launched the C2Net (Cloud Collaborative Manufacturing Networks) project in which the Basque IK4-IKERLAN technological centre is participating. The goal is to develop various computer tools embedded in the cloud, in order to help businesses, principally SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), and optimise the management of the supply chain, taking advantage of the resources offered by internet. In this way, the project will enable building networks of companies in order to reduce operational costs and inefficiencies in their chains of supply.

C2Net is funded by Horizon 2020, the EU programme for supporting R+D, with a budget of over 7 million euros, and falls within the remit of the ‘Factories of the future’ initiative, aimed at developing enhanced-value technologies.

Concretely, the tools to be developed are to help launching collaborative business scenarios, in such a way that this networked online management system will aid businesses to incorporate innovation and enhance their global competitiveness. These applications will not only monitor in real time the flow of materials and goods between plants, suppliers and customers, but it will also calculate the best possible option at each moment in the interests of the companies involved.

For example, the developments to be drawn up at C2Net will enable real time monitoring of unplanned-for events such as delays in the supply of an item, the stoppage of a machine or a variation in the demand at the points of consumption. Once this information is analysed, its optimisation tools will then propose new, revised plans for supply, production and distribution that minimise the impact of costs and maximise the use of logistic resources and services to the customer.

The C2Net project will be launched in the New Year 1 January 2015) and is set to last for 3 years. Besides IK4-IKERLAN, another 20 bodies from 6 European countries are taking part, led by the Atos IT Solutions and Services company.

Support for SMEs

SMEs do not usually have the resources sufficient to develop or acquire specific computer programmes enabling them to optimise their chain of supply and have them always under control through real time information about what is happening at each point of the chain. This is why the C2Net project is drawing up computer applications which are scalable and adaptable to different types of businesses within the sector, as varied as the automobile industry, cosmetics or the capital goods sector.

The role of IK4-IKERLAN

In this project, IK4-IKERLAN will apply their accumulated experience and knowhow in numerous technology transfer projects to industrial companies in order to define industrial scenarios, functional requisites and C2Net validation scenarios. It will also participate actively in the design and implementation of cloud architecture, as well as in drawing up simulation models and optimisation algorithms. In order to undertake all these activities, IK-IKERLAN will receive funding of more than 550,000 euros.

“At IK4-IKERLAN we are keen to help businesses to become more competitive and, having experience in enhancing the organisation of all kinds of companies - from multinationals to small, local businesses -, we are in a position to apply this accumulated capital of knowledge and experience in these fields”, stated Eduardo Saiz, the person in charge of the project at the Basque technological centre.

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