IfM embarks on new collaboration to revolutionize multi-tier supply chain risk sensing

The IfM is collaborating with technology company Enspan, AML Sheffield (an aerospace manufacturer) and Manufacturing Technology Centre together with industry partners to help UK manufacturers address the challenges of supply chain risk prediction.


It’s estimated that disruptions to supply chains in 2020 cost companies £2-3T, exposing the complexity and interdependence of global supply chains that have accumulated over recent years. Thanks to 12-month funding from Innovate UK, the Collective Supply Chain Resilience project (CORES) aims to equip manufacturers and their suppliers with tools to address the challenge of supply chain risk prediction and, as a result, to avoid the disruptions and costs associated with them.


Supply chain disruption

COVID-19 demonstrated that many companies were not aware of the vulnerability of their networks to supply chain shocks. Paper based processes and lack of digital integration left trading partners scrambling for survival during the unprecedented times.  While a global pandemic is not something that can be predicted, a number of transactional supply chain issues can and should be sensed early on to help supply chains adjust. 


However, today quantifiable risks are typically not predicted because of a lack of robust methods for data-driven risk prediction in organisations, and because organisations act alone in supplier risk assessment.


‘Supply chains are complex networks of interdependent organisations. Typically, when predicting disruptions and deciding on mitigation strategies, organisations act alone, rather than as a chain,’ explains Alexandra Brintrup, Associate Professor in Digital Manufacturing and leader of the Manufacturing Analytics Research Group at the IfM.


‘Studies have shown that increased data sharing and collective decision-making would increase resilience, a key factor in allowing companies to deal with uncertainties. We believe that new, machine learning based approaches could make a prediction of risk more accurate and timely.’


CORES project

According to Tim Andrews, Lead Advisor in Digital Transformation at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, collective approaches to risk prediction in supply chains has not been feasible thus far due to organisations' reluctance to share data with one another for fear of opportunistic behaviour and due to lack of independent, easy to use tech solutions.


'The project will use emerging machine learning approaches in the Artificial Intelligence field that may help supply chain members collectively optimise resilience while keeping their data private, by predicting both supply side and buyer side risk. The approach enables organisational agents to collaboratively develop a shared risk prediction model. As the approach can be automated, costs of manual orchestration are avoided.


‘Numerous studies proved that increased data sharing and collective decision making would increase resilience, but this has not been plausible as members of the ecosystem fear that information shared can be used opportunistically by other parties,’ says Tim.


Using Enspan’s technology to enable ecosystem wide data processing, IfM will bring its academic research and knowledge in the area of machine learning to jointly develop and test a completely new way of predicting disruptions – using large sets of historical transactions for the entire supply chain, and to derive business insights to enable timely and appropriate mitigations.


Making risk prediction more accurate  

Enspan will deliver the technical and data management aspects of the project (for inputs into and outputs from the algorithm), business application of the algorithm, and project administration. IfM will lead the algorithm development and testing. AML, supported by the MTC, will contribute business requirements and validate outputs of the algorithm within its supply chain. 


Together, the project partners expect that the project will achieve the scale necessary to significantly make the U.K. Supply Chains more competitive across sectors:


‘While our project is focused on the UK aerospace manufacturing SME sector, we are confident that it can be expanded to provide scope for all manufacturing SMEs,’ says Tristan Whitehead, Founder and CEO of Enspan.


‘Having a more resilient supply chain would mean less disruption for the customer and all the downstream actors potentially affected by an issue. Additionally, a more resilient supply chain implies a more resilient economy which is particularly important in times of crises such as those affected by COVID-19 disruptions.’




To find out more about the project, contact:

Alexandra Brintrup, IfM:

Anna Tchaikaouskaite, Enspan:


To get involved with the project and topics it addresses, join the project community and follow us on LinkedIn 


Date published

22 April 2022

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